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Cablegate: Human Rights Scenesetter for Staffdel Hogrefe

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRB #0714/01 2311651
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191651Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY RABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0586
INFO RUCNMGH/MAGHREB COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS RABAT 000714

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR H, DRL/NESCA, NEA/RA AND NEA/MAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OREP PHUM PGOV SOCI KWMN KPAO MO
SUBJECT: HUMAN RIGHTS SCENESETTER FOR STAFFDEL HOGREFE

REF: STATE 084631 (NOTAL)

1. (SBU) Summary: Morocco is a country in the throes of
change and reform, particularly with respect to human rights.
King Mohammed VI has embarked on an ambitious and continuous
program of human rights reform that includes greater
political rights and participation by women, the Arab World's
first truth commission, a revised family code, and growing
electoral transparency and government accountability.
Freedom of the press has expanded, but there are still some
restrictions, and those who challenge them can suffer heavy
fines, libel judgments and more
rarely, jail. Political freedoms have grown as well, but
divergence from the Government of Morocco's (GOM's) position
on the Western Sahara, or questioning the legitimacy of
monarchy or the Malekite rite of Sunni Islam, remain off
limits. The observance of human rights by the Moroccan
authorities in the Western Sahara is the same as in the rest
of Morocco. Despite some setbacks, Morocco is a leader of
reform in the region, and continued support and encouragement
from partners like the United States is essential. End
Summary.

--------------
Women's Rights
--------------

2. (SBU) Underscoring Morocco's regional leadership in this
sphere, the King has made the advancement of women's rights a
priority, calling it "the cornerstone" of Morocco's strategy
of building a modern democratic society. As a result of
support from the Palace and USAID, Morocco now has more
elected women officials than any other Arab country and has
dramatically increased the visibility of women as leaders and
policy makers.

3. (SBU) Following an agreement between the GOM and the
political parties, 12 percent of the seats (approximately
3,000 elected positions) in June's municipal council
elections were reserved for women. More than 20,000 women
ran for office, 20 percent of whom received campaign training
from a Middle East Partnership Initiative- (MEPI-) sponsored
project. Approximately 3,400 women won seats, a dozen of
whom were later elected to chair local councils, making them
mayors or mayor equivalents. Prior to the June elections,
women held less than 0.5 percent of elected positions and
only two women had served as mayors.

4. (SBU) The GOM has also enhanced legal protections for
women, particularly through bold revisions to the Moudawana
or family law code in 2004. In 2007, the King instituted
training for women to act as spiritual guides, and they now
represent more than one-fourth of Morocco's religious cadre.
These female religious leaders help raise women's awareness
of their rights, and promote a moderate, inclusive Islam.

-------------------------------
Elections and Political Parties
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Despite the relative transparency of the June 12
communal elections, the subsequent intra-council election of
city and communal council leaders (mayors) was, according to
press reports, marred by interference by a political party
and the Palace. The Party of Authenticity and Modernity
(PAM) reportedly used extra-political pressure tactics,
including invoking the name of King Mohammed VI, to pressure
other parties into withdrawing from alliances with the
Islamist-oriented Party of Justice and Development (PJD).
Press reports charge that the Palace intervened in several
areas to keep the PJD from controlling major cities, for
example Casablanca and Tangier, while allowing them to run
second-tier cites, such as Kenitra and Tetouan. According to
press reports, Palace interference was most blatant in the
city of Oujda, where the local governor blocked a vote that
would have produced a PJD-lead coalition in late June.
National Police, with complicity from the PAM, reportedly
intimidated PJD coalition supporters and beat into a coma a
local PJD leader, who has since recovered.

-----------------
Religious Freedom
-----------------

6. (SBU) The Moroccan Constitution provides for the freedom
to practice one's religion, although Islam is the official
state religion. The GOM prohibits distribution of non-Muslim
religious materials and bans all proselytizing. It also
occasionally restricts Islamic activities that it considers
to have exceeded the bounds of "acceptable religious
practice" and become "political in nature," as was the case
with the crackdown on Shi'a activism this year. Morocco has
become protective and even positive toward the tiny remnant
of its once substantial Jewish minority, who now number 3,000
) 4,000.

