UNOG - United Nations Office at Geneva

11/23/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/23/2023 09:54

Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Welcome Morocco’s Global Activities to Promote the Convention, Ask about Measures to Prevent Hate Speech[...]

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined nineteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Morocco, with Committee Experts welcoming Morocco's global activities to promote the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and asking questions on measures to prevent hate speech and to preserve Amazigh language and culture.

Ibrahima Guisse, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, commended the global processes and activities organised by Morocco related to the Convention. Michal Balcerzak, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, also took note of the State's progress and openness to receive visits from Special Procedures.

Mr. Balcerzak asked if Morocco had any initiatives in place aimed at preventing hate speech and hate crimes. Was the Government addressing hate speech online? There had been an increase in hate speech in the media and online, particularly against migrants, Black Moroccans and Amazigh. Police reportedly rarely investigated such crimes. How many investigations into hate speech and hate crimes against these segments of the population been carried out?

Mr. Balcerzak also cited reports that the use of the Amazigh language was fading. Were measures to preserve Amazigh language and culture effective? Why was it barely taught in schools? What measures were in place to make Amazigh an official language used in courts? Amazigh speakers reportedly faced barriers to accessing health services as they could not communicate with health staff. How was the Government addressing this issue?

Introducing the report, Abdellatif Ouahbi, Minister of Justice of Morocco and head of the delegation, said the Moroccan Constitution of 2011 promoted religious tolerance, equality, equity and non-discrimination, which were regulated by law. Morocco had launched various initiatives aimed at strengthening the democratic model, protecting human rights and ensuring equality and integration between all components of society.

On measures to address hate speech, Mr. Ouahbi reported that Morocco had led the initiative to adopt 18 June of each year as an International Day for Countering Hate Speech. Further, the delegation said, ad-hoc entities had been established within local police authorities to investigate and tackle online hate speech and cybercrimes. The State was carrying out campaigns to raise awareness about the threat of cybercrimes. Training sessions on security and human rights had been organised for police officials, and a database on cybercrimes had been developed.

The delegation said the State was rolling out measures in various areas to promote Amazigh language and culture, with a budget of more than one billion dirhams. The Amazigh New Year was an official national holiday in Morocco; 1,941 schools provided instruction in Amazigh. The State had boosted the number of Amazigh programmes on radio and television stations. Government speeches and official documents were translated into Amazigh. The Government had also adopted an employment strategy for Amazigh interpreters; over 400 such interpreters had been hired.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Balcerzak thanked the delegation for their involvement in the dialogue. The Committee, he said, was serving the people, who were protected by the Convention. The Committee's recommendations were for the benefit of the general public. Mr. Balcerzak closed by extending best wishes to Morocco and its people.

Mr. Ouahbi, in concluding remarks, said the State party was passionately working to secure the best conditions for its people. Morocco had a moderate, tolerant Islamic culture. It faced challenges such as hate speech and regional conflicts that it was working to address. The State party was committed to implementing the Convention and the Committee's recommendations. Morocco would increase its focus on measures to address racism and discrimination in its national action plans and in the revised Criminal Code.

The delegation of Morocco consisted of representatives of the Moroccan Parliament; Interministerial Delegation for Human Rights; Department of Justice; Ministry of the Interior; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccans Abroad; Ministry of National Education, Preschool and Sports; Ministry of Economic Inclusion, Small Business, Employment and Skills; Ministry of Youth, Culture and Communication; Ministry of Solidarity, Social Integration and the Family; Public Prosecutor's Office; High Authority for Audiovisual Communication; Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture; Directorate General of National Security; ar-Rabita Mohammadia of Ulemas; and the Permanent Mission of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Morocco after the conclusion of its one hundred and eleventh session on 8 December. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here. The programme of work of the Committee's one hundred and eleventh session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 23 November at 3 p.m. to consider the combined twenty-third to twenty-sixth periodic report of Germany (CERD/C/DEU/23-26).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined nineteenth to twenty-first periodic report of Morocco (CERD/C/MAR/19-21).

