Equity and Reconciliation Commission and its Significance in the Political Economy of Morocco
Africa Digest, March 2006 (First Quarter), Indo-African Society, Delhi.
Dr. Suresh Kumar
The post 1990 period witnesses the awakening of people democracy that has been strengthened in major parts of Africa. This period has influenced African politics more and maximum towards setting up of democratic traditions and its practices in real terms. Issues of justice, impinging on questions of prosecutions, amnesty, and national reconciliation, remain unresolved in many African countries, bringing old patterns of conflict to the surface and eroding human security and development. Uniquely shaped by its engagement with ongoing transitional challenges in South Africa, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s work in Africa is grounded in analysis, dialogue and cooperative intervention. The Institute’s political engagement has a focus on two salient Africa regions, the Greater Horn and the Great Lakes Region. In addition, the Institute’s Zimbabwe Desk works to address the transitional challenges posed by that country, both nationally and regionally. Participating countries include Burundi, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Angola is emerging from twenty years of war, physical destruction and a social, economic and financial crisis. During Angola’s first round table conference, held in Brussels in September 1995, the Government presented the Community Rehabilitation and National Reconciliation Programme (CRNRP), for consolidating peace, encouraging national reconciliation and resuming economic and social development. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) organized a seminar to discuss reconciliation issues in West Africa on August 24, 2005.In Dakar, Senegal, IDEA and the Goree Institute held a seminar on reconciliation after violent conflict for Senegalese government and non-government officials and representatives from Francophone West African countries. Participants at the May event discussed current reconciliation needs and challenges in Senegal (Casmance region), Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau.
This awakening of African process touched Morocco political set up particularly King Mohammed VI (Who ascended the throne in July 1999), which persuaded this development in announcing Equity and Reconciliation Commission (ERC) on January 7, 2004. Article 4 of ERC statues specifies the need for transparency and confidentiality states, “The deliberations of the Commission are confidential. All members are to maintain strict confidentiality concerning the sources of information and the progress of the investigations” 1. Prior to it, Morocco has been observed the fruitful result of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa. In contrast to South Africa’s TRC process, Morocco has not offered state agents the possibility of an amnesty in exchange for full disclosure of crimes they committed in furtherance of their official duties. More over, Morocco initiative is an indication of democratic development and a welcome step in the Middle East and North Africa that is appreciated in the African politics as well as throughout the world. The King made clear that, “Its mandate is to investigate forced disappearances and arbitrary detentions carried out between 1956 and 1999, to prepare a report containing specific as well as general information concerning these violations, and to recommend forms of compensation and reparation for the victims, including measures of rehabilitation and social, medical, and psychological assistance. – – -the ERC to recommend measures to help Morocco memorialize these abuses and prevent their recurrence in the future.”2 The ERC has adopted different pattern of research methodology such as face to face interview, conducted field investigations in different parts of the kingdom, case-study research (forced disappearances, etc.) and organized seven pubic hearings and showed it on television to make this approach more and more people’s friendly. Article 24 states, “ In order to ensure the interaction and participation of all sectors of society in following its work, the Commission shall establish a plan for maintaining contact with victims or their families and their representatives, with the print and broadcast media, and with all parts of civil society” 3 as among the ERC’s “essential partners.” 4 The achievements of ERC are observed on the basis of its fieldwork based on the scientific methodology.
The Achievement of ERC
The ERC received more than 20,000 cases within three months of its inception. 5 Benzekri, President of ERC added, “When the work is completed, it is likely that only 10,000 to 15,000 of these cases will be determined eligible for compensation.” 6 It is noted here that Benzekri spent twelve years in prison during the previous regime and accepted the Presidentship of ERC to reconcile the Moroccans against past injustices. Different political parties like Socialist Union of people’s Forces (Union Socialiste des Forces Populaires, USFP), the Unified Socialist Left (parti de la Gauche Socialiste Unifiee, GSU) and the Constitutional Union (l’Union Constitutionnelle, UC), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), media personalities and victim’s groups represented themselves in front of ERC and submitted their observations and reports to it. The ERC focused in the three relatively remote regions, which were affected by political strife – the middle-Atlas, the Rif and the Western Sahara and established information centers.
