Morocco: Director of Tiflet prison threatens detainees once Special Rapporteur on Torture leaves

"Your protector Mendez has gone now...," threatened the governor of Tiflet Prison... Less than a week after the end of the UN Special Rapporteur's - Juan E. Mendez - official visit to Morocco, a high ranking prison official threatened inmates at Tiflet Prison. While Mr Mendez's visit appeared to be a promising sign that Morocco is willing to cooperate with the UN, Alkarama is alarmed by these words uttered by such a high-ranking official.
Mr Juan E. Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, was in Morocco from 14 to the 22 September 2012. During the visit, he had unrestricted access all detention facilities in the country and was able to talk freely with inmates. He met with several human rights organisations, lawyers, families of victims, and different sectors of Moroccan civilian society, who confirmed the continued use of torture in Moroccan prisons.

At the end of his visit, the Special Rapporteur gave a press conference in Rabat on 22 September. He said he believed that a culture of human rights was emerging in Morocco. However, he noted that the authorities needed to take further measures to end the use of torture and declared that he had received "credible testimonies of undue physical and mental pressure on detainees in the course of interrogations", adding that "these events happen frequently enough to deserve attention and efforts to eradicate them."

After what seemed to be an encouraging visit, our organisation is shocked and alarmed to learn that inmates in Tiflet Prison were threatened by the prison governor himself. The Governor made multiple threats when he met with inmates who wanted to complain about the way their families were being humiliated during visits. "Your protector Mendez has gone now", he declared, then said he hoped that what took place in Salé would happen in Tiflet so that he could demonstrate the extent of his power.

His attitude raises questions about the degree to which Moroccan authorities are really willing to improve prison conditions and respect the rights of inmates. Alkarama calls upon the country's authorities to not tolerate such statements, all the more when when they are made by a prison administration official.

Our organisation reminds them that respect for the dignity and human rights of inmates and the prohibition of torture should not be limited to the visit of an international expert.

While we wait for the presentation of Mr Mendez's report to the Human Rights Council next spring, our organisation encourages the Moroccan authorities to continue their efforts to criminalise and eradicate torture in all place of detention, and to obey the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Our organisation will be following this issue closely, along with the Special Rapporteur's recommendations.