Presentation of Report

ABDELLATIF OUAHBI, Minister of Justice of Morocco and head of the delegation, said the Moroccan Constitution of 2011 enshrined the State's harmonious blend of national identity tributaries and universal values. The Constitution recognised values of dignity, freedom, equality, cultural and linguistic pluralism, equal opportunity and social justice, and prohibited all forms of discrimination. It promoted religious tolerance, equality, equity and non-discrimination, which were regulated by law. Morocco had led the initiative to adopt 18 June of each year as an International Day for Countering Hate Speech. The Kingdom had also convened the Rabat Action Plan of 2012 on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred, the Marrakech Declaration of 2016 on the Rights of Religious Minorities in the Muslim World, and the Fes Action Plan for Religious Leaders and Actors to Prevent Incitement to Violence in 2017. The return of Morocco to the African Union in 2017 was strong evidence of the firm ties of the Kingdom with its African roots.

Morocco had launched various initiatives aimed at strengthening the democratic model, protecting human rights and ensuring equality and integration between all components of society. The Kingdom had also pursued the comprehensive reform of the justice system through establishing an independent and effective judicial system and a code of judicial ethics, in addition to aligning legislative texts with the constitution and international obligations. National legislation, in addition to the penal system, prohibited discrimination in all its forms. The Government was preparing a national plan of action on democracy and human rights aimed at consolidating and harmonising national choices.

The State had adopted and implemented a regulatory law on the official character of the Amazigh language, which determined how to integrate it in the field of education and in priority areas of public life. The Amazigh New Year was an official national holiday in Morocco. Permanent governance mechanisms were created to oversee the implementation of an integrated plan to institute the Amazigh language in the fields of education, legislation and cultural life, among others. A special fund was also created for this purpose. Morocco had organised cultural festivals, and supported cultural projects and associations and the activities of the Centre for Hassani Studies and Research.

Projects had been established for restoring and rehabilitating a number of Moroccan Jewish neighbourhoods and spaces in many historical cities, incorporating Moroccan Jewish culture and history into the curriculum at the early levels of education, establishing memory centres and museums for Jewish culture, and implementing programmes for the valorisation of Jewish immaterial cultural heritage. The Moroccan National Council for Languages and Culture was established as a national constitutional institution to promote the protection of the diversity of the components of Moroccan identity.

In 2021, the Kingdom adopted a new development model aiming to promote living in dignity in a society that was open, diverse, just and equitable. It incorporated the adoption of legal texts generalising compulsory health coverage in 2022 and family compensation in 2023 to 2024, and direct social support at the end of 2023 for the benefit of social groups in a situation of poverty or vulnerability. Through strategic reforms, the number of primary health care institutions and hospital institutions was increased, and the mobile coverage model was adopted to ensure access to basic healthcare services in areas that were remote or difficult to access.

The Kingdom adopted a strategic vision to reform the national education system for schools of quality, equity and progress for 2015 to 2030. To facilitate access to the right to work without discrimination, the Government was implementing programmes to support employment and self-employment, developing vocational training programmes, and reinforcing methods and mechanisms for mediation and inspection in the professional community. The Government had also adopted a Direct Family Support Programme for 2024 to 2028 to facilitate access to housing finance for vulnerable and middle-class groups.

Morocco had adopted a national migration and asylum policy and a special strategy to ensure migrants' and refugees' enjoyment of their rights to education, health, employment, housing, legal and social assistance, access to justice and other public services. It had carried out an exceptional process to regularise the status of migrants in Morocco, which enabled the regularisation of the situation of approximately 50,000 migrants. It had also developed two draft laws dealing with the entry and residence of foreigners in the Kingdom, immigration, asylum and the conditions for granting it, and opened the Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons to receive asylum seekers and study their applications. This made it possible to settle the status of 1,337 asylum seekers of different nationalities.

