4. The Kingdom of Morocco is a State established as a democratic, social constitutional monarchy where the religion is Islam and the King is a dominant figure, being Head of State and Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Mu’minin).1 The King appoints the Prime Minister and, on the Prime Minister’s proposal, appoints (and removes) the other members of the Government. The King chairs the Higher Council of the Judiciary and the Higher Council of Education. Following the 1996 constitutional reform, Parliament now comprises a House of Representatives, whose members are directly elected, and a House of Councillors, whose members are elected by an electoral college. The right to table legislation rests with the Prime Minister and members of Parliament and the King may ask either House to undertake a further reading of any draft legislation. The judiciary is independent of the legislature and the executive, and judges are appointed by dahir (Act of Parliament) on a proposal of the Higher Council of the Judiciary, which is chaired by the King.
B. Demographic and economic characteristics
5. According to the latest census, Morocco had 29,891,708 inhabitants in 2004,2 of whom 50.7 per cent were women, 31 per cent were children under 15 and 55 per cent lived in rural areas.3
6. The 2005 UNDP report on human development in Morocco indicates that Morocco’s human development index is average, with 25 per cent of its inhabitants living in conditions of economic vulnerability. Both relative and absolute poverty have declined in urban areas but progress is slow in rural areas. Some 4.2 million people live in relative poverty and 2.5 million in absolute poverty, three quarters of these in rural areas; the poorest regions are: Souss Massa Draâ, Meknes-Tafilalet, Gharb-Chrarda-Beni Hssen and Marrakech Tensift-Al Haouz.4 7. It is in this economic context that Morocco has brought its public external debt down from US$ 22.6 billion (1995) to US$ 12.4 billion (2005).5 Morocco has clearly made great efforts with the education budget, as evidenced by trends in public expenditure on education, which has increased from 4.4 per cent of GDP (1999) to 6 per cent of GDP (2006), higher than the recommended level.
8. Morocco’s linguistic landscape is a rich and complex one. Arabic is the only official language of the State recognized in the Constitution, but Arabic and French are the most widely used languages for institutional purposes, and three dialects of Amazigh, Tarifit, Tamazight and Tashelhit,6 are mother tongues used in everyday speech, along with Moroccan Arabic.7
9. Amazigh and Moroccan Arabic are historically spoken languages and have no political or legal status, even though it is recognized that both are in much more widespread use than classical Arabic or French. According to official data collected during the 2004 census, 41 per cent of Moroccans speak Amazigh or one of its dialects as their mother tongue, and the proportion could be as high as 50 or 80 per cent according to information from civil society.
D. Legal and institutional framework for the protection of human rights
10. Over the past 20 years, Morocco has managed to significantly strengthen the protection of human rights. It has a constitution open to all democratic principles and has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,8 the Convention on the Rights of the
Child9 and its optional protocols,10 and the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
11. The preamble to the 1992 Moroccan Constitution states that the Kingdom of Morocco “subscribes to the principles, rights and obligations stemming from the charters of international bodies and reaffirms its attachment to human rights as universally recognized”; establishes the principle of the equality of all Moroccans before the law (art. 5), men’s and women’s equal enjoyment of political rights (art. 8) and the right of all citizens to education (art. 13); and proclaims that Islam is the religion of the State, which guarantees everyone the freedom of worship (art. 6).
12. Among the institutional measures implemented in recent years, it is worth mentioning the restructuring of the Advisory Council on Human Rights in 2004; the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman (Diwan al-Madhalim) to look into violations of the human rights under its jurisdiction and submit proposals and recommendations to the relevant authorities; the establishment of the National Observatory on the Rights of the Child (1995) to facilitate dialogue between public and private bodies dealing with children and with a mission to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the creation of the Children’s Parliament; and the establishment of the Office of the Secretary of State for the Family, Child Welfare and Persons with Disabilities, which is responsible for coordinating the drafting and implementation of Morocco’s policy on minors and disabled persons.
13. The mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman is to receive complaints, ensure the promotion and dissemination of human rights and provide training, but it is not empowered to investigate complaints concerning civil and political rights, which is the task of the Advisory Council on Human Rights. The majority of complaints to the Ombudsman concern the education sector, but as the Office is not empowered to act ex officio, it has little scope for pre-emptive action on the right to education, where it might otherwise play a more important role.
14. In recent years, Morocco has launched the National Human Development Initiative (NHDI), which envisages an inter-agency plan. Morocco also now has a national human rights plan, a national plan of action for children and a revised Family Code.