The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has cracked down on Morocco for using excessive force against peaceful protestors. According to HRW in a report published on June 5, 2018, the Moroccan authorities have indiscriminately used force against the demonstrations in Jerada following protests that have been ongoing since December 2017 after two brothers died illegally mining. The demonstrations flared up from social and economic grievances in Jerada and throughout the country.
The Délégation Interministérielle aux Droits de l’Homme (DIDH) claimed that the force used against the protestors was appropriate because six police cars were burned and 280 security personnel were injured during the demonstrations. However, the local HRW branch claims that those numbers are highly exaggerated and 69 unjust arrests have occurred as of May 31, 2018. Sarah Leah Whitson, the MENA director at HRW said, “the repression in Jerada has gone well beyond an effort to bring allegedly violent protestors to justice. It looks like it is about suppressing the right to peacefully protest social and economic conditions.” In early April 2018, HRW researchers were stopped twice by Moroccan authorities and closely observed during their work in the country. The researchers noted excessive militant security throughout Jerada, with armed police on every street corner in the small city of just over 40,000 residents.
Although excessive force continues to be used on peaceful protestors, the recent HRW report has brought the heinous actions of the Moroccan authorities to the world stage. According to the Guardian, King Muhamed VI rewrote the Moroccan constitution and gave elected officials more power following the 2011 Arab Spring protests. There has been turmoil in the country since 2011, but the continued protests have given people a voice that had not been seen for nearly a decade since the Arab Spring. Similar to the media attention the 2011 protests received, the current unrest and violent action towards the protests can likely be used by the demonstrators to gain international support with hopeful condemnations on the Moroccan government.
The 2011 Arab Spring began following the self-ignition of a merchant in Tunisia. In Morocco, tens of thousands of protestors driven by the youth took part in the Arab Spring demonstrations according to the Middle East Institute (MEI). The grievances throughout the Arab Spring mirror the current protests, as they were about social, economic, and political issues in Morocco. Morocco was unique during the Arab Spring as they did not demand the ousting of King Muhamed VI who is still in power today. Per Brookings Institution, the current political regime was and still is under less threat than the other Arab Spring countries because the current academic literature has shown that monarchies have faired better in turmoil than democratic systems. However, if current tensions increase, international and domestic dialogue may turn to the upheaval of King Muhamed’s power.
The Human Rights Watch must continue to observe and comment on the excessive force used by Moroccan authorities on peaceful protestors. The Moroccan demonstrators have proven their resilience in the flaring protests since the Arab Spring, and the continued violence towards them will only lead to an increase in tension between the government and its citizenry. Although the reforms made in 2011 by King Muhamed VI were a step in the right direction, the necessary social, economic, and political changes have not been sufficiently made to sustain stability and peace in Morocco.