In the same vein, the Kingdom had adopted a special law to combat human trafficking, established a national institution in charge of coordinating the relevant measures, and developed a national strategy on the matter. The Kingdom's capital was host to the African Observatory for Migration in 2020.

Morocco continued its efforts to strengthen the position of women, achieve gender equality, and prohibit all forms of discrimination by developing a system of national legislation, plans, and strategies aiming for equality, equity, combatting violence, and economic, social and political empowerment, as well as ensuring women's participation in development.It had also established an integrated public policy for the promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities, including the adoption of a framework law for the protection of this group. Morocco hoped that this interactive dialogue would contribute to in-depth reflection in order for it to continue its efforts in implementing the provisions of the Convention and developing its good practices, as well as contribute to overcoming challenges.

Statement by National Human Rights Institute

ABDERRAFIE HAMDI, National Human Rights Institute of Morocco, said that the Institute attached particular importance to the fight against all forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination. From 2019 to 2022, it handled nearly 12,000 complaints and petitions, of which less than 15 cases were related to allegations of racial discrimination. These included cases in the medical field, stigmatising comments on online media that incited racial hatred or discrimination, complaints of gender-based violence against a foreign detainee, as well as allegations of discrimination in access to justice for undocumented foreigners. The Institute had taken the necessary measures to deal with complaints, including through field visits, mediation and interactions with the competent authorities, while guiding complainants in the steps to be taken.

The Institute noted with satisfaction the constitutional and legislative progress made by the State. However, legislative reforms remained necessary to comply with the Convention, repeal provisions likely to cause racial discrimination, and further multiply efforts to better combat racial discrimination. The Institute recommended the establishment of a comprehensive legal framework to combat all forms of racial discrimination and the acceleration of the adoption of the draft law amending and supplementing the Penal Code, aimed at bringing it into line with the Constitution and international human rights standards. The Institute also recommended amending the Nationality Code to allow foreign men married to Moroccan women to have Moroccan nationality.

The Institute welcomed the various Government initiatives to establish the official status of Amazigh. It called on the State to take all necessary legal, political and financial measures to accelerate the implementation of the provisions of organic law 26.16 establishing the process of implementing the official character of Amazigh.

Questions by Committee Experts

MICHAL BALCERZAK, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, extended condolences to Morocco for the loss of over 3,000 lives occurring due to the recent earthquake. The Committee noted that the results of the 2014 census were disaggregated by age and nationality, but not by ethnicity. Would the next census be held in 2024? What measures were in place to strengthen the data collection system and to collect data on ethnicity and socio-economic situations, particularly in relation to racial discrimination. The Committee appreciated legislative developments, including the prohibition of racial discrimination. Could the Convention be applied directly and was it a source of domestic law? Could the delegation provide examples of court cases that referenced the Convention? Were there any training programmes or awareness raising campaigns promoting the values of the Convention to judiciary officials and the general public? The definition of discrimination in national legislation differed from that of the Convention, as it did not cover all forms of discrimination in public life. Had there been discussions about amending legislation or adopting new legislation to align it with the Convention?

Members of trade unions were required to have Moroccan nationality. What measures were in place to allow migrant workers to join trade unions, and to allow foreign spouses of Moroccan citizens to obtain Moroccan nationality without discrimination?

What measures were in place to incorporate in the Criminal Code all elements of article four of the Convention and to make all racist motifs illegal? How many investigations into racial discrimination cases against individuals and legal entities had been launched, and how many final convictions had been issued? How was the State party working to combat racism in sports?

How was the organic act on political parties implemented? Had there been cases of violations of this act, or acts on incitement to racial discrimination and propaganda? Were there any other initiatives in place aimed at preventing hate speech and hate crimes? Was the Government addressing hate speech online? There had been an increase in hate speech in the media and online, particularly against migrants, Black Moroccans and Amazigh. Police reportedly rarely investigated such crimes. How many investigations into hate speech and hate crimes against these segments of the population been carried out?

IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, commended the global processes and activities organised by Morocco related to the Convention. What measures had the State party taken to ensure that national institutions with a mandate to fight racial discrimination were able to receive individual complaints of discrimination? The scope of the National Human Rights Institute in combatting racial discrimination was limited due to its limited mandate and human resources. What measures were in place to address this? The Ombudsman's office was defined as a national independent institution. It processed complaints, including related to discrimination, and sought to find viable solutions to these. What remedies had it provided? What measures were in place to establish bodies within the Ombudsman's office charged with family remediation?

Did the national development plan address racial discrimination and promote racial equality? What progress had been made on developing a new plan? How was civil society involved in implementing the plan? The State party had no national plan to eliminate racism and related intolerance. Were there plans to establish one? What measures were in place to promote human rights education? What programmes were in place to improve the representation of Amazigh in education programmes? School textbooks included sections on the State's various cultural and ethnic groups. This was welcome. What measures had been taken to implement the education guided by these textbooks? How did the State party work to stamp out intolerance and prevent the dissemination of racial stereotypes in State media?

GUN KUT, Committee Expert and Follow-Up Rapporteur, said the previous concluding observations were issued in 2010, and a follow-up report was received in 2012. The issues raised in the previous concluding observations concerned racial discrimination against the Amazighs, the lack of an institutional framework protecting migrants, and violations of the rights of undocumented migrants. The State party was encouraged to consider making Amazigh an official language, and it had since done this. The Committee, however, noted a lack of information on racial discrimination against Amazighs related to access to health services. An asylum bill had been prepared by an ad-hoc committee. The Committee had called for respect for the principle of non-refoulement and for supporting access to justice for undocumented migrants. The Committee would seek more information on these issues in the dialogue.

Other Committee Experts posed questions relating to legislation on and measures to prevent indirect and structural discrimination in the public and private sectors; bodies to monitor, receive reports on and censor online hate speech; measures to lift restrictions on human rights defenders' freedom of assembly and to protect them; measures to study Morocco's role in the trans-Saharan slave trade, provide reparation to victims and celebrate the Decade of People of African Descent; and legislation criminalising religious conversion.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Morocco was not involved in the trans-Saharan slave trade. The State party would consider preparing the revised Civil Code in Amazigh. Law makers had exerted efforts to bring legislation in line with the Convention and had set up a framework of laws to combat discrimination, which included the law on political parties, the law on prisons and the law on associations. The State party was engaging in discussions on developing a single law to address racial discrimination and incitement to hatred. The State was following international guidance regarding addressing indirect discrimination.

Laws were in place governing religious sites and freedom of worship. The Government was currently reviewing these laws, aiming to protect all religions without discrimination.

The State was working to ensure that migrants and refugees were regularised and aware of their rights. Migrants received information on how to access the justice system.

In line with a recommendation from the Committee, Morocco had developed training on human rights for members of the judiciary and law enforcement officials. Over 1,300 persons had benefited from such training. Judges had been provided with information on the Convention, as well as guidelines on recognising victims of trafficking in persons. The Constitution enshrined the primacy of international conventions over domestic legislation. There were examples of cases before various courts that directly invoked articles of the Convention, as well as other international human rights treaties and conventions. Seventy-three cases related to discrimination had led to convictions. All persons who committed discrimination were held to account. Redress and reparations were provided to victims on request, including to Amazighs. There were also judgements ensuring the rights of children of foreign citizens born in Morocco to identity.

The National Human Rights Institute was mandated to protect human rights. The funding of the Institute had been tripled in recent years. It was implementing important initiatives to combat discrimination. It conducted visits to combat torture and received complaints related to human rights violations. In 2023, the Council had received three complaints related to racial discrimination. The Ombudsman looked into complaints of abuse regarding access to public services. The Institute dealt with complaints from both citizens and foreigners. It had issued 620 recommendations in the past three years. Since the Ombudsman's establishment, around 62 per cent of its recommendations had been implemented.

