Human Rights activist becomes prisoner of conscience in Morocco
Many human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued public statements condemning Moroccan authorities for the illegal detention of Chekib El-Khiari, a human rights activist that has a commendable reputation for speaking out against corruption amongst the Moroccan leaders.
El-Khiari’s whereabouts have been unknown since the National Bureau of Judicial Police took him on Tuesday last week. El-Khiari is the head of the Association for Human Rights in the Rif. The Court of Appeals of Casablanca ordered the judicial police to summon el-Khiari regarding statements he had previously made about drug trafficking in the northern coastal region of Morocco. El-Khiari had reportedly implicated various high-ranking state officials in his statements. Although the summons did not specify the reason for the request, el-Khiari traveled to Casablanca in adherence. The following day, however, 10 policemen accompanied him to his home. The officers searched his home without a warrant and confiscated many documents as well as his computer. When he was taken away again, the police gave his family no indication of where he would be taken.
Amnesty International has denounced the police’s actions and declared Chekib El-Khiari to be a prisoner of conscience. The authorities have revealed no information as to el-Khiari’s location, but have stated that his accusations about the drug trafficking involvement are completely untrue, suggesting that he was simply trying to damage the image of national authorities. Amnesty has declared as well that this unlawful arrest is “an attack on the right of human rights defenders to collect and disseminate information and views on human rights issues without fear or reprisals”. According to Amnesty, the Moroccan authorities have violated the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility that strictly prohibits retaliation for seeking, knowing, or obtaining information on human rights issues. In addition, the authorities have violated both the Moroccan Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee the right to freedom of expression.
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have called for immediate and unconditional release of Chekib El-Khairi.