Transcription of Statements during Morocco's second UPR session
Western Sahara Resource Watch has noted with satisfaction that 11 out of the 47 countries that participated in the working group session of Morocco's second universal periodic review, took the opportunity to ask questions about or put forward recommendations on Western Sahara. A massive step forward from 2008, when not one country raised the issue of Africa's last colony. Find out who said what, below.
A video of Morocco's UPR session is available through the United Nations website: access the video directly here.
Please note that the transcripts included below are non-official transcriptions, made by Western Sahara Resource Watch.
Sweden welcomes political reforms that have been initiated in Morocco and that the new constitution confirms that international human rights take precedence over national law. We also welcome that a significant number of persons jailed for expression of opinions have been released. Although many issues are publically debated in Moroccan press, we’re concerned about recent measures to censor the press and to restrict press freedom, including prosecution and sentencing of an editor for his writings on corruption and several incidents of interrogation of journalists. The measures to suppress freedom of expression online are equally worrying, including sentencing people to jail last year merely for expressing themselves on the internet. Sweden is concerned that people do not fully enjoy freedom of expression, and freedom of association and assembly in matters pertaining to the situation and status of Western Sahara. Although the Moroccan government has worked to improve the situation, we are still troubled about reports of harassment of people for expressing their views on Western Sahara.
Sweden recommends Morocco to take immediate steps to implement the new constitution’s provision that international human rights are to be fully respected, including press freedom, freedom of expression, assembly and association.
We are pleased to note Morocco’s firm commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights both nationally and internationally, in particular active participation of the Moroccan delegation’s work at the Human Rights Council. We also commend the government of Morocco for its efforts in implementation of recommendations received during the first UPR cycle and acknowledge progress attained so far, especially in the advancement and promotion of women’s rights. Thanking the delegation of Morocco chaired by his Excellency, Minister Moustapha Ramid, for the presentation of the national report.
I would like to pose two specific questions. Firstly on March 2011, the independent National Council for Human Rights has been established and we would like to ask the delegation of Morocco to make an assessment of advantages of this newly created body, particularly in relation to its predecessor the human rights advisory council. And secondly, in view of the UNSC Resolution 2044, of 2012, extending the mandate of the peace-keeping force for Western Sahara, which has a particular importance for ensuring full respect for human rights; we would appreciate if the distinguished Moroccan delegation could enlighten on its key-priorities in this respect.
UK welcomes the Moroccan delegation in Geneva, and applauds Morocco’s strong commitment to the UPR process. We note Morocco’s increased engagement with the international human rights instruments, and its decision to ratify the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture. We urge Morocco to fully implement the recommendations of the 2011 UN Committee against Torture and welcome further the visits by the UN Special Rapporteurs. The UK is strongly supportive of Morocco’s ongoing internal reform process: we welcome the establishment of the National Human Rights Council in 2011. We have been concerned by the imprisonment of journalists and students because of opinions expressed, and by the longstanding detention of trial of Sawari detainees arrested during the Gdeim Izik process of 2010. We look forward to full implementation of the new constitution and hope to see further progress on human rights in the context of the country’s wider reforms. The UK continues to be concerned with human rights in the Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara, in line with the UNSC Resolution 2044, we call on Morocco to work to ensure full respect of human rights there. We have two recommendations. (cut-off due to time constraints)
The USA warmly welcomes his Excellency, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Moustapha Ramid, and the delegation of the Kingdom of Morocco. We commend the government for creating a special committee to draft a new constitution based on input from all sectors of civil society. The new constitution sets high standards for the individual liberties, gender-equality, and cultural diversity. Despite these positive efforts, we are concerned by recent arrests of journalists, bloggers and artists which demonstrate restrictions on the freedom of opinion and expression. We’re also concerned about continued allegations of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators and torture of prisoners and detainees at the hands of police and security forces. Finally, we are concerned that some civil society organisations advocating on behalf of minority populations, including Saharawis, have not yet been registered.
Bearing in mind these concerns, the USA makes the following recommendations. One, investigate all allegations of police brutality and torture and prosecute all security force officials accused of harsh treatment. Two, finalise in collaboration with press associations and rights groups, a legal framework that ensures full freedom of expression. And three, promptly approve the license application of all civil society organisations, that meet legal requirements, including those organisations advocating for minority populations.
Uruguay welcomes the delegation of the Kingdom of Morocco, and would like to underscore the achievements made in strengthening the normative and institutional framework of the country; reforms in the area of transitional justice, the approval of the national plan of action on democracy and human rights, and also the expansion of the sphere of individual and collective freedoms. Uruguay recognises and values the fact that the new 2011 constitution has addressed aberrant crimes such as enforced disappearances as well as arbitrary detentions, recommends that exclusive reference be made in the penal code to the criminalisation of enforced disappearances and that the statute of limitations be eliminated in that respect, and also that it ratifies the International Conventions and recognises the competence of the committee.
In April 2012, the UNSC adopted Resolution 2044 on self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. So as to take care of the protection of human rights in this territory, Uruguay recommends that Morocco accepts the establishment of a permanent component for human rights of the MINURSO, as this is the only peace-mission which does not have such a component. And in light of the cooperation between Morocco and the UN system, and so as to strengthen the legal human rights system in the country, Uruguay recommends that it extends a standing invitation to all special procedures of the human rights council.
