Amnesty urges Morocco to end 'total impunity' for torture

AFP , Tuesday 13 May 2014

Amnesty International Tuesday said perpetrators of torture enjoy almost "total impunity" in Morocco and Western Sahara, calling for an end to the practise.

The allegations are part of a global anti-torture campaign launched by the London-based rights group.

Amnesty singled out five countries where torture is considered a particular problem and where it believes its campaign can have the most impact, the others being Nigeria, Mexico, the Philippines and Uzbekistan.

It said that, despite being explicitly criminalised since 2006 and prohibited by the new 2011 constitution, torture continue, with perpetrators enjoying "virtual total impunity" and judges rarely investigating reports of torture.

"The resulting climate of impunity cancels out the dissuasive power of Morocco's anti-torture legislation," Amnesty said.

The authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The group highlighted key steps Morocco has taken to confront concerns about the ill-treatment of detainees by the security forces, notably setting up an Equity and Reconciliation Commission in 2003 to investigate atrocities committed under the late king Hassan II.

The government's decision in March to end the trial of civilians in military tribunals was also seen as strengthening the rule of law and halting convictions based on confessions obtained through torture.

But Amnesty cited three specific cases in which detainees signed "confessions" after being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment in police custody.

One was Ali Aarass, a Belgian-Moroccan extradited from Spain in 2010. He was jailed for 12 years on "terrorism" charges, despite documentation that he was repeatedly tortured and claims that his "confession," the main evidence against him, was obtained through torture.

And in Western Sahara, one of six Sahrawis arrested during a pro-independence demonstration last year, claims he was threatened with rape and forced to sign a "confession" that he was prevented from reading.

He and his co-defendants, who were bailed in October after five months in pre-trial detention, risk up to 10 years in prison, accused of violence against public officials and participating in an armed gathering.

Amnesty called on Morocco to "end the climate of impunity" by prosecuting all those against whom their is sufficient evidence.

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