Document - Morocco: Investigate torture allegations
Index: MDE 29/008/2011
Date: 17 June 2011
Morocco: Investigate torture allegations
Amnesty International urges the Moroccan authorities to immediately investigate allegations that Mohamed Hajib was tortured and threatened with rape while in Toulal Prison in Meknes between 17 and 28 May 2011. Amnesty International fears that Mohamed Hajib is being punished for calling for the closure of the Témara detention centre and denouncing violations committed by the Moroccan authorities in the context of countering terrorism. A dual Moroccan/German national, Mohamed Hajib is serving a 10-year sentence for terrorism-related offences.
According to his family, Mohamed Hajib has reportedly been beaten and kicked repeatedly by the prison guards in Toulal Prison, while detained there between 17 and 28 May, his hands and feet were tied and while he was lying on the ground. He was admitted in a hospital in Meknes in a comatose state. On 28 May 2011, he was then transferred back to Salé Prison, where he is currently detained. Mohamed Hajib’s psychological state is also said to have deteriorated.
A lawyer, as well as a representative of the German Consulate visited him in Salé Prison between 31 May and 8 June. The lawyer said that Mohamed Hajib had scars in his hands and feet as a result of torture or other ill-treatment.
Mohamed Hajib was transferred to Toulal Prison following a prison riot in Salé, between 16 and 17 May 2011, where more than two hundreds detainees accused, or convicted, of terrorism-related activities were being detained.
Mohamed Hajib was active in the protests by detainees in Salé Prison at their unfair trials. The prisoners were also criticizing the Moroccan security services’ abuses in the context of countering terrorism, including the torture of detainees in an unrecognized detention centre in Témara. The detention centre is located in a forested area about 15 kilometres from Rabat and run by the Directorate for the Surveillance of the Territory (Direction de la surveillance du territoire, DST).
These latest allegations come amid reports that several prisoners in Salé have been punished following the Salé Prison riot, between 16 and 17 May 2011.
Amnesty International received information that detainees’ families have been denied contact and visits from their relatives. Their relatives are concerned about their well-being, particularly after reports of clashes between detainees and guards. Apparently several detainees were transferred to hospitals in Rabat and in Meknes, however their relatives were not allowed to visit them and did not receive any information about them.
For instance Boushta Sharef’s wife has received information that in the early hours of 16 May 2011 he was called by the administration, and was not brought back. Since then, no information has emerged about his whereabouts, raising concerns about his well-being. At least another six other prisoners were also taken away.
When other detainees realised that the seven did not return, they had apparently held six prison guards hostage demanding their return. Thirty minutes later the prison guards were released, and the prison administration sought to put down the riot using sticks, tear gas and stones. The confrontation continued for hours with detainees using cold weapons, while prison administration resorted to rubber bullet as well as live ammunition later in the day.
Amnesty International received information that Zakaria Benamri was seriously injured by live ammunition during the confrontation, and subsequently transferred to a hospital in Rabat in a critical condition. Only two days later, the family was informed by the National Council for Human Rights (Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme, CNDH) that Zakaria’s health situation had stabilized; however, they were never granted access to the hospital.
Amnesty International recognizes the right of the Moroccan authorities to undertake the necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of the prison staff as well as to maintain order. Furthermore, they can take the appropriate corrective measures against those who have engaged in violence against the prison staff, as well as the security forces. However, it urges the authorities to open an investigation into whether excessive force was used in quelling the riot, and whether any individuals not engaged in violent acts were injured during the prison unrest.
Amnesty International is concerned that the prison administration is taking punitive measures against all detainees, regardless of their direct involvement in violent acts. Detainees must be protected from torture or other ill-treatment and granted regular access to their families, lawyers and any medical assistance they might require.
For years, Amnesty International has been calling on the Moroccan authorities to investigate all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of the security forces and ensure that no statements extracted under torture or duress are used as evidence in legal proceedings. The Moroccan authorities must also ensure that detainees are treated in accordance with international law and standards, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), treaties to which Morocco is a state party, and the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment.
Against this backdrop, Amnesty International welcomes Morocco’s announcement on 26 May 2011 that it will ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. The organization calls for the establishment of a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. To demonstrate their genuine commitment to eradicate torture, the Moroccan authorities should investigate allegations that Mohamed Hajib, and others, were tortured following the riot in Salé Prison even if no official complaints have been made.
Mohamed Hajib was arrested on 18 February 2010 upon his return to Morocco from Pakistan via Germany. He was convicted based on a confession that he was reportedly coerced into signing, by the Court of First Instance in Casablanca, and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. He was charged with “creating a criminal gang” and “financing terrorism”. The appeal court has confirmed the sentence on 11 October 2010. Hearings in from of the Court of Cassation are expected to take place 22 June 2011.
Mohamed Hajib was detained for 12 days at al-Ma’rif judicial police in Casablanca. He was reportedly tortured for at least three days. He was blindfolded, handcuffed and had his foot tied. He was stripped of his clothes and kicked while he was on the ground. When Mohamed Hajib refused to sign the police statements, without allowing him to read it, he told his mother that the police hit him and told him “if you don’t sign, we will bring your mother and wife to Témara and ‘bad things’ will happen to them”.
In April, Boushata Sharef appeared in a video on YouTube, in which he spoke about his torture at the hands of the security members, including rape by introducing a bottle in his anus, beating on his genitals and physical assaults. He called for an investigation into his claims. According to his wife, Boushta Sharef was detained in Syria for 11 months in 2008, and then deported to Morocco in 2009. He was detained for 38 days in Témara and then transferred to Salé.
The detention centre of Témara, operated by the DST, is one of the main places where torture is reported to occur. Amnesty International documented dozens of cases of individuals arrested in the context of “counter-terrorism” measures who were allegedly been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment while being held there. Their detention at the centre has been both secret and unacknowledged, and consequently in breach of both Moroccan law and international human rights standards.