The prison population in Morocco is on the rise. The number of detainees went from 53,580 in 2006 to 76,794 on 31 August 2015. There are 31,334 untried prisoners, which represents 41% of the prison population1.
Prisons are overpopulated. The last known occupancy rate is 157.8% in 2010 (World Prison Brief). In 2014, the Salé 1 Prison had 4,611 detainees (of whom 70-80% were in remand detention) in a facility designed for 3,500, and the Oukacha Prison held 8,752 detainees (of whom more than 50% are in remand detention) in a facility designed for 4,5002. Untried prisoners are often incarcerated with those who have been convicted. They are sometimes transferred to regions other than where their trial is taking place, which slows down the judicial system’s functioning and distances them from their families.
Overcrowding is due to the excessive use of pretrial detention and the lack of non-custodial sentences. The existing bail system is underused. Alternatives to imprisonment are not favoured for less serious offences. The abuse of pretrial detention can lead to arbitrary detention (the one-year limit is regularly exceeded).
In 2016, during its periodic review by the Human Rights Committee, the Moroccan government announced its intention to build 45 detention centres by 2020 in order to address the increase in prison population.
Although the Moroccan Code of Criminal procedure provides that minors must be detained in a dedicated place, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted, during their December 2013 visit, the presence of children aged 14 years and over in ordinary prisons. They shared their cells with adults, which made them particularly vulnerable, according to the report1. They endure harsh prison conditions. Alternative measures to detention provided by law are rarely used. Minors are often only sent to a child protection centre after long periods of detention.
The report on the Morocco visit by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention can be consulted among the reports↩
/ World Prison Brief
Prisoners of conscience
There are numerous political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The government claims that there are none. Moroccan law does not define these prisoners and does not recognize their situation. They are not entitled to any specific status. They are sentenced for criminal offences, primarily on the basis of confessions obtained under duress. They are prime targets for torture and ill-treatment.
Many demonstrators are targets of violent arrests by law enforcement officials. This concerns, above all, politically engaged students or Sahrawis supporting the independence of Western Sahara. In 2015, Amnesty International described many cases of arrest and sentencing of activists in its report on torture and impunity in Morocco and Western Sahara.
• In 2013, twenty-five activists for Sahrawi rights were arrested and sentenced before a military tribunal to terms of up to life imprisonment. The arrests took place after the dismantling of the Gdim Izik camp by the Moroccan police in 2010. The verdicts were overturned and referred to a civil court.
• Mohamed El Harrass was arrested during a student demonstration in 2013. He was beaten in a police van. Later, while in custody, police threatened to rape him with a bottle. His interrogation focused particularly on his affiliation with the activist group Baseist Democratic Path (Voie démocratique basiste, VDB). He was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment on the basis of a confession he had been forced to sign.
• In 2015, the investigative journalist Hicham Mansouri, known for his investigations of corruption cases and other serious offences committed by officials, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2015, for complicity to adultery. Freed at the beginning of 2016, he still risks up to five years in prison, namely for threatening the State’s internal security.