Thursday, April 12, 2007

What's a Polisario? (Part 3)

King Hassan II, for 38 years, ruled the throne of Morocco's Constitutional Monarchy. In 1999, he suffered a fatal heart attack and passed the crown to his son, Prince Sidi Mohammed VI, who currently rules the Kingdom.

According to the latest US State Department Country Report on Human Rights, "ultimate authority over all branches of government rests with King Mohammed VI, who presides over the council of ministers and appoints or approves members of the government. The king may dismiss ministers, dissolve the parliament, call for new elections, and rule by decree." Furthermore, its current human rights record is summarized as:

"Citizens did not have the right to change fully their form of government. Reports of torture by various branches of the security forces persisted. Prison conditions remained below international standards. Reports of arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, and police and security force impunity continued. Judicial independence from the executive branch of the government remained a problem. The government restricted freedoms of speech, press, and religion. Trafficking in persons continued, and child labor, particularly in the unregulated informal sector, remained a problem."

King Hassan II himself had a problem with human rights. In 2005, Human Rights Watch released a report on Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (ERC) that was initiated by King Mohammed VI. It reveals a dark timeline where King Hassan II finally began releasing political prisoners in 1991 belonging to "about 270 persons whom the security services had 'disappeared' as long as nineteen years earlier." At the time, King Hassan still had about 400 political prisoners, whom he eventually released in 1994. By this time, outrage continued escalating with allegations that King Hassan's "security services crushed suspected opponents, including leftists, Islamists, advocates of independence for the Western Sahara, and suspected coup plotters. They described how the secret police 'disappeared' hundreds of men and women." When a royally-appointed human rights council investigation found that King Hassan had "disappeared" 112 suspects, independent human rights groups protested saying the actual number was closer to 600 "disappeared."

His son and new monarch, King Mohammed VI has since acknowledged the state's responsibility for the "disappearances" and presented himself as a new leader in addressing many other human rights abuses. The latest World Report by Human Rights Watch describes the Kingdom of Morocco as a "mixed picture on human rights." Morocco still has many domestic issues to confront, and also the issue of the Polisario Front. But, recent news may prove to be hopeful for Western Sahara, despite some who wish further conflict.

[Part 4]

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