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Morocco rights group: end military trial of civilians

Free civilians being tried in military court, a Moroccan rights movement says

AFP , Tuesday 5 Mar 2013
Police face protesters pushing for democratic reforms during a rally organised by the country's so-called ''February 20'' street movement in Morocco's main economic hub Casablanca July 3, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)
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A Moroccan rights group is calling for an end to civilians being tried in military court, as part of a drive to bring the law in line with a new constitution, its president said on Tuesday.

The call by the official National Council of Human Rights (CNDH) comes after a military court last month jailed 25 Sahrawis implicated in deadly violence in the Western Sahara.

It also follows the passing of a new constitution by King Mohammed VI in response to Arab Spring protests, but with critics saying the government has failed to bring in laws implementing the reformist tone of the text.

The CNDH's president Driss El Yazami said his group was calling for fundamental reform of the military justice system.

The tribunals should be limited to disciplinary measures against military personnel and the trial of military personnel for "undermining state security or terrorism," El Yazami told AFP.

The CNDH, set up by the king in 2011 to defend human rights, has recommended that civilians no longer be tried before military courts, he added.

The proposal has the support of the king, who has "welcomed the spirit and content" of reports drawn up by the rights council, the palace said in a statement.

"The reform of military tribunals" falls in the context of proposals seeking to "make the texts of legislation currently in force conform with the provisions of the new constitution and (Morocco's) international commitments," it added.

Last month in Rabat, 25 Sahrawis accused of killing members of the security forces in the Western Sahara were handed jail sentences ranging from two years to life.

The authorities say 11 people died in the violence, among them members of the security forces who moved to dismantle the Gdim Izik camp in November 2010 that thousands of Sahrawis had set up in protest over their living conditions.

Amnesty International condemned the politically-charged trial as "flawed from the outset," while independent foreign observers voiced concern over claims by the accused that they were tortured in custody.

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