GENEVA – The Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties expresses its deep concern about reports of torture of the Moroccan activist Chafik Omerani following his arrest upon his arrival in his country for posting videos online, and demands his immediate release in respect for freedom of opinion and expression.
The Moroccan authorities arrested the US- resident activist Chafik Omrani on February 6, upon his arrival at Rabat-Sale airport from Belgium. Omrani was presented before the Court of First Instance in Casablanca, and the prosecution charged him with “committing acts of a criminal nature over videos he posted online that were “contemptuous of constitutional institutions, bodies & public officials”.The court postponed Omrani’s hearing until the 25th of February. Postponement policy is widely used by the Moroccan judiciary when dealing with detained activists and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.
Maroccan American citizen and YouTube influencer Chafik Omrani also known as “3robi F Merican”, has critical views of the situation in Morocco. He posted a video on his page from Brussels-Charleroi Airport, in which he announced his arrival flight time to Morocco, and held the security services in his country responsible for any harassment he may be exposed to upon arrival. In the video, he revealed that he had been subjected to several threats that alerted him to the harm that he might face upon his arrival to Morocco.
Mohammed Omrani, the brother of the human rights activist Chafiq held in Aïn Sebaâ prison in Casablanca, said in a Facebook post that his “ brother could not walk and fell to the ground. They carried him and led him inside the court”.
His family was deprived of contacting him before his lawyer informed them that the trial was adjourned to February 25, 2021, and that Chafiq had started an open hunger strike following his arrest. Morocco’s public prosecutor at the Court of First Instance in Casablanca said “Chafik Omerani was wanted for “suspicion of criminal acts, by publishing various videos containing offensive and insulting phrases against constitutional institutions, organized bodies, and public officials”.
The investigation is underway under the supervision of the public prosecutor’s office and in strict compliance with legal procedures, the Public Prosecutor pointed out.
GCRL expresses its concern that the deteriorating health situation in which the detainee Chafiq Omrani appeared in court as a result of acts of torture and abuse he was subjected to. It also believes that his arrest part of a well-established pattern of Moroccan security authorities using false allegations to silence peaceful political dissent.
The Geneva Council highlights that publishing videos which are critical of the political situation in the country fall under the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and it does not constitute a crime under human rights charters, and therefore his arrest is arbitrary and violates the principles of law. The Geneva Council refers to reports documented by human rights organizations in Morocco regarding the arrest and trial of at least 10 activists or artists for the peaceful expression of opinions on the Internet, since September 2019.
Vague and politically motivated charges such as “insulting constitutional institutions” and “insulting public officials in the performance of their duties” are widely and commonly used in Morocco. Accordingly, the Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties calls for the immediate release of the detained Moroccan activist, the investigation into the information received about his torture, and an end to the detention policy on the basis of the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.