(MENAFN - Morocco World News) Rabat – The US Department of State 2017 Annual Human Rights report , released on Friday, acknowledged Morocco's 'positive' measures to reinforce its respect for human rights .
In the report, the State Department describes Morocco's 2016 parliamentary elections as 'credible and relatively free from irregularities.'
'In October 2016, the country held direct elections for the Chamber of Representatives. The major political parties and domestic observers considered the elections free, fair, and transparent. International observers considered the elections credible,' according to the 2017 Annual Report on Human Rights.
The report also underscores the engagement of Moroccan women in elections, emphasizing that 'voters elected a record number of women in the October 2016 elections, although very few subsequently won leadership positions as ministers or parliamentary committee presidents.'
Spanning all human rights issues in Morocco, the annual report details the steps introduced by the government to reinforce efforts to promote human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and corporate social responsibility.
Prison reform and steps to decrease prison torture, in particular, received favorable feedback, in addition to statues on women and immigration.
According to the State Dept. report, the Moroccan government contributed to the protection and assistance of refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers and other persons of concerns, in partnership with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations.
The report extols how the Moroccan government 'continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis,' and encouraged the return of 'Sahrawi refugees from Algeria and elsewhere.' Furthermore, the State Dept. found 'no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling out of the country.'
Decline of Torture Allegations
According to the report, overall claims of torture and abuse in detention have declined in Morocco, and the government has instituted accountability efforts to address reported abuses against law enforcement.
Morocco's law considers torture as a crime and stipulates that 'all government officials or members of security forces who make use of violence against others without legitimate motive, or incite others to do the same, during the course of their duties shall be punished in accordance with the seriousness of the violence.'
Though prison conditions improved during the year, the report stated that Morocco's prisons 'in some cases did not meet international standards,' due to overcrowding. The document then mentioned the efforts made by Morocco's Prison Administration (DGAPR), which reported less overcrowding as four new prisons opened in 2017.
Freedom to Protest
Regarding the freedom of peaceful assembly, the report commended the Moroccan law, which offers the right of both authorized and unauthorized peaceful demonstrations. According to the US State Department, law enforcement are asked to intervene only if a protest is deemed threatening to public security.
'In general, officers were under orders to observe and not intervene, unless the demonstration becomes unruly or threatening. In those cases, under standard operating procedures, officers are required to give the crowd three warnings that force will be used if they do not disperse before intervening.'
Curbing Violence and Rape Cases
The US department acknowledged NGO and government efforts to provide funds to women associations and centers that support female survivors of violence.
Government statistics from 2016 include direct support for 29 women's counseling centers for female survivors of violence and 48 family mediation centers.
The report added that the Moroccan government 'led some efforts to improve the status of women in the workplace,' mentioning the law to create the Gender Parity Authority that will be operational once King Mohammed VI and the Head of Government, Saad Eddine El Othmani, appoint its members.
Regarding youth, the report addressed the practice of underage marriage, child labor, sexual abuse, and obstacles to birth registration. According to the annual document, the Moroccan government provides that both parents maintain the right to pass citizenship to their children, except for a few cases, including children who were born to unmarried parents, especially in rural areas, or in the cases of poorly-educated mothers.
The report commended Morocco's legal prohibition of early or forced marriage and child labor. In 2016, Moroccan law enacted a legal mandate to prevent 'children under the age of 16 from working as domestic servants…strictly limiting the work of children under the age of 18.'