With the new Moroccan constitution, conditions are ripe for abolishing the
death penalty, participants in a recent Rabat conference believe.
The event, held by the Moroccan Coalition against the Death Penalty (CMCPM) on
February 10th, came as part of efforts to "develop public debate on the need to
protect the right to life and abolish the death penalty, and also to harmonise
local laws with international human rights mechanisms", according to CMCPM
co-ordinator Abderrahim Jamai.
But obstacles abound. Some of them are "ideological remnants that have a
religious and societal nature", Jamai pointed out.
"However, the biggest obstacle now is political decision," he argued. "The
amendment of constitution is an important step, but is not enough. There is
also the constitutional problem related to the interpretation of article 20.
The current challenge for us now is to continue to create dynamism in society,
with actors in public institutions and political parties in order to ensure
respect for human rights, foremost among which is right to life."
Article 20 of the constitution states: "Right to life is the first right for
every human being. The law protects this right."
According to Amina Bouayach, member of the consulting committee for the
revision of the constitution, "the wording of this article came as
reconciliation of multiple opinions that the committee reached".
"Such opinions included a demand by some non-governmental human rights
organisations to maintain the death penalty," she explained. "The fact that
this articles states for the right to life as the first right translates the
content of abolishing the death penalty."
Abdellatif Ouammou, MP in Morocco's Chamber of Councillors, said, "There is
lack of understanding on the part of Moroccan legislators of the abolition of
the death penalty. In addition, there is lack of awareness about the issue in
political parties that are indifferent to this aspect in their platforms, given
that no Moroccan political party has ever referred to the abolition of death
penalty in any of its platforms."
"Issuing the death penalty is a verdict against the right to life which is
protected under the constitution," he commented. "We're not calling for
abolishing the principle of punishment; rather, we're calling for limiting
violations of the constitution which protects the right of everyone to life."
Former death row inmate Ahmed Alhaou commented, "Morocco has been through all
gradual stages that lead to the abolition of death penalty, starting with the
suspension of this penalty since 1993, reduction of the number of crimes that
are punishable by death, and ending with the pardon mechanism. There's nothing
anymore that requires us to keep issuing this penalty while we can go for
Though the last execution happened in 1993, Morocco continues to issue death
penalty sentences in some cases. Marrakech bomb attack mastermind Adil Othmani
and drug dealer Najib Zaim were the latest to be handed down death sentences.
Zaim was convicted last month, whereas Othmani was sentenced last October.