Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad (Photo: Reuters)
Human Rights Watch expressed concern Friday over what it called Morocco's interference with human rights organizations operating in the country.
Since the summer, Moroccan authorities have blocked many meetings of local and international rights groups, including 15 involving the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, it said in a statement. Authorities also stopped Amnesty International from holding its annual youth camp on Sept. 1.
Morocco has long presented itself as a great respecter of human rights and is hosting the second annual World Forum on Human Rights on Nov. 27.
Human Rights Watch, however, said there's been a crackdown since July, when Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad criticized unnamed rights groups for falsely accusing security forces of abuses.
Ouafa Charaf, a member of Moroccan Association for Human Rights, was convicted of falsely accusing police of torture in August and given a year in prison. When she appealed, her sentence was doubled on Oct. 20.
Matti Monjib, head of the Ibn Rochd Center for investigative journalism, told The Associated Press he was shutting down his organization after repeated interference from the government, including having a seminar shut down on Oct. 31.
"We've had successive bannings and a great deal of pressure on our members and activities, so it was impossible to continue," he said.
Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Last month, however, he said there was "no systemic policy to prevent the activities of human rights associations."