[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Apr 25 17:01:41 UTC 2007
Death Penalty: Moroccan Abolition Could Help Expose Political Killings
Morocco continues to be haunted by its many extra-judicial killings in the
past -- but human rights activists are looking to the long-expected
abolition of the death penalty as an essential step towards encouraging
more to speak out about what they know about these and help bring those
responsible before the courts.
King Mohamed VI's accession to the throne in 1999 was followed by a
much-welcomed process of reconciliation between the state and the victims
of human rights violations during his father's reign. This centred on the
Equity and Reconciliation Committee which held public hearings for victims
and granted compensation.
The committee concluded its work over a year ago with a final report
calling for the abolition of the death penalty. The Moroccan media has
speculated that this recommendation could be adopted by parliament during
its current session which ends in June.
But some leading rights activists remain critical that many of the gravest
cases of human rights violations -- the "thousands" of extra-judicial
killings without the sanction of the courts -- committed in the long reign
of King Hassan II are still shrouded in secrecy.
"Reconciliation cannot be partial," Noureddine Gabbaz, a member of the
Moroccan Human Rights Association, told IPS. "There is only one way to
complete reconciliation: truth, all the truth. We need to know all that
happened to the victims. We need enough guarantees that this will not
"The abolition of the death penalty is necessary to achieve the building
of a state which respects the rule of law, human rights and freedom,"
Gabbaz stated. The eventual abolition of the death penalty should play a
role in bringing the truth to light.
He added: "Abolition might help former secret service agents to reveal
more useful information about what happened during 'The Years of Lead'. If
the death penalty is abolished and the former executioners know they
cannot be sentenced to death, they might then be more ready to tell us
what happened. The complete truth would then be brought out into the
"The Years of Lead" is the graphic term used to describe the repression
during the 38- year-long rule by King Hassan II. Dissidents and democracy
campaigners were harassed, jailed and disappeared.
Typical of what is seen as only a "partial" dealing with these human
rights violations is the case of the disappearance of Mehdi Ben Barka, the
main opposition leader in 1965.
It was a former secret service agent, Ahmed Boukhari, who cast some light
on this, admitting to the press how he coordinated Ben Barka's kidnapping
in Paris from his agency's secret Dar al-Moukri detention centre. This is
a villa in the exclusive Souissi district of Rabat, the capital. Agents
smuggled Barka's dead body back to Dar al-Moukri where it was disposed of
in acid without leaving a trace, Boukhari first claimed in 2000.
But despite these shocking revelations, no proceedings have been opened
against anyone involved in the extrajudicial killing. The Moroccan
government has also consistently ignored all calls to open up the villa
and its gruesome secrets to public scrutiny. Permission to hold a sit-in
to pressure the government to do this was refused.
Driss Ould Kabla, a well-known human rights activist, is now conducting
his own investigations into the extra-judicial killings in the villa. This
April he reported he had obtained information about these, but gave no
numbers. Ex-agent Boukhari had earlier reported that it was "common"
practice in the centre to dispose of bodies in acid.
Activists are also concerned about the continuing refusal of the
authorities to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for the
violent clampdown on demonstrations during Hassan's rule. The Moroccan
Forum for Truth and Equity is campaigning for justice over one of the
worse of these, the bloody repression of a demonstration against the high
cost of living in Casablanca in June 1981. Activists say security forces
shot dead more than a thousand. But the official death toll is 89.
Gabbaz, who is also a member of the forum, told IPS that many of the
victims were later buried in mass graves in and around Casablanca. "The
official version is that victims were shot by random bullets," Gabbaz
said. "But I do not know of any random fire that aims only at heads and
hearts." One of the victims was an eight-year-old deaf and dumb child.
People watching the demonstration from their windows were also cut down by
bullets, Gabbaz claimed.
Driss Ould Kabla, a human rights activist, is focusing on the purges in
the army. In April he published details of 9 army generals who were
executed without trial in 1971 for allegedly plotting a coup.
The execution was broadcast live on Moroccan television. King Hussein of
Jordan and King Hassan also "watched the execution through binoculars from
the Moulay Ismail Barracks," Ould Kabla wrote. Some 30 other officers were
also "executed by slow death" at a secret service detention centre in
Tazmamart, a small town in eastern Morocco near the city of Arrachidia.
Ould Kabla has claimed that 58 other officers were arrested and imprisoned
for other alleged coup attempts in 1971 and 1972. 30 of them died a
terrible death of suffocation, hunger and torture in tiny cells in the
Human rights organisations also continue to press for information on the
fate of more than 60 political detainees whose disappearance continues to
The apparent unwillingness of the authorities to initiate public
investigations into the alleged extra-judicial killings, is causing
continuing, deep resentment. This is compounded by the pain caused to the
families of the victims watching the people they hold responsible appear
regularly on state-run television.
"Those who committed these atrocities should be brought to justice -- or
at least leave their functions," Gabbaz said. "It's unbelievable that they
all carry on appearing on TV." He identified these people as top military
commanders and senior government officials.
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