The ERC conducted a number of closed meetings with former officials, who wanted to participate, seven public hearings were held between December 2004 and May 2005. The members of ERC, journalists and the members of the public were listened the grievances and all the members present were to maintain absolute silence and refrain from applause or other expressions of emotion. The ERC selected the public witnesses from among those who had applied to speak on the basis of several criteria. It said it wanted those it chose to be broadly representative of the different violations that had occurred. 7 Along with it, the ERC organized a series of thematic seminars having two purposes one to complement the ‘victims hearing’ and second to debate the reforms needed to establish the rule of law, the protection of freedoms and to guarantee the non-repetition of past violations. Five thematic hearings on Democratic Transition in Morocco, Eliminating Violence as a Means of Governing, Political, Economic and Judiciary Reform were held between February 15 and March 15, 2005, which broadcasted on Morocco state television’s Channel 2 during prime time. Finally, the ERC established ‘Pact of Honor’.
The pact of honor obliged the ERC, for its part, to seek wide and diversified media coverage for the hearings to permit the witnesses to testify in the language of their choice (classical Arabic, dialectical Arabic, Amazigh, French or Spanish); to bear the transportation and lodging costs of the witnesses; and to offer psychological counseling to the witnesses. 8 The action of ERC as part of political awakening is observed on many fronts.
- Political Democracy and Freedom of Political Prisoners
“Elections became more transparent. Citizens enjoyed increasing freedom to criticize those who governed them, both in the press and in public gathering.” 9 Prior to it, in 1991, Hassan II freed about 270 persons whom the security services had “disappeared” as long as nineteen years earlier. 10 The present king continued it and amnestied more than 400 political prisoners in 1994. 11 Benzekri said that, “The violations that touch on the right to life fall within our mandate. As for the ERC’s notion of “arbitrary detention”, it would include not only persons detained without trial but also those who had been imprisoned after an unfair trial.” 12
- Freedom of Press
Morocco’s press enjoyed an increasing liberty of tone, publishing articles that it could not or would not publish before. The king pardoned and freed the three journalists who involved in Jihadist movement in Morocco in January 2004 (namely Mohamed el-Hourd & Abdelmajid Bentaher, director and editor-in-chief respectively of the weekly ash-Sharq and Mustapha Kechninii, director of the weekly al-Hayatal-Maghribiyya). The Press Code of 2002 prohibits attacks on the Islamic religion, the institution of the monarchy, or the integrity of national territory.
- Declaration of Compensation
The cases of “disappearance” as recognized by the definition found in the ERC statutes and in the international human rights instruments, notably in the declaration (on the Protection of All Persons form Forced Disappearances) of 1992 and the draft convention on (the Protection of all Persons from) Forced Disappearance; persons who died during detention; persons who died in situations of armed conflict in the Western Sahara, notably during military battles with armed militias or Polisario units supported by the Algerian military13.
The Advisory Council on Human Rights (ACHR) issued its final report on the 112 “disappearance” cases in April 1999. Mohammed VI acknowledged the state’s responsibility for past “disappearances” announced the creation (with in the ACHR) of an “Independent Arbitration Commission for the Compensation of Moral and Material harm Suffered by Victims of Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention, and by their Beneficiaries” (the IC) 14. The king assigned the IC task of receiving applications for compensation from victims of “disappearances” (or their survivors) and of arbitrary detention, and determining the amount of compensation the state should pay them. 15 The IC was empowered only to issue financial compensation while making no contribution to the cause of exposing the truth in each case or identifying the perpetrators and holding them accountable. 16 At the same time, the ERC seemed to rule out compensation for certain other grave human rights violations if it determines that they were not practiced in a systematic fashion. “They were summary executions”, Benzekri explained, giving an example. 17
The 16, 861 individual level files submitted to review of reparation action and the Commission as shown in Table-1 made the positive decisions. Out of total files the cases like incompetence with referral to the competent party, refusal, non-consideration and non-acceptance were meager and the compensation paid to majority of applicants.
Source: Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report, Morocco, January 2006, p.75.