7. (SBU) In March, following its severing of relations with
Iran, the Government launched an officially sanctioned
pressure campaign against Shi'a in Morocco, seizing Shi'ite
tracts from bookstores and libraries, and mobilizing imams to
preach against Shi'ite influences. Approximately 15 leaders
of Shi'a associations were questioned by police but then
released without charges. The Ministry of National Education
shut down a private Iraqi school following allegations that
the school was teaching Shi'ite principles.

8. (SBU) In April, Moroccan authorities expelled five
expatriate female Christian missionaries from the country for
proselytizing and for their involvement in leading a regular
women's Bible study group in Casablanca. The Moroccan women
in the study group were taken to the local police station,
then released without charges. The police were responding to
an unrelated complaint from a neighbor and appear not to have
been specifically targeting the meeting. This was the first
time in more than four years that Morocco had publicly
expelled missionaries.

---------------------
Freedom of Expression
---------------------

9. (SBU) Although Morocco has allowed increasing freedom of
expression on many issues, divergence from the GOM's position
on the Western Sahara or questioning the legitimacy of the
monarchy or the Malekite rite of Sunni Islam remain off
limits. On August 1, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI)
seized editions of two influential weekly news magazines for
publishing an opinion poll on the King's first decade in
power, even though the poll in question showed 91 percent
support for the King. The Ministry also banned import of an
edition of French daily "Le Monde" that also published the
results. To justify its action, the MOI cited Morocco's 1958
press code, which allows seizure of publications that violate
public order or violate respect for the royal family or
Islam. The Moroccan independent press has united in a strong
reaction against the Ministry's action. Morocco is in the
process of reforming its press code, but the process has been
slow.

-------
Torture
-------

10. (SBU) Morocco has sought to actively address past human
rights abuses, including torture, with the goal of preventing
future violence and restoring dignity to victims. Overall
reported incidents of torture have decreased. However, there
were some reports that security forces abused individuals,
particularly during transport and pre-trial detention. Human
rights NGOs have led the campaign against torture, recently
creating a new group to monitor the country for torture
practices, and to assist and rehabilitate victims. The
Consultative Council for Human Rights (CCDH), a
quasi-governmental body, serves as the official clearing
house for complaints. The CCDH, along with NGOs, is lobbying
for the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the UN
Convention against Torture and encouraging government
agencies to comply. Anti-torture reforms undertaken in 2006
criminalized abuse of prisoners and require an investigation
of abuse when any prisoner exhibits injuries. Such reforms
represent a step forward but have not been applied
consistently.

--------------------------------------------- -------
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Issues
--------------------------------------------- -------

11. (SBU) According to gay rights activists, Morocco is more
liberal than many of its neighbors on the issue of
homosexuality, with increasing acceptance by the government
and press. However, homosexuality continues to be illegal
under the Moroccan penal code and may be punished by between
6 months and 3 years in prison, although this is rarely
enforced. In March, a highly publicized gay rights campaign
prompted a series of protests by Islamists, which triggered a
limited but high-profile crackdown. Authorities arrested 17
men on suspicion of homosexuality, all of whom have since
been released.

--------------
Western Sahara
--------------

12. (SBU) The human rights situation in the Western Sahara
continues to stabilize, with a reduction in serious
violations and some increases in political openness. Known
police abusers have been transferred out of the territory and
those left behind increasingly respect human rights
standards. Harassment of some independence activists
continue but appears limited to administrative difficulties,
rather than physical abuse. In general, the observance of
human rights by authorities in the Western Sahara is
equivalent to that in the rest of Morocco.


*****************************************
Visit Embassy Rabat's Classified Website;
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Moro cco
*****************************************

Jackson

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