Rabat — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay on a Thursday (May 29) lauded Morocco's advances but urged authorities to do more.
Pillay made the remarks at the end of a four-day visit to the kingdom, where she met with government officials and representatives of civil society organisations.
The first UN human rights chief to visit the country in 13 years said Morocco had made "great progress toward better promoting and protecting human rights".
The kingdom has undergone a major transition, thanks to its constitution and laws, she added, noting that the political will to pursue efforts and secure solid foundation for human rights in civil society was present at the highest levels.
Among the reforms, Pillay cited the adoption of the new constitution in 2011, which "gives primacy to international conventions". She welcomed the positive changes made in recent years, particularly through strengthening independent institutions such as the National Council for Human Rights.
The UN envoy said that to achieve its desired goals, Morocco should accelerate the adoption of judicial reform, legislation on gender equality, and laws protecting freedom of speech and the press.
Morocco is on track, but "much work still remains to be done to create a culture of human rights in all state institutions, especially among court authorities, law enforcers, prison staff, and administrative officials at the national, regional, and local levels", she noted.
Pillay urged Moroccan authorities to conduct thorough investigations into allegations of human rights violations and torture.
"His majesty, King Mohammed VI, informed me that he cannot tolerate torture, though he cannot deny that isolated cases exist," she said. "Other officials recognised that torture was not state policy, but that time would be needed to do away with bad habits. Measures such as the installation of video surveillance in police stations have been proposed."
The UN high commissioner said that her office would offer Morocco its vigilant support in ensuring that standards for human rights protections were met.
National Council for Human Rights President Driss Yazami emphasised that Pillay's visit and the recommendations she made would help Morocco's reform process.
Morocco still has much to achieve "in terms of judicial reform, definitively guaranteeing freedom of the press, equality with the aim of moving toward parity, the uncompromising fight against violence against women, and the ultimate abolition of any mistreatment of our countrymen", he recognised.
In political scientist Zahra Chaouini's view, great strides have been made in recent years, but the culture of human rights must take further root among Morocco's leaders and authorities.
"The legislation Morocco adopted is revolutionary in terms of protecting human rights, but the implementation is still lacking," she said.
Moroccans also see room for improvement. As teacher Ahmed Mekili told Magharebia, "Human rights in Morocco have evolved, but the situation is far from perfect."