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HRW calls for judicial reform in Morocco

Moroccan courts are relying too heavily on coerced confessions and delaying trial proceedings, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text, PDF] Friday, calling for reform of the country's judicial system. The 131-page report, entitled "Just Sign Here: Unfair Trials Based on Confessions to the Police in Morocco," examines numerous cases in which the judicial system violated due process by allowing confessions into evidence amid defendants' claims that such confessions were obtained through police abuse. Additionally, the report discusses the lengthy delays in the justice system, with some individuals waiting years in pre-trial detention for their cases to be heard. The report urges Morocco to "diligently examine any claims made by defendants that the police obtained their self-incriminating statements by force or coercion" and to "end the practice of unduly prolonged pretrial detention of defendants and conduct trials with reasonable promptness."

Morocco has had a controversial human rights record during its government's transition away from a highly centralized monarchy. In September UN Special Rapporteur on torture [official website] Juan Mendez said after a visit to Morocco that the human rights situation in the country is improving but that more effort is needed to eradicate torture [JURIST report]. Also in September HRW urged Morocco to release five prisoners [JURIST report] who were allegedly convicted based on false confessions obtained through torture. In July Moroccan voters overwhelmingly approved a revised version of the constitution [JURIST report], highlighted by fewer powers reserved for their king. The constitutional revisions were a product of a reform process announced last April following peaceful demonstrations [JURIST reports] demanding democratic reforms as part of the wider protests in the Middle East and North Africa [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Commentators state that Morocco has continued to move forward in improving human rights but that it still has a duty to ratify [JURIST op-ed] the Rome Statute [text], the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court [official website].

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