Last week I participated in a school trip to Morocco’s National Human Rights Council, originally established in 1990 (though under a different title). We heard from one of the council’s officials, who discussed (in Arabic) its work and evolution over the years. He emphasized that 1999 was a time of change in Morocco, when the new King Mohammad VI ascended the throne and decided to advance human rights reforms, including by seeking to reconcile the problems of Morocco’s past, which had involved arrests and disappearances of political opponents. He then talked about the role of the council in protecting the rights of women, children, and marginalized groups, as well as combating corruption. Some of the specific measures he mentioned included raising the age of marriage to 18 in accordance with international law (though there are possible exceptions with agreement of parents and a judge), as well as increasing the age of required schooling to 15. Other laws he highlighted included those requiring the reporting of child abuse and banning child labor, as well as one allowing Moroccan mothers to pass their nationality on to their children even if they are married to a foreign spouse.
Many of the questions in the following Q & A session, including my own, centered on the gap between the law and its application (as well as gaps in the laws themselves), which particularly affect the poorer and more isolated areas. In this regard, the speaker highlighted Morocco’s progress, as well as a number of measures to monitor the situation in these areas, spread information about the new laws (including in Amazigh/ Berber for the non-Arabic speakers), and provide mechanisms for the reporting of human rights abuses across the country. Another question concerned freedom of expression. In his response, the official mentioned the role of judges in determining when there are violations of expression, as well as the announced creation of the National Council of Journalists, and the extensive use of the internet–a domain largely free of restraints– by Moroccans to express their views.
See previous post on challenges to press freedom in Morocco here: https://marimorocco.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/514/