Police harass Moroccan election boycott campaigners

Human Rights Watch calls on Moroccan authorities to stop harassing those campaigning for a boycott of elections.

Human Rights watch says over 100 people have been called in to police stations by police and questioned about the distribution of pro-boycott leaflets or other efforts to urge voters not to vote.

Although Morocco's new constitution contains strong affirmations of human rights, including freedom of expression, a law published on 17 October 2011, Organic Law 27.11 Governing the Chamber of Representatives, provides in article 51, “Anyone who attempts, through the use of false information, false rumors, or any other fraudulent means, to change the vote of voters, or to push one or more voters to refrain from voting, shall be punished by one month to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 dirhams (US$1,200-6,000).”

The police did not inform any of the pro-boycott activists they questioned that they were being investigated for possible violations of law, as far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine. Following media reports that pro-boycott campaigners were being arrested, the state news agency Maghreb Arab Presse (MAP) denied on November 21 that the police had arrested anyone for pro-boycott campaigning.

The persistence of laws that curb speech, including articles of the press and penal code and article 51 of Law 27.11 highlights the need to harmonize existing and future legislation with the human rights principles enshrined in the constitution to ensure they are compatible with the constitution, Human Rights Watch said. "Article 51 of Law 27.11 is incompatible because it penalizes in a vague and open-ended way the use of information deemed to be 'false' without tying the definition of this phrase to any form of coercion," Human Rights Watch said.




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