Morocco and Western Sahara
Capital city — Rabat
Type of government
Human Development Indexi
Homicide rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)i
Name of authority in charge of the pris…
Total number of prisonersi31/12/2018/ DGAPR, "2018 Activities Report", p. 32.
Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabit…i
Average length of imprisonment (in mont…i12/2018/ DGAPR, "2018 Activities Report", p. 140.
Prison densityi12/2018/ DGAPR
Total number of prison facilitiesi31/12/2018
An NPM has been established
Number and percentage of female prisone…i2018/ Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation (DGAPR), “Activity report 2018”, p. 32.
Incarcerated minorsi31/12/2018/ Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation (DGAPR), “Activity report 2018”, p. 32.
Untried prisonersi31/12/2018/ DGAPR, "Activity report 2018", p. 32.
Death penalty is abolished
Admission and evaluation
All inmates are admitted to prison with a valid commitment order
The 1999 penitentiary law provides for it in article 15.
The 2011 Moroccan Constitution defines arbitrary or secrete detentions such as “extremely serious crimes” in article 23.
However, such cases are suspended. In particular, for individuals pursued for acts of terrorism or menaces against national security. They are generally arrested without this being mentioned. They are detained in private areas and are sometimes interrogated under torture.
Arbitrary detention could result from surpassing the maximum duration of pre-trial imprisonment (one year). Such irregularities have been recorded. 1
In 2014, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) statedthe lack of assistance against arbitrary imprisonment.
United Nations Council for Human Rights, “Working Group Report on Arbitrary Detention- Morocco Mission”, 2014, p. 8. ↩
The United Nation’s working group for arbitrary detention reported in 2014 that they are “detained for weeks without being presented to a judge and without judicial supervision” The group clarifies: “their families are not informed about their imprisonment until they are transferred to police premises to sign confessions. “In a number of cases, victims are driven to a police office, where an initial investigation, dated the day of the transfer to the office to avoid passing the deadline of police custody, is open.”i2014/ Human Rights Council, United Nations, “Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - Mission to Morocco", p. 8.
Prisoners can inform their families about their imprisonment
The 1999 penitentiary law provides for it in article 22. Prisoners can inform a relative where they are being incarcerated following prison registration formalities.
There is a reception area for arriving prisoners
in some facilities
A copy of the prison regulations is made available to the prisoners
A guide is given to arriving prisoners. It particularly gives information on detention regimes, disciplinary regulations, and ways to express complaints. This information is given orally to illiterate prisoners (Moroccan Penitentiary Reference, 2016-2020 DGAPR strategy, rule 17).
Assignment criteria in cells depend on the classification of the prisoner (A, B, or C). An evaluation is made upon admission. This includes a security risk inspection (escape, presumed hazard, assumed radicalisation…) and suicidal inspection (Moroccan Penitentiary Reference, 2016-2020 DGAPR strategy, rule 10). A doctor must then be consulted (Penitentiary Law, article 134).
Prisoners with life sentences are separated from the rest of the prison population.
The staff responsible for admission is not currently trained to detect prisoners at risk of self-harm or harm to others. A reform is currently ongoing with the European Union Technical Assistance Project for 2019-2021.
Access to rights
Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration
The assistance of a lawyer is only authorised upon imprisonment and during the trial. It is not authorised during the disciplinary committee.
Prisoners have access to a legal aid centre
in most cases
Organisations like the Moroccan Observatory of Prisons (OMP) or the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) guide prisoners in certain prisons.
Penitentiary law states that communication between the prisoner and their lawyer “occurs freely, in a space adapted for this purpose” (article 80).
Deaths in custody are logged in a register
The total number of deaths is published every year in the DGAPR Activities Report.
Number of deaths in custody
This number includes four women and 30 defendants. The majority of deaths (77.2 %) occurred in the hospital, 7.6 % in the prison infirmary, and 5.6 % in the rest of the detention centre.
Variation in the number of deaths in custody
4.3 % decrease
The number of deaths went from 188 in 2017 to 180 in 2018.
Number of deaths attributed to suicide
Data not disclosed
The number of deaths attributed to suicide is not included in the official statistics.
Variation in the number of suicides
Data not disclosed
Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
Suicide rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
Data not disclosed
National suicide rate (per 10,000 inhabitants)
The prison service must notify a judicial authority for
The law states that all deaths are reported to the prison administration director, crown prosecutor and appropriate judiciary authority. This rule is equally valid in cases of accidents or severe illnesses, followed by hospitalisation (Penitentiary Law, Article 24).