The former regime biased and hostile attitude towards its people is directly recognized under present ruler. “It is a collective forgiveness which is likely to bolster the in-depth institutional reform under way, one that should enable our country to free itself from the blemishes of past civil and political rights abuses,” 18 HM King Mohammed VI added. This step should not turn to please western personalities on the issue of reconciliation on the one hand and end as eyewash on this sensitive issue. The government carries on this serious initiative to change its society failing which the common man cannot justify this peace process and be converted into deep hatred. The ERC is the only way to distribute a fair justice through reconciliation in the society for the longer period.
This report shed light on the handicaps, which hindered the development of Morocco and its citizens during the half-century that followed the independence of Morocco in education, health, infrastructure, economy, human rights, and politics. The report has also drawn conclusions and recommendations to build new prosperous Morocco. This innovative strengthen the political economy of Morocco in the Global world and reinforce the tourism sector as a major industry on the one hand and building a society based on the principles of political democracy, economic efficiency, social cohesion and hard work on the other hand. “Morocco 2010,” an initiative underwritten by the Ministry of Tourism, has poured millions of dollars into the country’s hospitality infrastructure. By 2010, the program is expected to double Morocco’s total number of hotel beds to 230,000. The implementation of this Commission’s report will build up strong economy of Morocco in the global market and clear all uncertainties regarding its political economy. Mohammad Slaoui, Minister, In-charge of Trade and Economic Affairs, at the Embassy of Morocco in New Delhi added, “Reforms have modernized the stock market, eased the availability of credit, repealed the Moroccanization Law (a measure that imposed rigid hiring practices and other restraints on foreign-held businesses), revised laws that regulate corporations, relaxed foreign trade and exchange systems, protected intellectual property rights, established commercial law courts, and opened all economic sectors to foreign investment” 19.
Overall, it is an effort to disclosure truth and fairness to the victims to improve the latter’s sufferings and make sure to recuperate their dignity and the feelings of Moroccan’s citizen. ERC promotes Human Rights to strengthen national solidarity and social cohesion. This programme focuses on to build real conditions for transcending tension, mistrust and despair in society on the one hand and promotes the peaceful settlement of violent disputes. The Justice and Reconciliation Commission Report mentions, “ Firmly convinced that closing the chapter of the past and participating in the construction of a modern democratic State and a society where rights are safeguarded and obligations enforced constitute a societal matter of concern to all Moroccans through the social, political organizations and associations with which they are affiliated, the Commission organized a series of consultative and scholarly meetings and seminars at a large number universities and with political and union actors as well as NGOs.” 20 The implementation of this report will strengthens Human Rights, consolidating democracy and reinforcing the Law-ruled State.
- Equity and Reconciliation Commission Statutes, Govt. of Morocco, p.
- Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, No.11 (E), November 2005, p.2.
- Equity and Reconciliation Commission Statutes, op.cit, p.
- Maroc: 20,000 demandes d’indemnisation pour les abus des annees de plomb”,Agence France Presse, April 15, 2004.
- Human Rights Watch Interview, Rabat, April 6, 2005. Also See in,Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, op.cit; p.33.
- See, “Criteres et sources du choix des temoins”, on the ERC website. Atwww.ier.ma/_fr_article.php?id_article=582.
- Human Rights Watch, Vol.17,op.cit; p.34.
- Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, op.cit; p.6.
- Amnesty International, “The Disappeared in Morocco”, London, Amnesty International, April 1993, MDE 29/01/1993, [on line]http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGMDE290011993.
- Jacques de Barrin, “L’amnistie royale ppourrait decrisper la vie politique”,Le Monde, Paris, July 23, 1994.
- Human Rights Interview, Rabat, October 20, 2004. Also See in,Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, op.cit; p.29.
- Internal regulations of the IC, issued in August 1999.http://www.ccdh.org.ma/_fr_article.php?id_article=87.
- Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, op.cit; p.11.
- ERC, “Traitement des cas presumes de disparition forces”, Information Sheet, August 2005.
- Human Rights Watch, Vol.17, op.cit; p.30.
- MoroccoTimes, January 9, 2006. www:\Morocco\Royal Speech Morocco admits past mistakes, lays foundations for prosperous future.htm
- Interview of Mohammad Slaoui, Minister, In-charge Trade and Economic Affairs, The Kingdom of Morocco, 33, Golf Link, New Delhi, India, January 16, 2006.