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Cablegate: Summer University Evaluates Reforms in Morocco

Published: Wed 26 Jul 2006 11:44 AM
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RUEHCL/AMCONSUL CASABLANCA 1938
UNCLAS RABAT 001412
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CORRECTED COPY - SIGNATURE ADDED
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM MO
SUBJECT: SUMMER UNIVERSITY EVALUATES REFORMS IN MOROCCO
1. (U) Summary: From July 13 to 15 the Moroccan Center for Social
Studies organized a summer university, i.e., a conference, in
Tetouan to discuss and assess the reform process. Polfsn political
specialist attended the conference. The participants, who were
university professors, political analysts and students, discussed
the new Family Law Code, human rights, press freedom and
constitutional reform in a panel format with designated respondents.
Although reforms started in Morocco as early as 1975, participants
thought the most important ones have taken place since King Mohammed
VI ascended to the throne. At the same time, some participants
thought that only strategic plans will ensure the continuation and
implementation of reforms. End Summary.
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The Reform of the Family Code
-----------------------------
2. (U) The Family Code, which became law in 2004, was the first
sign that reforms were going to occur, according to most of the
participants. Mohamed Sassi, a professor of law at Mohamed V
University in Rabat, said that the code "was a significant change."
At the same time, however, Sassi recognized that there are
implementation problems. He noted that the code moved the law from
the religious and sacred sphere into a civil legal framework, which
he identified as a "tremendous transformation."
------------
Human Rights
------------
3. (U) University students thought the primary reform was in the
area of human rights. Students applauded the Equity and
Reconciliation Committee's (IER) work because it both implicitly and
explicitly acknowledged the GOM's responsibility for human rights
abuses during the period from 1956 to 1991. The Moroccan
Association for Human Rights (AMDH) representative, Abdessalam
Benabdeillah, however, considered the IER to be limited because it
was established by the king. Amina Bouayach, president of the
Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH), said that the IER was
groundbreaking, but it will prove to be pointless if the government
does not act on the recommendations. According to Bouayach, "with
the report, at least we have an official document that acknowledges
a state policy of systematic oppression and flagrant human rights
violations, but it's not enough - in reality we need an ongoing
effort."
-------------
Press Freedom
-------------
4. (U) Younes Moujahid, the Secretary General of the Moroccan
Press Union, underlined the absence of a professional, independent
press, noting that there is no code of ethics and that there is a
lack of information, i.e., journalists do not do research. Mohamed
Brini, director of Al Ahdath Al Maghribia, an Arabic daily, noted
that the press helped inform the public about the Family Law Code
and other new laws. Brini, however, pointed out that, as long as
prison sentences are part of the press code, there is no way to
discuss press freedom.
-----------------------------------
Constitutional and Political Reform
-----------------------------------
5. (U) The political analysts agreed about the difficulty of
democratic reforms. Abdallah Saaf, Director of the Center for
Social Studies, supported parliament by pointing out that it has
independent commissions. Sassi countered by saying "Moroccans
simply don't think that they are represented. For them parliament
is some kind of a political game between the political elites. They
are corrupt. In short, the parliament is not a serious avenue or
institution for representation."
6. (U) Mohamed Tozy, echoed Sassi's comments and said that the
relationship between the monarchy, "state," and "government" is
ambiguous. Because Moroccans have started to talk about these
issues, though, Tozy also thinks there will be constitutional reform
in the near future. He stated: "The most important story about
Morocco is that the push for reform did not come from political
parties, but from civil society -- human rights groups, women and
Berbers. The political parties have not been at the front in terms
of demanding reforms either because they have been co-opted or
because they are ideologically not interested in democracy. And
although civil society can accomplish a lot, there is a limit where
you need political change and for that you need strong political
parties and a strong parliamentary system."
7. (U) Defining the separation of powers between the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of government remains an issue.
Participants unanimously agreed that the monarchy will always have a
prestigious and symbolic role, and power. Mohamed Darif, professor
of political science at Hassan II University in Mohammedia pointed
out the difference between how religion is integrated into Moroccan
society and the constitution, and how this differs from a liberal
democracy.
-----------------------------------
Is Morocco a Model for Arab Reform?
-----------------------------------
8. (U) Ahmed Bouz, editor of Assahifa, an Arabic daily, said using
"model" is premature. He said "there is still a process that is
unfolding. There are still too many issues to be resolved. What is
going to work in Morocco will not necessarily work for Egypt or
Saudi Arabia or Algeria." Saaf disagreed with Bouz saying that
Morocco could be a model for the Arab world "because several Arab
human rights activists and NGOs visited Morocco and met with members
of the Equity and Reconciliation Committee. They all try to draw on
this Moroccan experience. You adapt success stories to your own
specificities, and there is nothing wrong with that. I hope that
the Arab-Muslim and Berber-Muslim worlds still take on this example,
Morocco as a model. It deserves to be taken as a model."
RILEY
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