“Clinton Should Urge Legal Reform,” says Human Rights Watch

Despite Morocco’s 2011 constitutional reforms, which signaled a move towards a more democratic and liberal society, there are still significant limits on freedom of speech for Moroccan citizens. There are still laws on the books that call for prison terms of up to five years for individuals who offend the government or Islam through speech. Human Rights Watch argues that these laws are not in harmony with Morocco’s revised constitution, and that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should push for change of these laws during her current visit to Morocco.

“Having praised Morocco’s 2011 constitution, Secretary Clinton should now urge authorities to revise both laws and practices so that they are in harmony with that constitution.” –Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of Human Rights Watch

Article 25 of the new constitution says that “freedom of thought, opinion and expression in all its forms is guaranteed”; and article 28 says “Press freedom is guaranteed and cannot be restricted by any form of prior censorship.”

However, article 41 of Morocco’s press code provides prison terms of up to five years for speech that “undermines the Islamic religion, the monarchical regime, or [Morocco’s] territorial integrity,” or that is offensive toward “His Majesty the King, and the royal princes and princesses.” Article 263 of Morocco’s penal code “provides prison terms for “gravely offending” public officials. Article 266 provides prison terms for “insulting” the judiciary or discrediting its rulings or attempting to influence the courts.”

It appears that the lofty commitments of the new constitution are not being matched by Morocco’s legal codes and authorities.

Source: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/24/usmorocco-clinton-should-urge-legal-reform

Referendum on Constitutional reforms

In July of 2011 a referendum on constitutional reforms was held in Morocco. This referendum was held in response to a series of peaceful protests that have been going on in Morocco since the previous February. Many of these protests were organized by the Moroccan Student Youth Movement because of frustrations with corrupt politicians (In December 2010 WikiLeaks accused the royal family including the King himself of corruption.), poor life conditions including high illiteracy rates, a wide gap between the rich and poor, healthcare failure, and the absence of real elections. The Moroccan Student Youth Movement has used popular social networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to publicize their message. They were inspired by protests going on in other North African countries with similar motives.

In response to this, King Muhammad VI put together a committee of legal scholars to draft up constitutional reforms.  A draft was released in June and then elections to vote on full reforms were held on November 25, 2011. (Some of the statistics of the elections are attached).

Voting statistics from constiutional reforms in Morocco

The reforms that were voted on and approved

Amazigh language is official state language along with Arabic

  • Will be used in all the administrations moving forward
  • A standardized version of all Berber languages
  • Amazigh Berber word that means “free man”, “noble man” or “defender”
  • Berber languages are a family of languages closely associated with dialects of North Africa
  • Spoken by large populations of Morocco and Algeria, small populations in Libya, Tunisia and other places throughout Europe and the Middle East
  • Movement among speakers of “Northern Berber” to unite them into single standard language
  • Six major varieties of Berber spoken by 9/10ths of the population
  • (Tashelhit, Kabylian, Central Atlas, Rifian, Tuareg)
  • Division of Moroccan Berber dialects is in 3 groups
    • The Ethnologue is common in linguistic populations
    • Shilha subdivided into many other dialects such as Shilha of the Dra valley and Tasusit , other mountain dialects.
    • Since 20th century often written in Berber Latin Alphabet especially within the Moroccan and Algerian communities
    • In 2003 a modernized Tifinagh alphabet was made official in Morocco.

The state preserves and protects the Hassaniya language and all linguistic components of the Moroccan culture as a heritage of the nation.

  • Variety of Arabic, originating from Beni Hassan Bedouin tribes
  • Spoken by citizens of Morocco as well as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Western Sahara
  • All phonemes of classical Arabic are present but many other ones as well.
  • 1995 there were approx. 40,000

The King has the obligation to appoint a prime minister from the party that wins the most seats in the parliamentary elections

  • vs. before where he could nominate a technocrat in this position if no party has a decisive advantage over the other parties in terms of seats of parliaments

King no longer sacred but the “integrity of his person” is “inviolable

  • remains “commander of the faithful” or the Islamic spiritual leader .

High administrative posts and diplomatic posts are now appointed by the prime minister along with the ministerial council which is presided by the king

  • Previously the king had all the power

The prime minister will preside over the council of Government, and has the power to dissolve parliament

  • Prepares general policy of the state (previously the king had this position)

The judiciary system is independent from the legislative and executive branch, the king guarantees independence

Woman are guaranteed “civic” and “social” equality with men

  • Previously only “political” equality was guaranteed
  • 1996 constitution guarantees all citizens equal before the law in terms of rights
  • equal chance of being elected office
  • seats in parliament

The king retains complete control of the armed forces, foreign policy, and the judiciary; authority for choosing prime ministers and matters pertaining to religion

Citizens have freedom of

  • Thought
  • Ideas
  • Artistic expression
  • Creation
  • Previously only free speech, freedom of circulation and association were guaranteed

In summary some power was moved away from the King to the executive parties that are elected but the King still has a disproportionate amount of power.