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Report to Congress on S~~psBeing Taken by the

Government of Morocco Related to B*~an Rights and the Western Sahara

Section 7041 (g) the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 20-12(Div.l~ P.L. 112-74) (SFOAA), requires the Secretary of State to submit a report to the lommittees on Appropriations on steps being taken by the Kingdom of Morocco 1 (1) respect the right of individuals to peacefully express their opinions regarding lthe status and future of the Western Sahara and to document violations of human rights; and (2) provide unimpeded access to human rights organizations, [oumalists, and representatives of foreign governments to the Western Sahara prior tc\>lobligation funds appropriated by the of SFOAA under the heading "Foreign Military Financing."


The Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory bordered by Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. The Kingdom of!fi..1orocco claims sovereignty over the Western Sahara, a position not accepted by;the international community. In 1991 the Security Council established the UN ~~sion for the Organization of a Referendum in the Western ~ahara ~O) to offer a choic: to thelpeoples of the Western Sahara between independence t(favored by the Algeria-backed Polisario Front) and integration into the ~dom of Morocco (favored\py Morocco). The U.S. recently renewed its ~ppport for MINURSO through the passage of Security Council Resolution 204tf (2012). A referendum h~ never taken place. The yvestern Sahara remains ~der the de fa?to administra,ive . authority of the Kingdom of Morocco, evenithough the Kingdom of Morocco IS not the UN-recognized Administering Pow, for the Western Sahara. The Kingdom of Morocco considers ~e Western Sahara to be an integral part of the kingdom with the same laws andlstructures conditioning the Jxercise of civil liberties and political and economic rights, Under the constitution, ~timate authority rests with King Mohammed VI who presides over the Council Ministers, and approves members of the government (such as cabinet ministers) recommended to him by the prime ministert: On July 1, Moroccans adopted a new constitution and on November 25, Morocco-held legislative elections, which included the Western Sahara. Moroccan citizens in the Western Sahara participated in both elections, and local autljl,oritiesin the Western Sahara stated that turnout in their region exceeded the na~onal average.



Overall human rights conditions in ili;+ territory raise a number of ~riOUS concerns, including limitations on the freed~m of speech and assembly, use of



arbitrary detention, and physical and verba! abuse of detainees during arrests and I impnsonment. I


Rights to Express Their Vie~s on the Western Sahara

The Kingdom of Morocco regards challenges to its territorial integrity (in practice, advocating independence for the "Western Sahara) a serious state security charge. As such, there are continuing restrittions, particularly on the rights of peaceful assembly and publication, for any I~dvocacy of independence or a referendum that would include independence as an option. Major demonstrations on human rights or any demonstration specifically in favor of independence for the territory are strictly forbidden by law. Tho~~ arrested for protesting the incorporation of the Western Sahara into thr Kingdom of Morocco diednot always receive a fair public trial. Distribution ofhfndbills calling for independence for the Western Sahara or a referendum that would include that option is prohibited and those caught are detained, although theliaw is not strictly enforced. The government also denied access to Web sites considered controversial, such as those advocating independence. I'

Organizations that are viewed by the IMoroccan administration ~s not comm~tted to Mo~occan sover~ign~ have h~d difficulty registering or I freely operating. Unregistered organizations cannot legally access government funds or accept contributions and have difficulty securing space for public meetings. Among these organizations are the Sahrawi! Association of Human Rights Victims (ASVDH) and the Collective of Human Rights Defenders in the Western Sahara (CODESA); however, both organizations ajk highly active online and in receiving visiting diplomatic and human rights delegations. The press code lists threats to public .~rder as one of the criteria (or censorship and the government has the ability to revoke licenses and to suspend

and confiscate publications. However, it appears that longstanding restrictions in

Morocco on discussion of the Sahara issue ~lreno longer strictly enforced.


of Violations of Human Rights

Since 2006, agencies of the Kingdom of Morocco (KOM), inclJding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation (MFA), the Ministry of the Interior (MOI), and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), and U.S. Embassy Rabat have engaged


in a human rights dialogue. In addition to ~orrnal meetings held annually, direct contacts and exchanges between KOM andiUSG officials on the status of human rights in Morocco and the Western saharaliccur frequently throughout the year.

In 2011, King Mohammed VI created a new National Council on Human Rights (CNDH) to address human rights iskjues in Morocco. Two CNDH offices exist in the Western Sahara. In Laayoune,ltihe office is headed by Mohamed ! I Cherkaoui, and in Dakhla, the office is headed by Mohamed Semlali. U.S. officials have urged the Kingdom ofMoro~co to release the CNDH's promised 2011 human rights report, and specific reporting on the Western Sahara.

Access to the Western Sahara by J~man rights organizations,

journalists, and representatives of forei~n governments

U.S. and other third-party diplomats !regularly travel to the Western Sahara for meetings with Sahrawi activists, UN o~cials, and officials of the Kingdom of Morocco. U.S. diplomats' personal observations and conversations with Sahrawi activists are a component of the annual D.S! Department of State Human Rights report. In a high-profile vis~t by a human r~~hts org~ization, a delegation from the Robert F. Kennedy F oundation traveled to ilLaayoune III August 2012, and charged that serious human rights violations were 1"curring in the territory. Moroccan law prohibits citizens from voicing opposition to the government's official position regarding territorial integrity and the Western Sahara. Most media outlets and bloggers practiced self-censorship on these issues, and bloggers assumed they were monitored Iclosely by authorities and felt the need to hide their identities. Although there we~e almost no reports of government action against them for what they had written, at least one blogger claimed that police had detained and physically abused him for several hours while they demanded to know the nature of his foreign travel and his contact with several diplomatic missions in Morocco. I
r :

The government ofNGOs and activists official approval from independence NGOs.

enforces strict proc+dures that significantly limit the ability to meet with journalists. Foreignjoumalists need prior the Ministry of Combunication before meeting with proHowever, the U.S. Department of State has notreceived


reports of authorities barring journalists frohI traveling to Laayoune or reports of journalists being prevented from meeting pro-independence activists. The Kingdom of Morocco is resistant to a permanent presence from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights or for there to be a human rights component as part of the UN Mission in tht!western Sahara (MINURSO).


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