Magharebia (Washington DC)

7 December 2012

Morocco: Benkirane Answers Rights Complaints

Rabat — Morocco is making significant process on civil liberties, according to the prime minister.

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane responded to critics last week who accuse his government of backtracking on civil liberties.

The head of government answered tough questions from Parliamentarians from the Chamber of Representatives on November 30th related to a "decline in civil liberties". Opposition MPs claim there has been a more frequent use of violence towards demonstrators, particularly unemployed graduates, over recent months.

Fatiha El Ayadi, an MP representing the Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM), denounced the situation, saying that the use of violence has become the norm when demonstrations are dispersed. She cautioned against social tensions and called for greater dialogue, rather than "the politics of the truncheon".

But Benkirane rejected the criticism, saying that Morocco has made significant progress on civil rights and that those choices cannot be reversed. He said that breaking up demonstrations was not an easy task for the forces of law and order, who are often the victims of violence from protestors.

He explained that if demonstrators abide by the law, they will not find themselves clashing with the police, reminding the MPs that demonstrators are dispersed in the same way all around the world. Benkirane pointed out that the number of demonstrations, around 50 a day, bears witness to the extent of civil liberties in Morocco.

The head of the government also announced that security forces were ordered to show restraint. He called on the public to show due respect for officers whose job it is to maintain public safety.

As for the unemployed graduates who protest daily in Rabat, Benkirane said that their demonstrations would achieve nothing since the only route into the civil service was through competitive entrance examinations.

His words did not dissuade the graduates, who continue to demonstrate. One young man said that equal opportunity has not been maintained over recent years and that thousands of unemployed graduates have been able to get into the civil service through their protesting. Chaoui claimed that these young people had no other way to exercise their right to a decent job.

MPs have also accused the government of wanting to curtail union rights by deciding to deduct the pay of striking workers. Benkirane has steadfastly opposed efforts to pay striking employees.

"Strikes, particularly in local authorities, have gone too far. We're talking about paid holiday here. Strikers will no longer be paid for days when they don't work," Benkirane said.

According to Mohamed Hanine, an MP who represents the National Rally of Independents (RNI), it is time to put an end to the social unease which has grown over time, leading to violence and counter-violence. This can be done, he said, by introducing real measures to help the people right across Morocco.

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