The Government had adopted a plan on human rights education. The Ministry of Education had reviewed all textbooks to ensure that they did not contain any discriminatory content. New primary level textbooks included content addressing racial and gender equality, and promoting solidarity and democracy. Universities offered special programmes on human rights and societal transformation.

A pilot programme had been established to reintegrate convicts into society that 279 prisoners had participated in. An action plan was in place that aimed to prevent incitement to religious and racial hatred.

The law enforcement agencies gave due attention to human rights issues. Ad-hoc entities had been established within local police authorities to investigate and tackle online hate speech and cybercrimes. A centre had been established to collect evidence relating to these crimes. The State was carrying out awareness raising campaigns to raise awareness about the threat of cybercrimes. Training sessions on security and human rights had been organised for police officials, and a database on cybercrimes had been developed.

There were three codes on audio-visual communications that sanctioned all forms of discrimination. Fines for discrimination were established in law. A council had been established to monitor media outlets and sanction journalists and media professionals who committed hate speech or engaged in unethical practices. Hate speech and intolerance were banned. There were specific laws that targeted specifically racial discrimination in audio-visual media. Media professionals were trained on promoting the values of diversity and equality. The monitoring mechanism operated 24 hours a day, and had received over 800 complaints from individuals and non-governmental organizations on discrimination, including racial discrimination. It implemented sanctions for acts of discrimination.

The State had taken administrative and legal measures to protect migrants. The Government had reopened the Asylum Seekers' Office and established a ministerial committee on asylum seekers. Over 1,300 asylum seekers had received official "asylum seeker" status. The State followed a human rights approach when dealing with migrant issues. Since 2014, migrants and asylum seekers had been integrated into State programmes.

Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts

MICHAL BALCERZAK, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, asked where victims of racial discrimination could go to report discrimination. The Committee took note of the State's progress and openness to receive visits from Special Procedures.

IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that there were shortcomings in the State's efforts to address racial discrimination, including the lack of a national action plan on racism.

One Committee Expert said that efforts being made to address hate speech were welcome. Committee Experts asked follow-up questions on measures to address institutional discrimination; on consultations with organizations of indigenous groups; on plans to develop a law to protect human rights defenders from discrimination; on investigations into the trans-Saharan slave trade; on the application of law 03-3 on racism; and on how different media regulatory bodies interacted with the judicial system.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the Government was committed to implementing the national action plan on development, which included measures to address discrimination against migrants and women, and to combat racial discrimination. Around 80 per cent of the measures included in the plan had so far been implemented. Victims of racial discrimination could turn to the Ombudsman's Office, the online complaints portal, the National Human Rights Institute and its 12 commissions, and the authority for the prevention of terrorism. A unit within the Public Prosecution's Office received complaints submitted through the online complaints' portal. Rulings had been handed down in response to these complaints.

The delegation added that His Majesty Mohammed VI, in his capacity as commander of the believers, was the guarantor of the free practice of religions in the Kingdom of Morocco. It was also underlined that Morocco was a geographical, civilizational and historical crossroad where various cultural backgrounds coexisted, among them Amazigh, Arabs, sub-Saharan and Mediterranean. These fundamentals were behind the Moroccan policy aiming at promoting tolerance and coexistence at the national, regional and international levels. As an example of this commitment, Morocco had presented in the past two years major resolutions, adopted by consensus, against hate speech within the United Nations General Assembly. On the African level, under the guidance of His Majesty the King being the African Union leader on migration issues, Morocco spared no efforts in the fight against discriminatory narrative targeting African migrants.

Questions by Committee Experts

MICHAL BALCERZAK, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, asked for examples of special measures aimed at combatting multiple forms of discrimination against ethnic minorities? What measures were in place to combat intersectional discrimination suffered by ethnic minority women? Reportedly, Saharawi people faced obstructions to holding gatherings. There were also reports of lawyers and human rights defenders being denied entry into or expelled from Western Sahara. Could the delegation comment on this? Were reports that the Saharawi faced frequent stop-and-checks by the police correct?

