RABAT, MOROCCO —
Moroccan authorities still use torture widely despite a ban on the practice, the Amnesty International rights group said a report Tuesday documenting the abuse.
Despite the ban and statements against torture by King Mohammed VI, law enforcement authorities still abuse protesters, rape detainees with objects and beat confessions out of suspects, it said, detailing 173 cases of abuse and torture since 2010.
"For real and tangible reform, we need more than just words, because there is a huge gap between theory and practice,'' Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director Philip Luther told journalists.
The Moroccan government rejected the findings, calling into question the credibility of Amnesty's sources.
Morocco is a popular vacation destination for Europeans and a close U.S. ally and presents itself as moderate and stable country that respects human rights.
The report recommended that lawyers be present during interrogations, that allegations of torture be investigated and that those reporting abuses be protected — all measures present in the penal code but rarely implemented.
Some accusers prosecuted
Those accusing the police of torture are now being prosecuted for slander and defamation to discourage them from speaking out, the report said.
Since 2014, eight people have been charged for allegedly giving false allegations of torture, including activist Ouafa Charaf, who was sentenced to a year in prison in August for accusing the police of torture. Her sentence was doubled in October when she appealed.
The report acknowledges improvements over the past 20 years.
Amnesty Morocco director Mohammed Sektaoui said the group reported on Morocco not because it has the worst human rights in the region but because it was so influential in North Africa.
"Positive development in Morocco would have an influence on neighboring countries in North Africa and the Middle East,'' he said. "Morocco has a big opportunity to be a leader in the region in the fight against torture.''