The Junior Urgent Action is designed for our youngest activists aged 7-11.
March 2018’s issue focuses on the case of Ali Aarrass who has been tortured, kept in solitary confinement and given an unfair trial.
Download the action below to find out how you can show solidarity with Ali through messages of hope and encouragement .
Are you aged 7-11? Join our Junior Urgent Action Network and receive twice termly cases adapted for our youngest activists.
Articles en rapport
The Moroccan Court of Cassation dismissed Ali’s appeal.
This is devastating news. Ali’s lawyers are considering with the international secretariat of Amnesty International what the next steps should be.
The Moroccan authorities continue to ignore the rulings and demands of international bodies such as the UN Committee Against Torture which called on them again recently to respect his fundamental rights by putting an end to his solitary confinement and to the prison conditions which have severely damaged his physical and mental health.
Throughout his imprisonment, he has suffered threats, pressure, unjustified searches and seizures, beatings, deprivation of basic medical care, interference with correspondence, restrictions on visits from friends and lawyers. Since October last year he has been in solitary confinement with inadequate food and bedding, and no medical care despite his repeated sickness and vomiting, causing him to lose 18kg in weight.
The Belgian authorities too have ignored the demands of his family and of human rights groups to come to his aid, despite his Belgian nationality.
If you would like to write to Ali (preferably in French or Spanish, but English would do), so that he knows people are thinking of him, his address is:
Ali Aarrass (no. d’ecrou 930)
Prison de Tiflet 2
n Implement the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) calling on them to release Ali Aarrass immediately and award him adequate compensation;
n Immediately end Ali Aarrass’ solitary confinement and ensure he is held in humane conditions;
n Ensure he has immediate access to a qualified health professional to provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.
Director of General Administration for Prison Administration and Reinsertion
Mohamed Saleh Tamek
Angle Avenue Arar et rue El-Jouz
Hay El Riyad, Rabat, Morocco
Fax: + 212 5 37 71 26 19
Salutation: Dear Sir Minister of Justice and Liberties
Ministry of Justice and Liberties
Place El Mamounia – BP 1015
Fax: + 212 5 37 73 47 25
Salutation: Your Excellency And copies to:
International Delegation for Human Rights
Mahjoub El Haiba
Angle Avenue Ibn Sina et
Rue Oued El Makhazine
Agdal, Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 5 37 67 11 55
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.
On 24 September, two new books were launched in Brussels, at a reception attended and addressed by poets and writers, human rights and anti-racist activists, parliamentarians and lawyers.
Je m’appelle Ali Aarrass (‘My name is Ali Aarrass’) is a cartoon documentary, telling Ali’s story in words and pictures. The other book, Lettres de prison d’Ali Aarrass & Journal d’une grève de la faim de Farida Aarrass’, comprises Ali’s letters from prison and his sister Farida’s diary of Ali’s hunger strike.
We need to publicise these books here, in order to raise money for the continuing legal costs and to keep up the pressure for Ali’s release. Perhaps we can co-organise an event with a prisoners’ group here in the UK, or an anti-torture group. Does anyone have any ideas, any contacts who could help us with this?
Ali has been in prison for a total of eight and a half years. He is still waiting for the appeal submitted to the Cassation Court over three years ago to be listed for hearing, and for the Belgian consul to visit him in accordance with the Belgian court order upheld by the appeal court two years ago.
Please get in touch if you can help publicise these two books or if you have ideas on how and with whom we can do it.
London Support Ali Aarrass <email@example.com>
14 December 2015 marked the fifth anniversary of Ali’s unlawful extradition by Spain to Morocco. The date was marked by Amnesty International (Belgium) handing in a 10,000-signature petition to the Moroccan ambassador to Belgium, and also by a broadcast on RiveWest a webradio run by residents of the Molenbeek district of Brussels (see Liz Fekete’s article on policing and media coverage of the district here).
Members of the campaign to free Ali gathered the following day, 15 December, outside the Radisson Hotel, where Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders was being wined and dined by the US Chamber of Commerce, to show Reynders the meal given to prisoners in Sale II, the notorious prison where Ali is held, and to demand that Belgium comply with the court order to give Ali consular assistance. Supporters kept up the pressure in the new year, with a picket of another expensive dinner attended by Reynders on 6 January. (The Free Ali website has details.)