In its national report, Morocco mentions the reform project for justice in the shape of [inaudible], which among other things, aim to promote equality between men and women and better application of the family code. Could Morocco provide us with information on measures adopted and planned to bring this reform to an end, in particular on the training and awareness-raising for judges and magistrates to eliminate discrimination against women in the administration of justice.
Canada has three recommendations to make to Morocco. Firstly, that Morocco decriminalise first offenses, to take multi-statute groups and prevent arrest of individuals for having expressed their opinions through social media in particular. Secondly, that Morocco establish the necessary provisions to apply the guarantees for gender-equality contained in the new constitution in conformity with its international obligations, including with article 16 of CEDAW on marriage and family life. And recommendation three, that Morocco take measures to protect human rights defenders, in particular in Western Sahara, to protect them from all harassment, repression, arrest or detention, including in allowing associations to have official accreditation.
Costa Rica welcomes the distinguished delegation of the Kingdom of Morocco. We thank them for presenting their national report and for their active participation today. We recognise Morocco’s commitment to the UPR and their efforts to implement recommendations raised at the first round of this exercise. My country would like to congratulate Morocco on reforms undertaken to strengthen and consolidate democracy. Actions undertaken in judicial, political and constitutional affairs show an important step forward towards the subjective, and at the same time good instruments consolidation and respect for human rights.
There are too many signs of progress to mention them at length and in the time available. We’d like to make some recommendations in the constructive spirit of the UPR. We believe that Morocco should consider ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but also that it should continue cooperating with the United Nations’ mechanisms and human rights and consider incorporating a human rights component into MINURSO. And finally, we urge Morocco, its government and its people to continue their work along the path they have chosen maintaining promotion and protection of human rights, as their highest priority.
Denmark warmly welcomes the Moroccan delegation to Geneva and would like to thank his Excellency Moustapha Ramid for his comprehensive presentation as well as for responding to the advanced questions submitted by Denmark. Morocco has shown that non-violent democratic reforms in the Arab region are possible. We note with concern however the excessive use of force to disperse peaceful demonstrations, as well as reports on the curtailment of the freedom of expression, particularly in the press. We regret that UN-led negotiations to find a peaceful solution to the status of Western Sahara remain stalled and that peaceful demonstrations continue to be subjected to attacks, and the protesters arbitrarily detained. Denmark would like to ask the government of Morocco what measures are being taken to protect the safety of peaceful protesters and respect human rights in Western Sahara. Morocco can today be considered among the most progressive countries in the Arab region with respect to women’s rights and gender equality. This said, gender-based discrimination in law and practice persist. Denmark recommends that the government of Morocco codify the principle of gender-equality in all areas of its national legal framework. Finally, Denmark recommends that the government of Morocco ratify the optional protocol of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Ireland wishes to thank Morocco for its response to Ireland’s written questions. Ireland notes that the family code stipulates the legal age of marriage is 18 and welcomes the recent changes in the Moroccan constitution, recognizing gender equality. In that context, Ireland wishes to encourage Morocco to amend or update article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, to bring it in line with the spirit of the Moroccan constitution. Ireland welcomes Morocco’s commitment to provide unqualified and unimpeded access to all special procedures, but remains concerned about the human rights situation in Western Sahara. Ireland is particularly concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests, detention and mistreatment of human rights defenders. Ireland recommends Morocco give particular attention to all measures to improve the human rights situation in Western Sahara, in particular to develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights and guaranteeing such rights as freedom of association and expression. Ireland recommends that independent and impartial inquiries are carried out with respect to allegations of mistreatment in detention, and would welcome the inclusion of a broader human rights monitoring mechanism in the UN peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara.
Norway warmly welcomes the delegation of Morocco and appreciates the oral presentation as well as written answers to our advanced questions. We commend Morocco for their work in the area of human rights, including the adoption of the new constitution, the national action plan for democracy and human rights, and the implementation of the recommendations from the equity and reconciliation commission. We also recognise the ratification of important human rights instruments.
In spite of all the progress, certain challenges still remain. Regarding gender equality, we recommend Morocco to revise the penal code as well as other legislation such as the family code, to ensure that they are in compliance with international standards. We also recommend Morocco to adopt a specific law on violence against women that contain both criminal and civil provisions. We recommend Morocco to ensure that the procedures governing registration of civil society organisations, including organisations advocating for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, are in conformity with international standards. Finally, Norway recognises the efforts of Morocco to develop institutions and national strategies to strengthen its social systems, gender equality and children’s rights, including the establishment of the national human rights council and the office of the ombudsman. Norway recommends that these institutions be prioritised and sufficiently resourced.
Spain would like to extend a warm welcome to the delegation of Morocco and thank them for participating in this exercise. We’d like to congratulate Morocco on the efforts made over the last few years in the sphere of human rights and to be more specific on creating the national human rights council and for lifting the reservations that it had placed on articles 9 point 2 and 16 of the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
My delegation would like to submit the following recommendations: first, that Morocco eliminate the death penalty from the criminal system and ratify the second optional protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Two, intensify efforts to combat torture and other forms of maltreatment by the security forces of the state, put in place a formational plan on human rights to be applied by the security forces of the state. Third, take appropriate measures to guarantee the adequate protection of human right in Western Sahara, in view of cases of enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, limitations of the freedom of expression and assembly and association by the security forces of Morocco. And four, that it adopt reforms for the legislation in the act of violence against women, in particular that it adopt measures to improve their protection in the rural setting.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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