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Moroccan Human Rights Groups Criticize Anti-Terrorist Laws - 2003-11-13

Moroccan human rights groups have criticized the country's anti-terrorism laws, claiming some of the provisions will undermine the government's recent improvements in human rights practices.

Moroccan human rights groups praise some of the steps taken by the Moroccan government to improve the civil rights of the county's population, including reform of the juvenile justice system, a family code giving women greater rights and freedom of speech.

Najat M'Jid is a pediatrician and member of the Association Bayti, an organization that fights for the rights of street children, child laborers, and children in prison.

She praises the new laws, but worries about their implementation. She says torture, while not wide-spread, still exists and could increase. She says the anti-terrorism law enacted May 16 in Morocco after the terrorist attack in the capital, Casablanca, could also undermine the newly won liberties.

"Even [though] I am against terrorism, I want to keep what we had obtained in the field of human rights," she said. "And, the fear of many NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who are working in this field is to tell yes, we do not want terrorism. Yes, we want safety, safety for all the people. But, at the same time, we want human rights even if there are terrorists'. It is very important."

Ms. M'Jid says the new law against terrorism makes more crimes punishable by death, prolongs the period in which people can be kept in detention and permits the police to arrest anyone for so-called security reasons.

The U.N. Committee Against Torture echoed the rights groups' concern, and cautioned Morocco not to sacrifice human rights to the struggle against terrorism.