What percentage of Amazighs and Black Moroccans held decision-making positions within political bodies? These groups were reportedly under-represented in political bodies. What measures were in place to encourage their participation in political life? There were several Amazigh associations, but many remained unauthorised. An organization aiming to tackle racism against Black Moroccans had reportedly been denied registration. What measures were in place to protect ethnic minorities' right to association, assembly and freedom of expression?

In 2022, at secondary school level, the net enrolment rate for rural girls was 47.6 per cent, compared to 96.1 per cent for girls in urban areas. What actions had been taken to fight poverty in rural areas? How was the State encouraging access to education, work, health care and land rights in rural areas, especially for the Amazighs and Black Moroccans? Reportedly, laws allegedly allowed the Government to demarcate collective lands, without consultation or cooperation with the Amazigh peoples, and to sell, transfer or lease these lands at the expense of Amazigh rights and interests. Had members of the Amazigh population been forcibly displaced as a result of development projects?

The organic law 26-16 integrated Amazigh language in the education system and in legislation, but there were reports that the use of the language was fading. Were measures to preserve Amazigh language and culture effective? Why was it barely taught in schools? What measures were in place to make Amazigh an official language used in courts? Amazigh speakers reportedly faced barriers to accessing health services as they could not communicate with health staff. How was the Government addressing this issue? Television and radio programmes reportedly rarely used Amazigh language, broadcasting in which was limited to 12 hours per week. Did the State intend to expand this? Were public documents produced in Amazigh language? How was the State party ensuring that civil registrars allowed citizens to register the names of their choice, including Amazigh names?

How accessible was free legal aid for victims of racial discrimination? Applicants needed to present an official certificate showing their legal residency status to obtain such aid. Proving racial discrimination remained a difficult task in terms of gathering evidence and justifying it. What measures had been adopted to facilitate the filing of complaints?

Was racial profiling officially prohibited in Morocco? How were issues such as arbitrary detention and excessive use of force against Amazighs and Black Moroccans addressed?

IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said article 30 of the Constitution enshrined the enjoyment by foreigners of the fundamental freedoms accorded to Moroccan citizens. However, Act 02-03 on the Entry and Residence of Foreigners, Irregular Emigration and Immigration criminalised irregular migration and imposed prison penalties and fines on irregular migrants. What efforts were being made to revise this law and harmonise it with the State's international obligations?

Asylum seekers reportedly often lived in camps and houses in precarious conditions. Some housing reportedly could not be rented to persons of African origin. It was difficult for migrants and refugees to obtain legal authorisation to work. What measures had been taken by the State party to ensure that migrants had access to work, healthcare services, education and adequate housing? How was the State party guaranteeing access to justice for non-nationals? What institutions existed to address racial discrimination against non-nationals? Some migrants and refugees were reportedly victims of racial profiling, arbitrary arrests and deportations. What measures were in place to prevent such practices and respect the principle of non-refoulement?

Actions by the State party's law enforcement officials against migrants at the Nador-Melilla border crossing on 24 June 2022 had led to the death of 23 migrants. The Committee had adopted a declaration as part of its early warning and urgent action procedures on this situation, and had called on Morocco and Spain to ensure that the investigations into these tragic events were carried out in a prompt, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent manner. Were such investigations carried out? What were their outcomes? What was the current situation of persons who had been injured? Had all victims been provided with reparation?

What measures were in place to ensure that the legislative framework on asylum was in line with international standards? A number of refugees reportedly could not register the birth of their children due to a lack of access to the necessary documents. How did the State party intend to implement measures to increase access to civil status documents and prevent statelessness?

