RABAT - Morocco's government must put an end to abuses of power that prevent associations from functioning properly and compel civil servants to follow the law, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
In a report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch noted that, in defiance of the law, "local representatives of the ministry of the interior often turn down the registration of an association if its aims or its members displease the authorities."
Moroccan law specifies that civil servants should register new associations without putting administrative barriers in their way.
"When it comes to freedom of association, it's the same as with many other questions of human rights: Morocco passes progressive legislation, but afterwards, the administration does what it likes," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the director of the Middle East/North Africa division of HRW.
The watchdog body gave several examples of non-governmental organisations that have been refused the official receipt attesting to their registration as associations. Without this receipt, they cannot exercise their activities, receive grants, open bank accounts, rent property and organise public events.
They included associations to fight corruption, to defend the right of university graduates to unemployment benefit, and to represent the Amazigh (local Berber) population, the Sahrawi people of the Western Sahara, and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, according to HRW.
"The administration has also undermined the activities of many charities and educational associations, apparently because of the presence in their leadership of members of Justice and Spirituality, one of the most active Islamist movements in Morocco," the report said.
In conclusion, HRW "strongly recommends" that the government "revise the law on associations in a fashion that restricts the criteria under which an association can be banned."
Currently, the legislation allows civil servants to ban associations that threaten the Islamic faith, the monarchical regime and the territorial integrity of Morocco.
HRW said these conditions are "too general and open the way to repression for political motives."