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US department sheds light on Morocco's Justice and Reconciliation Commission

A report published Monday by the U.S State department on "Human Rights Practices 2004" shed light on the Justice and Reconciliation Commission (IER), set up in Morocco in January 2004 to look into cases of "disappearance" and arbitrary detention which occurred between 1956 and 1999.

"In January, an Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) began work to settle definitively serious violations of human rights, including compensation for all outstanding cases of arbitrary detention and disappearance, prior to the King's assumption of the throne in 1999," noted the annual report. The document recalled that the Commission's activities, notably public hearings on torture and disappearances, which began on December 21 in Rabat, are covered by the local and international media.

“Members of the national and foreign press and NGOs were allowed to attend. Participants were given 20 minutes each to present their testimony,” noted the report, explaining that under agreement with the IER, participants did not disclose the names of persons they considered responsible for violations.

“Around 200 victims, families of victims, and witnesses of violations were scheduled to participate in future hearings, throughout the country, over a period of 10 weeks,” it pointed out.

The report added that the “IER compiled 22,000 complaints and interviewed petitioners at the rate of 5 per day as part of a process to catalogue the full range of abuses and to determine compensation.”

It also “organized a range of activities including visits to former secret detention centers, to villages where a number of inhabitants were persecuted, and seminars for the public, academics, and journalists on literature, covering state violence, written by former prisoners.”

The report noted that the Moroccan law guarantees citizens’ rights to a fair trial and prohibits the use of torture. It recalled that the government announced in December 21 a “new draft law to criminalize torture, to include severe physical and mental pain and suffering.”

The report also highlighted the reforms instituted to the Moudawana (Family Law) that was approved by the Moroccan parliament in January 2004.

Some 197 countries are included in the Human Rights Report that gives a detailed account of the protection and promotion of the rights stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.