One Committee Expert said that the work of academics and universities in Morocco was more advanced than in the rest of the Arab world. Committee Experts asked questions on the enrolment rate for Amazigh children in all levels of education; access to higher education for Amazighs; the State party's understanding of article 15 of the Convention in the context of the Western Saharan conflict; measures to guarantee the legal autonomy of women; legal proceedings concerning violence against Amazigh and Black Moroccan women; plans to lift barriers to registration of civil society organizations; sanctions handed down to online media regarding racial hate speech; representation of Amazigh culture in school textbooks; legislation on the languages used in courts; official statistics on the Amazigh population; and restrictions on the freedom of movement of migrants and protection of migrants from abuse by officials.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Morocco tolerated activists who criticised the State. The right to self-determination was not the same as the right to separatism; it could not be prejudicial to territorial integrity as stated in the relevant resolutions of the United Nations. Self-determination could not be imposed from outside. Morocco had done its utmost to uphold the right to self-determination by presenting an autonomy initiative.

Morocco promoted Amazigh language and culture by marking a national day of Amazigh culture and celebrating the national year of the Amazigh. The current Prime Minister and several members of the current Cabinet were Amazigh. The State was rolling out measures in various areas to promote Amazigh language and culture, with a budget of more than one billion dirhams; 1,941 schools provided instruction in Amazigh. Education was also provided on Amazigh culture and history. Amazigh teachers had been integrated in all levels of education. Laws and national decrees were systematically translated into Amazigh.

The State had boosted the number of Amazigh programmes on radio and television stations. Government speeches and official documents were translated into Amazigh. Thirty million dirhams had been invested in Amazigh cultural projects over the past four years. Literature prizes and book fairs for Amazigh language texts had been established. Amazigh dance classes were also offered. Television and radio channels operating solely in Amazigh had been set up. Amazigh radio had broadcast some 5,600 hours of content in Amazigh. Media entities had an obligation to prevent racial stereotypes. Sanctions were implemented against broadcasters that did not follow regulations regarding discriminatory speech.

All Moroccan citizens were free to choose the names of their children. A new law on civil status determined provisions on choosing names. The new law required that all names be written in Arabic, Amazigh and Latin letters. The Government was updating the civil register, following up on all complaints related to restriction on the right to choose Amazigh names. Such complaints had not been received in recent years. Names were sometimes rejected due to missing documents preventing registration.

A strategic, concrete and coherent migration strategy was in place in Morocco. Operations conducted in border regions followed strict regulations. There could be no refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees. Border officials had received high-level training, including from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A regional charter had been drawn up with Morocco's neighbours that governed asylum processes with a human rights approach. Authorities implemented relocation measures to protect migrants from trafficking networks and from living in vulnerable situations. Around 120,000 migrants lived legally in Morocco. Residence permits were easily renewable.

The incident in Melilla in 2022 was extremely regrettable. It showed that trafficking networks were deplorable. There was an eruption of wide-scale violence. Law enforcement did not use lethal weapons and did their best to maintain order. An inquiry had been opened into the incident by the Public Prosecutor's Office. The incident had resulted in injuries to several migrants and 140 law enforcement officials. Twenty-three illegal migrants were sadly killed. Medical reports showed that some deaths were caused by the stampede. The Public Prosecution had been able to determine the identity of four victims through forensic tests. The State had responded to inquiries from four Special Procedures mandate holders and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances on the issue.

Morocco had adopted measures to allow migrants to access medical tests, primary health care and emergency health services. There had been 12,000 beneficiaries in 2021. More than 41,000 boxes of medicines were provided in 2022. Non-governmental organizations were conducting awareness raising campaigns on medical health services for migrants.

Migrants and refugees could enrol in the State-sponsored housing programme, which had had over 500 beneficiaries in 2021. The State party had provided services to over 3,800 unaccompanied minors, some of whom had benefitted from education and housing. The State aimed to provide decent housing to migrants to protect their rights.

