Concern as Morocco blocks human rights groups

New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed concern Friday over what it said is Morocco’s interference with the activities of local and international human rights organizations operating in the country.

New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed concern Friday over what it said is Morocco’s interference with the activities of local and international human rights organizations operating in the country.

New York-based Human Rights Watch expressed concern Friday over what it said is Morocco’s interference with the activities of local and international human rights organizations operating in the country.

Since the summer, the statement said, Moroccan authorities have blocked meetings and gatherings of some of the more critical rights groups in the country, including 15 involving the Moroccan Association for Human Rights.

Morocco has long presented itself as a great respecter of human rights and is set to host the second annual World Forum on Human Rights on Nov. 27.

In June, Driss El Yazami, the head of the country’s official human rights group, said the Forum’s choice of Morocco was international recognition of the “kingdom’s achievements in this domain.”

Human Rights Watch, however, said there has been a crackdown following a speech in July in which Interior Minister Mohammed Hassad slammed unnamed rights groups for falsely accusing security forces of rights abuses.

Several meetings by branches of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights around the country were blocked in July, September and October. Ouafa Charaf, a member of the group, was convicted of falsely accusing police of torture in August and sentenced to a year in prison. When she appealed, her sentence was doubled on Oct. 20.

Authorities blocked Amnesty International from holding its annual summer youth camp on Sept. 1. A seminar on investigative journalism by the Ibn Rochd Center for Study and Communication was stopped on Oct. 31 as well.

Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi did not immediately respond to calls from The Associated Press seeking comment, but in October he told the press there was “no systemic policy to prevent the activities of human rights associations.”

 
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