EU’s growing role as a “soft power” aids Human Rights in #Morocco

| June 27, 2018

A report on human rights and democracy in Morocco shows the EU’s growing role as a “soft power” – writes Colin Stevens. The report, by Human Rights Without Frontiers Int’l, a leading Brussels-based rights organisation, was published in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

A conference where it was dissiminated was hosted by S&D and ALDE groups in the European Parliament. Ilhan Kyuchyuk, a Bulgarian MEP from the ALDE  group, said it illustrated the EU role as a “soft power” in helping to bring positive change to countries like Morocco.

The report “Human Rights in Morocco: Achievements and Challenges Ahead” comes after an extensive study by the NGO.

Kyuchyuk, a keynote speaker, said, “The EU does have a real voice and influence in helping to leverage the sort of  improvements this report is recommending.”

The exhaustive report commends the Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme (CNDH), an independent body set up in March 2011, as a potential model for other countries in the region looking to improve human rights.

HRWF director Willy Fautre welcomed significant progress in the country in some areas of civil society but cited the freedom of association as being an issue of “concern.”

There are 4,500 human rights associations in the country but Fautre told the conference that the notification process before an association can gain legal status, as required by the government, was often prohibitive.

Fautre praised Morocco for “real progress” but noted that the report highlights areas which “still need to be tackled.”

“The CNDH has been instrumental in bringing about real and positive change in Morocco but, as is outlined in the report, further progress is needed.” According to Fautre, The CNDH fully complies with the Paris Principles and holds constructive dialogue without concessions with authorities.

Fautre added, “The fact finding mission in Morocco was designed to identify the most urgent issues and this report seeks to analyse these in detail. It also shows that EU soft power can contribute to promoting human rights in this country and elsewhere.”

Colin Forber, a researcher at HRWF, said one deficiency was in education, pointing to a 28 per cent illiteracy rate among Moroccan children. Other problem areas, he said, include child marriage rates, particularly high in rural areas, and the use of corporal punishment.

Elisa Van Ruiten, a gender specialist at HRWF, also reported significant progress as well as problems in the field of gender equality and violence against women. The constitution revised in 2011 allows for equality of male and female Moroccan citizens and the Moudawana (Family Code) revised in 2004 allows for improvement of women’s rights, making it easier for women to get divorced and providing more rights regarding the custody of children, she added.

Dr Ahmed Herzenni, a human rights export who helped draft the 2011 constitution in Morocco and once served a 12 year prison sentence for defending human rights,  welcomed the reservations the report makes saying he is “optimistic” these will be taken on board by the authorities in the country.

He said, “Remember, this is still a relatively young democracy so there is still some way to go.”


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