Meanwhile, Amnesty International UK is asking its supporters to write to their MEPs this month or next about disrespect of human rights in Morocco, with a particular focus on Ali’s case and that of Wafae Charaf and Oussama Housne. They have asked whether Ali’s supporters in the UK can do the same. I circulate their appeal below.
If you can do so, ask your MEP to write to the Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the European Union expressing your concern. You could even ask for a meeting with your MEP to discuss it. You can find your MEP by going to www.europarl.org.uk/en/ your-meps.html. Click on your geographical region and this will then take you to a list of the MEPs for that region with their contact details. Please particularly target MEPs who are on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs committees.
In order that you can brief your MEP, the details of the cases are set out below. (In Ali’s case you may recall much of what follows but a reminder may be useful.)
Ali Aarrass is a 53-year-old Belgian-Moroccan national who used to run a bookshop in Brussels and later a cafe in Melilla. On 14th December 2010, the Spanish authorities extradited Ali to Morocco, where (despite being a citizen) he had never lived. The extradition was in breach of a stay requested by the UN Human Rights Committee and ignored warnings from Ali’s family, lawyers and supporters and from Amnesty International that Ali would be at risk of incommunicado detention, torture and unfair trial.
In Morocco, Ali was held incommunicado for 12 days and brutally tortured in a secret detention centre run by the General Directorate for the Surveillance of the Territory (Direction generale de la surveillance du territoire, DST) in Temara. He was beaten on the soles of his feet, given electric shocks to his testicles, suspended from his wrists and burned with cigarettes. On 19th November 2011, solely on the basis of a « confession » extracted under torture (and written in Arabic, a language he does not understand), he was convicted of participating in and procuring arms for a criminal group known as the « Belliraj Network ». He was sentenced to 15 years in prison which was reduced to 12 years on appeal. Ali has always maintained his innocence.
In September 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and an independent forensic doctor, visited Ali in detention and confirmed his torture claims.
In July 2014, the UN Human Rights Committee condemned Spain for its extradition of Ali. The Committee found as a fact that Ali had been tortured, and that the Spanish authorities had not properly assessed the risk of torture before extraditing him. They said that Spain’s treatment of Ali violated Article 7 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, which bans exposure to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Spain was asked to award Ali adequate compensation and to take all possible measures to work with the Moroccan authorities to ensure that he was well treated. In 2015, the Committee Against Torture also expressed concern about the extradition and called on Spain to investigate Ali’s torture allegations.
In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention named Ali as someone who had been convicted solely on the basis of torture evidence and called on the Moroccan authorities to reform the penal code to prevent reliance on such evidence. It asked for Ali’s immediate release with compensation for his detention.
In February 2014, the Brussels High Court ruled that the Belgian authorities are under a duty to provide Ali with consular assistance. Their ruling was upheld by the Belgian Court of Appeal on 9 September 2014, and the Belgian authorities are appealing this decision before the Court of Cassation.
On 19th May 2014 the UN Committee Against Torture found that the Moroccan authorities violated several articles of the Convention Against Torture with regard to Ali and called on them to investigate and report to the Committee within 90 days. Ali had two meetings with an Investigative Judge and in November 2014 he underwent a medical examination over several days without an independent monitor present. Ali’s lawyers have yet to receive the report of his medical examination, and have said that they were not aware that any witnesses were questioned or that any locations identified by Ali were searched.
Ali has undertaken several hunger and/ or thirst strikes, coming close to death on occasions and permanently impairing his health, in protest against his continuing imprisonment and the reprisals and ill-treatment he has suffered in Sale II prison for publicising his case. Most recently, in August 2015 Ali went on hunger strike to protest about fresh improper treatment by the head guard in his prison block, significant delays in the investigation carried out by the judicial authorities into his torture allegations, and the failure of the Court of Cassation, Morocco’s highest court, to list his appeal, nearly three years after his appeal against conviction was lodged. On 29 September 2015, he said that several men came to search his cell, without identifying themselves, although some were wearing green uniforms and others civilian clothes. They threw him to the floor, causing him severe pain, and kicked him and shouted at him when he asked to see a doctor. He said that they filmed the search, which lasted over two hours, and destroyed his personal belongings off-camera. His family believe that this was in retaliation for Ali having reported being tortured in 2010, as well as the international public campaign calling for his release.