The children of migrants and refugees could enrol in cultural activities and there were cultural events organised that promoted inclusion and tolerance. Children had the right to mandatory education from age four to 16 irrespective of their legal status. There were over 6,000 migrant children currently enrolled in the education system. They benefitted from language support programmes. A manual on the integration of migrant children had been produced by the State.

The law on work permits for immigrants had been revised in 2016. In 2023, over 200 labour contracts had been provided to foreigners. Since 2015, over 2,000 work permits had been issued, 40 per cent of which were issued to women. Around 1,800 immigrants were participating in vocational training programmes.

Morocco had, over the past two decades, worked to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender. It had developed two strategies on equality and would soon implement the third iteration of this strategy, which aimed to enforce the rights of women in line with international standards. Laws had been passed promoting non-discrimination and equality. New supportive agencies for women had also been established. An economic empowerment programme was in place. Measures were also in place to encourage women's access to political positions. The Social Solidarity Action Plan incorporated a plan for integrating women in rural development. The Government had overhauled land laws to ensure women and men had equal access to own and use land, including collective land.

Free interpretation needed to be provided in Amazigh in courts. The Government had also adopted an employment strategy for Amazigh interpreters; over 400 such interpreters had been hired. There was no discrimination of foreigners in the provision of legal aid. Awareness raising campaigns had been carried out informing victims of trafficking in persons, migrants and asylum seekers of their rights.

Morocco did not discriminate in providing the right to association. Associations which respected administrative regulations could conduct activities without restrictions. The law stipulated the right to peaceful assembly for gatherings with permits. The Government restricted gatherings only when they jeopardised public order.

Structural discrimination was not present in Morocco. Such discrimination was counter to the State's values and cultural history.

Questions by Committee Experts

MICHAL BALCERZAK, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, said he welcomed the passion with which the dialogue was conducted. The Committee appreciated the progress of Morocco and was aware of Morocco's cultural uniqueness and richness. Every person in Morocco was entitled to identify as he or she wished. How did the administrative status of a person affect their right to legal aid?

IBRAHIMA GUISSE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about access to health care for irregular migrants. The State needed to be cautious when resettling migrants in the south, where there was reportedly land-based discrimination.

Committee Experts asked questions on the situation of migrants transiting through Morocco into Europe and migration agreements with the European Union; support in courts for asylum seekers and migrants who could not speak Arabic or Amazigh; measures to make tax frameworks more flexible for vulnerable women; and measures to celebrate the Decade of People of African Descent.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said a budget had been allocated to legal aid. Legal aid was provided for free if the person concerned could prove that they could not cover the costs of legal aid. The State did not consider the administrative status of persons in the provision of legal aid.

Morocco did not have legal or other means to determine ethnic status. The concept of "Black Moroccans" was not used in Morocco. The next census would take place in 2024.

All judges had been instructed to be able to identify when migrants had committed crimes under coercion, and in such cases to not hold them criminally responsible. Migrants in vulnerable situations were exempted from administrative court fees. Courts had staff who could speak and receive complaints in Amazigh.

Concluding Remarks

MICHAL BALCERZAK, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur, thanked the delegation for their involvement in the dialogue. The Committee was not the enemy of any State. It was serving the people, who were protected by the Convention. The Committee's recommendations were for the benefit of the general public. Mr. Balcerzak closed by extending best wishes to Morocco and its people.

ABDELLATIF OUAHBI, Minister of Justice of Morocco and head of the delegation, said that the delegation had been open in its answers. The State party was passionately working to secure the best conditions for its people. It was engaging positively with United Nations agencies and highly valued the dialogue with the Committee. Morocco had a moderate, tolerant Islamic culture. It faced challenges such as hate speech and regional conflicts that it was working to address. The State party was committed to implementing the Convention and the Committee's recommendations. Morocco would increase its focus on measures to address racism and discrimination in its national action plans and in the revised Criminal Code. Morocco had managed the recovery from the recent earthquake with the support of the international community. The State sought peace and security with its neighbours so that it could become a model globally.

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CERD23.018E