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Morocco terrorism suspects face serious human rights violations: HRW

Suspects detained under Morocco's counterterrorism law routinely face serious human rights violations, including illegal detention and torture, according to a report [text, PDF] issued Monday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The 56-page report was created following interviews with seven men detained pursuant to the counterterrorism law. The stories document a pattern of abuse in which suspected terrorists are detained by plainclothes agents, provided no reason for arrest and then transported to secret detention facilities. At the facility, five of the men claim they were tortured and held for an indeterminate length of time. The suspects were then released into police custody only after they agreed to sign a statement, which was later used against them as a "confession" in court. While the counterterrorism law allows for an extension of pre-arraignment detention and an extension of the time a detainee can be denied contact with their lawyer, on many occasions agents reportedly altered the paperwork to fit within permitted limits. HRW contends such violations [press release] stand in the face of legislation Morocco has adopted to defend against infringement of suspects' rights as well as international conventions the country has signed. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW stated, "While Morocco has demonstrated the political will to adopt enlightened human rights legislation, it lacks the political will to enforce it when it comes to terrorism suspects." The report concludes with suggestions for Morocco to adopt, including ensuring that state officers always show credentials, that they be held accountable for treatment of detainees, and that the acceptable pre-arraignment detention period be shortened.

Abuse of detainees, especially those accused of terrorist activities, is a significant human rights issue in multiple countries. Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] announced that it would review the involvement [JURIST report] of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] and torture of Khaled El-Masri [JURIST news archive] by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. In September, HRW urged the Zambian government to investigate the inhumane treatment of prisoners [JURIST report] in that nation's jails and to hold those implicated accountable. In July, the ECHR blocked a proposed rendition [JURIST report] of terrorism suspects from the UK to the US.

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