Geneva – The Moroccan authorities’ arrest and trial of activist Jawad Amgar for participating in social protest movement in Tamasent town, north of the country is reprehensible, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said on Tuesday in a statement.
Imzouren city’s judicial police arrested Amgar on Wednesday January 13th. The next day he was transferred to the Public Prosecutor of Al Hoceima Elementary Tribunal. The court sentenced him to 15 days imprisonment in Al Hoceima prison, preventing him from contacting his family.
The detainee’s attorney demanded the court to pursue Jawad’s case while he is free. But the court refused and decided to pursue the case while he is under arrest. In a session held on January 21, Amgar’s trial was postponed to February 4, 2021, to give the defense time for prepare for the case.
“Jawad was arrested on January 13 at 8 a.m. while on his way to work. The Judicial Police arrested him for not wearing a mask,” Karim Amgar, Jawad’s brother said to Euro-Med Monitor. “Then, on the second day, he was referred to the Public Prosecution, which in turn placed him in sanitary isolation in local a prison and denied him any contact with his family for 15 days”.
“The real reason for the arrest turned out to be his participation in the protests. The king’s attorney in the court filed an indictment against Jawad that includes heavy charges related to his participation in the protest movement. The charges were insulting public forces and officials while on-duty, insulting legally organized bodies, inciting against the territorial integrity of the kingdom, disobedience, demonstrations, in addition to the commission of misdemeanors and felonies.”
On the same day Jawad was arrested, the authorities also arrested two of his brothers, Mohamed and Karim, at a security checkpoint. They were held for four hours and prevented from entering Al Hoceima.
On Wednesday, January 20, six detained protesters – on the background of the movement – in Tanga 2 prison announced their open hunger strike after the prison administration informed them that they can no longer talk to anyone other than their families and only about family issues. The next day, the Moroccan General Delegation of the Penitentiaries and Reinsertion Administration announced separating the six detainees in several prisons for their "unlawful behaviors”. The move clearly appeared as a punitive measure aimed at increasing psychological pressure on the detainees and denying them communication with each other.
“The Moroccan authorities proved once again the falsehood of their promises to guarantee freedom of opinion and expression in the country,” Anas Aljarjawi, Euro-Med Monitor's MENA regional director said. “These practices demonstrate the continued security mentality control over its dealings with any peaceful popular movement instead of meeting population’s; which has always suffered marginalization, poverty and inequitable distribution of resources; right demands.”
According to the joint statement issued by the two branches of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, in Al Hoceima and Emzouren, Jawad was arrested for his participation in the ongoing protest movement in Tamesint demanding economic and social reforms. The movement broke out in June 2016 after a pregnant woman died because there was no ambulance to transport her to a hospital.
Tamasent residents organized a protest calling the government to release Amghar and all those detained on the background of the peaceful protests that have raged in Morocco for years and meet the protesters’ demands.
In the wake of the protests, 23 protesters were arrested and still in detention, including Nasser Zafzafi, a leader of the popular movement who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in June 2018.
Amgar arrest violates relevant local and international laws. Article 29 of the Moroccan constitution stipulates that “The freedoms of reunion, of assembly, of peaceful demonstration, of association and of syndical and political membership [appartenance], are guaranteed”.
International laws also guarantee freedom of opinion and expression. Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Morocco ratified in 1979, stipulates that “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (order public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
The Moroccan authorities should release Amghar and all those arrested for peacefully protesting and drop all charges against them. Morocco must respect its obligations in terms of safeguarding freedoms and stopping human rights violations.