Morocco: The UN declares the detention of Mohamed Hajib to be arbitrary and calls on the Moroccan government to release him immediately

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, alerted to the case of Mohamed Hajib by Alkarama, declared his detention to be arbitrary, as his "conviction was based on a confession obtained under torture", and calls upon the Moroccan Government to "release him immediately and award him appropriate compensation".
Mohamed Hajib (aged 31), of German and Moroccan nationality, is currently detained in Tiflet prison, having been arrested on 17 February 2010 at Casablanca airport on his way back from Frankfurt. He was returning from Pakistan, where he had been arbitrarily detained for 6 months. On 24 June 2010, following a brief trial before the Court of Rabat, he was given a 10 year prison sentence, accused of "creating a criminal group" and "financing terrorism". On 9 January 2012, his sentence was reduced on appeal to five years.

Mohamed Hajib was held in custody for 12 days at the El Maarif Police Station in Casablanca, where he was tortured and forced to sign a confession under torture. As soon as he was given a lawyer, Mohamed Hajib denied all accusations. He also reported the torture to all the legal authorities, but at no point was an inquiry ordered to examine the legitimacy of his claims.

Since the successive waves of mass arrests which followed the attacks in Casablanca in 2003, confessions obtained under torture by security services during preliminary inquiries have been the almost exclusive form of proof presented to Moroccan courts, leading to a great number of convictions.

Quoting the UN Committee Against Torture's final observations regarding Morocco, the UN Working Group expressed its concerns "that many criminal convictions, including in terrorism cases, are based on confessions, creating a climate which encourages the use of torture or abuse in dealing with suspects."

The UN Working Group revealed that, with regard to Mohamed Hajib, "the Moroccan government's response was limited to a denial of the existence of confessions obtained under torture, with no indication that a transparent, independent inquiry had been held into these allegations. As no material proof was brought forward during the trial and his confession was obtained without a lawyer present, the Working Group declared that Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights had been violated, along with articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Declaration and 9 and 14 of the Covenant. They stated that the violation of Mr Hajib's right to a fair and unbiased trial was sufficiently serious to make his detention arbitrary."

The UN authority consequently requests that the Moroccan government "release him immediately and award him appropriate compensation."

According to Rachid Mesli, Legal Director of Alkarama, "Morocco has taken promising steps towards ending major human rights violations, particularly torture, in accepting the Special Rapporteur on Torture's visit and planning to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Revision of the files of many detainees whose convictions are based solely on confession obtained under torture, and their release, must be the next stage in Morocco's efforts to improve human rights in the country."

Alkarama calls upon the Moroccan authorities to respect their international commitments by implementing the UN experts' recommendation of immediately releasing Mohamed Hajib and awarding him appropriate compensation.
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