NEW YORK – Human Rights Watch on Friday revealed evidence that Moroccan police tortured protesters and activists of the Hirak movement in the Rif forcing them to recognize acts that they did not commit, inviting the Court of Appeal of Casablanca, which is to rejuvenate these militants soon, to take account of it.
"A court can not simply ignore evidence of torture" (Ahmed Benchemsi)
In a report released on Friday, Human Rights Watch reviewed the progress of the Hirak movement's trial, bringing new evidence of "serious acts of torture" by Moroccan police against Rifle activists during their arrest and imprisonment at Oukacha prison in Casablanca.
On June 26, a first-instance court sentenced all 53 defendants to up to 20 years in prison after having withheld their "confessions" as "evidence" against their rebuttals. confession ", which they said were torn out under duress.
In this regard, the NGO reported that the Moroccan justice did not explain why it rejected medical reports prepared by an independent body suggesting that at least a large proportion of the defendants had suffered torture and violence. during or after their arrests.
"A court can not simply ignore evidence of torture," said Ahmed Benchemsi, director of communication and advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa at Human Rights Watch, saying "the Court of Appeals must exclude all suspicious admissions, and ensure that no one is sentenced except for real crimes. "
According to the NGO report, forensic doctors mandated by the National Human Rights Council (CNDH), an independent body, examined 34 Hirak detainees, 19 of whom were from the Casablanca group on 17 and 18 June 2017.
In their medical reports, doctors wrote that injuries sustained by Hirak detainees had a "high degree of concordance" or "average" with their allegations of police abuse.
But the court had relied on reports of doctors he had himself mandated to inflict heavy penalties on the accused, indignant the international NGO, citing in this wake the case of that of "Jamal El Abassi, who had noted that marks of violence on the bodies of three detainees, including Nasser Zefzafi leader of Hirak, but refusing to establish a link between these marks and unlawful police violence that the three men claim to have suffered. "
The rights of defense ignored by justice
In this context, Human Rights Watch stated that it had to examine "the relevant sections" of the judgment of the Court of First Instance of Casablanca, as well as 41 reports of medical expertise, including 19 written by the doctors mandated by the CNDH and 22 by the court-mandated one, attended 17 of the 86 trial hearings, reviewed 55 Hirak court documents, and interviewed 10 defense lawyers and six relatives of imprisoned activists.
"According to the minutes of their hearings before the investigating judge in charge of the case, 50 of the 53 defendants stated that during their interrogations at the headquarters of the National Criminal Police Brigade (BNPJ), in Casablanca, police had pressured them, one way or another, to make them sign self-incriminating confessions without even reading their content, "said the NGO, adding that among the defendants, "21 said the Moroccan police had threatened to rape or rape their wives or underage girls."
Based on statements by defense counsel, Human Rights Watch further indicated that 17 detainees had suffered "physical violence during interrogation", while others were forced to admit to having committed acts of violence during the demonstrations which enamelled the Moroccan Rif.
Moroccan justice also violated the rights of the defense by refusing to hear witnesses, which detainees' lawyers considered "crucial", and access to dozens of videos and recorded tapping records as evidence to "fundamental charges", Human Rights Watch also denounced, citing one of the leading defense lawyers, Mohamed Messaoudi.
While noting that the Casablanca Court had relied solely on medical reports that did not provide information on the abuses committed by the Moroccan police, the international NGO returned in detail on the treatment suffered by the Moroccan police. main activists of the Hirak movement, including Rabie Al Ablaq, (journalist), Mohamed Bouhnouch, teacher Youssef El Hamdioui, street vendor Rachid Aamarouch and journalist Hussein El Idrissi.
The latter had all been threatened and subjected to inhuman treatment by Moroccan police officers when they refused to sign interrogation reports containing untruths.
See also: With violence and humiliation in the Rif, "we are witnessing in Morocco a repetition of history"
Among them, the journalist Al Ablaq, who was forced by a Moroccan policeman to brandish a Moroccan flag and proclaim "Long live the king!", Before others beat him and torture him.
"Despite injuries and apparent distress, a court-appointed medical examiner has concluded that the medical examination does not detect any signs of bodily violence, without dwelling on the psychological state of the accused" , noted the Organization.
Human Rights Watch, which listed in its report several typical cases of abuses committed during the trial of the Rif militants, called on the Moroccan authorities to guarantee a "fair" trial, as guaranteed by the UN treaties and African, insisting on the right of defense to present to the court its key witnesses in the same way as the prosecution.