Every detainee must choose one or some relatives to inform in case of an unforeseen situation during their admission. The head of the prison is responsible for informing this person immediately in the case of death (Penitentiary Law, Articles 23 and 24).
The body of the deceased is treated according to the Islamic Sharia law.
Suicide prevention policies are implemented
in most facilities
The implemented suicide prevention measures are:
individual interviews with a psychologist or social service agent, followed by a warning to the incarceration supervisor.
collective interventions with prisoners.
DGAPR and the Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY) have together created a guide to suicide prevention, suicide attempts, and violations to the physical integrity of correctional facilities.
Torture, violence, and ill-treatment allegations are signaled by the Moroccan NGOs and prisoners themselves to the Executive Officer.
In 2014, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention highlighted ill-treatment and torture cases. These cases took place in detention centres or during arbitrary detention. They mainly concern people sentenced for terrorism, members of Islamic groups, or incarcerated prisoners following actions in favor of Western Sahara’s independence.i2014/ Human Rights Council, United Nations, “Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - Mission to Morocco", p. 8.
The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution and the legislation
Torture prohibition was written into the Constitution (art. 22) and the Penal Code(art. 231-1 to 231-8). These articles stipulate a sentence of five to fifteen years and a 10,000 to 30,000 dirham fee when the acts are committed by civil servants.
The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was
ratified in 1993
signed in 1986
There is currently no specific mechanism provided to protect detained people against physical or verbal violence and sexual harassment. The penitentiary law project, which is currently under discussion, aims to prohibit this violence.
All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged
Some allegations of ill-treatment are recorded when grievances are addressed to prison administration management or human rights associations.
In 2015, Amnesty International noted the indifference of magistrates when facing allegations of torture and ill-treatment, even when the prisoners present with apparent signs of violence. The association notes that the magistrates do not honour their obligation to investigate and order an independent medical-legal exam at any hint of abuse. The rare exams led do not conform with international standards.
In the context of their initial training, prison staff follow modules for torture in detention prevention:
one three-hour module on ethics
two three-hour modules on human rights
one three-hour module on anti-torture laws
Doctors are not trained to identify signs of torture. Exams are not independent and impartial.
Victims of ill-treatment in custody meet difficulties in assembling necessary evidence to make a complaint. They are in custody almost all the time in order to let injuries fade away. They are then placed in pre-trial imprisonment where it is impossible for them to consult an independent doctor. Amnesty International reports cases where, while the victims had access to a hospital, they refused to issue a certificate. Admissions and releases have not been written in the registers.
Number of recorded violent acts between prisoners
The DGAPR also made inventory of 1,210 cases of self-harm. These are considered as discipline infractions.
The existing regulations do not include protection against physical or verbal violence and sexual harassment between prisoners.
Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates
Acts of violence between prisoners are investigated
Number of complaints filed by prisoners against the prison service
This amount represents the complaints made to the prison administration (1,568) and those made to the Moroccan Observatory of Prisons (179).1 The majority of complaints and grievances received by the prison administration concern cases of ill-treatment (40.5 %), access to care (22.1 %), or detention conditions (14.8 %).2
Moroccan Observatory of Prisons “Déclaration de presse relative au rapport annuel sur la situation des établissements pénitentiaires et des détenu(e)s au Maroc - année 2018, 2019, p. 08. ↩
General Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation, “2018 Activities Report”, 2019, p. 155 (in Arabic). ↩
Prisoners have the possibility to submit a complaint against the prison administration to the CNDH. A mailbox system was put in place in the centre of the facility. The Inter-Ministerial Delegation for Human Rights (DIDH) is responsible for delivering the mail to the CNDH and the Executive Officer of the Prison Administration.
The law provides that prisoners can also communicate their grievances concerning the prison organisation and operations. Grievances can be submitted to the head of the prison, the prison executive officer, judicial authorities, or the provincial inspection commission. Prisoners have the right to request to be heard by the administrative and judicial authorities or by NGOs in the instances of visits or inspections (article 98 and 99, sections three - Law 23/98).
The CNDH is the independent body responsible for receiving prisoners’ complaints.
National Preventive Mechanisms and other external control bodies
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was
ratified in 2014
The ratification of OPCAT compelled the Moroccan state to implement a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to fight torture before 24 December 2015.
An NPM has been established
yes, in 2018
The Moroccan Parliament adopted, in February 2018, the related law to reorganise CNDH. This law attributes the NPM mandate to CNDH.
