A Privileged Source of Information


Carla Fibla


Victims and the relatives of Moroccan citizens who suffered torture, involuntary disappearances and selective assassination during the reign of the Alaouite monarch Hassan II appeared at the official invitation of the son of the man who had destroyed their lives, and listened to his address. Before them, King Mohammed VI barely lifted his eyes from the prepared speech with which he informed his subjects of the results of two years of work by the Moroccan Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER).

The revision of recent history as a means of restoring national unity based on forgiveness and reconciliation, a novel concept in the Arab world and one that ostensibly aspires to emulate the example of South Africa, was met with scepticism from the most critical observers and distrust from the rest.

Once the proceedings concluded, on the streets of Morocco as well as in the independent press, the IER was seen primarily as an instrument designed to clean up the image of the Alaouite monarchy; a regime whose present measures of control (including the operation of secret detention centres where torture is practised and a number of deaths during interrogations have been reported) are concealed beneath the cloak of cooperation in the so-called global war on terror.

In an exercise that brings into question the State’s grasp of recent history,

the IER alone has been authorised to document and analyse the grave violations of human rights committed under Hassan II, the father of the present monarch, whose reign ended in July 1999.

In the opinion of human rights experts, however, the IER was dead on arrival and any possibility of action or real consequences based on its findings were doomed from the beginning. During months of work the Commission did not manage to convince anyone about the possibility of overcoming these tragic events. It is difficult to believe that such ignoble acts as the enforced disappearance or assassination of a person may be forgotten, or better, forgiven, by the victims and their families without some form of compromise on the part of the State that guarantees that justice will be had.


The IER does not contemplate the possibility that victims name their torturers. The risk, therefore, is that the crimes may be recognised without the assurance that some of the guilty parties will be removed from their positions within the present administration. The public hearings in regions of the country where the repression continues, such as Rif in the north, or the Western Sahara (which Moroccans describe as their “Southern Provinces”, though the international community considers this area in open contention since the Spanish abandonment of the territory in 1975), were largely boycotted by the citizens. The hearings were dismissed as “theatre”, a public “farce” orchestrated by the central power and by which Morocco managed to convince western governments that the generational turnover in the Alaouite monarchy signalled a clean break with the past, despite the fact that in reality the same dictatorial regime persists.

Headed by Dris Benzekri, a former political prisoner and ex-president of the Consultative Council for Human Rights (CCDH), another organisation created by the Royal Palace to champion the rights of Moroccans (as long as matters relative to the monarch and his collaborators remain unquestioned), the IER is controlled by the Mazhen, a powerful group whose proximity to the king allows them to influence policy.

Benzekri has worked hard to persuade above all his fellow citizens of the sincerity and transparency of the mission which was entrusted to him in December 2003 by Mohammed VI. The rest of the IER members, many of whom are also former victims of the repression under Hassan II, devote themselves at the present time to campaigns abroad in which they proudly exhibit a re-compilation of barbarous facts that has been completely discredited in the Western Kingdom, and rejected by independent human rights organisations. The attempt to delete the past on command is showing itself to be useless in Morocco. The ability of Moroccans to cancel, at the order of the Royal Palace, the cruel and despotic reign of Hassan II from the past of the several generations that lived during his 43 years as king is a dark utopia in which the current monarch and royal advisors and councillors evidently believe.

For this reason they are capable of organising a face-to-face encounter between victims and the same monarchy that is responsible for years lost to torture and imprisonment or the massacre of a loved one. In the same way, the administration avoids, or ignores, the protests of citizens that gather in front of the IER headquarters in Rabat, as well as the results of the ‘public counter-hearings’ organised by the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH). During these auditions, victims were invited to name their torturers, and truth and justice were demanded as the only means to achieving peace and a real reconciliation, one that co-exists with the memory of those who suffered under Hassan II.

After the examination of nearly 17,000 dossiers, the IER recommended that the State apologise to 20,000 victims of the reign of Hassan II and officially recognise 600 deaths produced during this period (a figure that appears quite distant from the 3,000 deaths estimated by the country’s human rights organisations). The extensive report specifies that 9,280 people deserve compensation, and that over 9,000 require physical and psychological rehabilitation.

Mohammed VI took advantage of the 50th anniversary of Moroccan independence to urge his subjects to forget the “failures” of the past and work towards a “united, democratic and developed Morocco”. Avoiding any self-criticism over the responsibility of the regime, ruled with an iron fist by his father and with the same firm hand (though now thinly gloved) by himself, the Alaouite monarch dispensed with one of the principal recommendations of the IER and did not demonstrate the will or ability to apologise to the victims of that terrible and violent period.

In this way, the fears of many Moroccans were confirmed. The State had urged people to prepare themselves for the revision of the nation’s blackest years, imposing its rules while rejecting the possibility that the IER could undertake any judicial action of its own, and yet was not capable of accepting the rather contained conclusions of a modest report in which the necessity of assuming responsibility for the past is stressed in order to allow Moroccans to move ahead.

“I am certain that the sincere reconciliation which we have achieved does not signify forgetting the past, because history does not forget, but we consider it a response to the Divine Words that say: “Forgive in the best way”. It is a collective reconciliation, that can constitute a pillar for profound institutional reform, that can lead our country to undo the wrongs of the past with regard to the political rights of our citizens […]”, said the present monarch before the victims and families who by entering the Royal Palace had already consented to forget.

In Morocco there is a constant struggle between the image the country offers to the outside world and daily reality. The hope that gave rise to the IER hardly lasted a few weeks and the final result consolidates the continuity with which the kingdom has been passed on to a sovereign who is younger, but ever respectful of the power exercised by his father. This approach is what leads many Moroccans to be pessimistic for what little history has taught them, and perpetuates the suffering of those who cannot forget.