Name of the NPM
National Human Rights Council (CNDH)
The NPM has come into office
The entry into function will be during 2020. The CNDH has the mission to protect and defend human rights and freedoms in Morocco. The regional CNDH commission makes visits to places that are deprived of liberty and oversees human rights violation cases (loi 15/76 de relative à la réorganisation du CNDH).
The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has visited the country
yes, in 2017
Its report was made public
The SPT report by the Moroccan Authorities is still confidential.
The prison administration authorises visits from:
- Judiciary authorities
- Provincial committees
- National bodies
- Non-governmental organisations
- Governmental departments
Number of visits in 2018:
judiciary authorities [auto]: 2 045 visits in 2018
provincial committees: 62 visits in 2018
national bodies: 2 280 visits in 2018
non-governmental organisations: 1 286 visits in 2018
governmental departments: 2 794 visits in 2018
Sentence adjustments policies
The law provides for a sentence adjustment system
The law provides for conditional release and royal pardon. This aims to reduce the duration of the sentence or lead to early release.
Granting a sentence reduction is the responsibility different bodies. This varies according to the type:
Conditional release: agreed by the order of the Ministry of Justice, following the advice of the Conditional Parole Commission. This is presided over by the Director of Criminal Affaires and Pardons.
Pardons: agreed by the King. They implicate the total or partial cancellation of sentences. Pardons may also be replaced by a lower sentence. It can be individual or collective. It can be demanded when public action is put in movement 1 or after the definitive sentencing.2
Article 2 of the Moroccan Prison Procedure Code stipulates that “public action is exerted against the perpetrator of an infraction, their co-conspirators, or their accomplices. It is put in movement and exercised by the magistrates or public servants to which they are entrusted by the law. It can also be put into movement by the injured party “. ↩
General Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation, “2018 Activities Report”, 2019, p. V (in Arabic). ↩
The sentence can be adjusted as soon as it is pronounced (ab initio)
Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration
The conditions to claim conditional parole are 1:
to be sentenced for a crime and have served at least half of the sentence or;
to have committed a crime or infraction with a punishment of a sentence of at least five years and have served two thirds of the sentence.
The prisoner of their family formulate the conditional parole request. These requests are addressed, at least, once per year to the Commission for Conditional Parole. The decision is made by order of the Ministry of Justice, after instruction from the Commission. Advice from the prison head and providence governor of the prisoner are notably taken into account.2
“Reform and Conditional Parole Propositions in Moroccan Law”, A. El Idrissi in Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé 2015/1 (N° 1), pp. 235-241. ↩
Prisoners can contest a negative decision of sentence adjustment
“Reform and Conditional Parole Propositions in Moroccan Law”, A. El Idrissi in Revue de science criminelle et de droit pénal comparé 2015/1 (N° 1), pp. 235-241.
The law provides for a temporary release system
Permission for leave is granted by the Minister of Justice, either automatically or by proposal of the prison administration director (Prison Law, article 46). Qualifying conditions for leave are:
to have served half of the sentence
to stand out because of their good behavior
Leave does not exceed ten days. They are awarded in particular on the occasion of national or religious holidays, to maintain family connections, or prepare for the reintegration of the prisoner.
The law foresees two types of leave:
- exceptional permission: permitted on the occasion of religious Islamic holidays (the three Eids) and Throne Day
- provisional permission: agreed for visits to ill family members or funerals. These permissions take place with an escort, agents responsible for escorting are exempt from wearing their uniform. 1
The law provides for a sentence adjustment for medical reasons
Number of prisoners who have been granted a presidential pardon or amnesty during the year
The distribution of the amount of people granted a pardon or amnesty in 2018 is the following:
sentence reduction: 3,786
remaining sentence: 226
sentence changed from life in prison to a limited term: 63 (with 3 to 20 years)
sentence changed from capital punishment to a life sentence: 5
Women represent 3.9 % of pardon beneficiaries. The total number of pardons have seen an increase of 13 % between 2017 and 2018.1
General Delegation for Prison Administration and Rehabilitation, “2018 Activities Report”, 2019, p. v (in Arabic). ↩
The King can declare pardons with one of the following stipulations:
- reduction of the sentence duration
- release of the prisoner concerned
- sentence cancellation
- death sentence changed to life sentence
The pardon commission, under the responsibility of the Directorate of Criminal Affaires and Pardons (Ministry of Justice) is responsible for deliberation. Their decision is sent to the King. Pardons are announced during the three large Islamic religious festivals (Eid) and the four national holidays.