Ali suspended his hunger strike on 4th November 2015 as his health was failing. Amnesty International heard in November 2015 that the investigation into Ali’s allegations of torture had been closed. Ali’s lawyers were informed of the decision as they attempted to bring a civil action and were told that this was not possible, because the investigation had been closed. They have had no access to the decision but understand that the case was dismissed.
Our calls are: that the Moroccan authorities must ensure that Ali is protected from further ill-treatment and is treated humanely; that they must order a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the ill-treatment that Ali suffered on 29 September, and hold those responsible to account; and must implement the decision of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, ie, release Ali immediately and give him adequate compensation.
Wafae Charaf (28) and Oussama Housne (23) are both considered by Amnesty International to be prisoners of conscience and AI is campaigning for their release. Wafae and Oussama are currently imprisoned in separate prisons in Morocco on charges of slander and false allegations of torture. Wafae reported to Amnesty International that she was abducted after attending a workers protest in Tangiers, Morocco in April 2014, where she was tortured by a group of men who threatened further violence if she continued with her activism.
After filing a report with the authorities an investigation was launched, however, rather than the perpetrators being arrested Wafae ended up in prison charged with “falsely reporting torture.” On August 12, 2014 she was sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 1,000 Moroccan Dirhams (66 GBP) for slander and “falsely reporting torture” and to pay an additional 50,000 Dirham (3,330 GBP) to the Moroccan police department for slander, even though she never named the department in her accusations. Since her initial trial, and during the appeal process, Wafae’s sentence has been increased by a further year.
In a mirroring case, Oussama House was abducted after leaving a protest in May of 2014 where he was tortured by a group of men via burning with a heated metal rod and raping him with their fingers. Oussama publicised this incident on his YouTube channel with the goal of having the Moroccan authorities investigate his abuse. However, he was subsequently arrested after they claimed his allegations were not truthful and he had lied about his torture.
On the 23rd of July Oussama, like Wafae, was imprisoned on charges of “falsely reporting torture” and slander, however, he was handed a three year sentence. Oussama was also ordered to pay 100,000 Dirham (6,660 GBP) to the Moroccan police for slander, even though again like Wafae, he had never named the police in any of his allegations.
In a letter sent to the Moroccan Minister of Justice and Liberties, the IRCT is urging the Government of Morocco to release all medical documents pertaining to Ali Aarrass, who has been a prisoner in Morocco since 2010.
The letter also calls on an independent, thorough and transparent investigation into the treatment of Mr Aarrass while in the custody of the police and prison services in Morocco. Mr Aarrass alleges that he was subjected to torture and various forms of inhuman and degrading treatment while in prison – an allegation that is supported by medical examinations carried out by an independent forensic expert.
The IRCT’s involvement with Mr Aarrass goes back to 2012 when the Moroccan authorities provided Mr Aarrass with a medico-legal evaluation in order to assess the allegations of torture and ill-treatment. An expert from the IRCT’s Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) produced a thorough and substantial criticism of the procedures and the findings of the Moroccan medico-legal evaluation. The forensic expert concluded that the report did not meet Istanbul Protocol standards and recommended that a new medical and psychological examination be conducted in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol.
Mr Aarrass was subsequently provided a second series of medical and psychological evaluations in November 2014. His legal counsel has informed the IRCT that despite repeatedly requesting the medical files from the second evaluation, the investigating judge dismissed the requests on procedural grounds. His legal counsel have asked the IRCT to assess whether the second medico-legal report meets Istanbul Protocol standards. However, the IRCT is unable to perform this assessment as Mr Aarrass and his legal counsel have been refused access to this medico-legal report.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Mendez, visited Mr Aarrass in September 2012 with an independent forensic expert who examined Mr. Aarrass and confirmed that Mr Aarrass’ account of torture was consistent with the medical examinations. Furthermore, the UN Committee against Torture adopted a decision, noting that the Moroccan government had violated article 2, paragraph 1, and articles 11, 12, 13 and 15 of the UN Convention against Torture.
The IRCT letter attached the Expert Statement “On the Right of Access” to relevant medical records that was issued by IFEG and published in the peer-reviewed journal Torture. The Expert Statement details the relevant international standards for the investigation of allegations of torture and highlights the importance of access to medical documentation to that end.
As one of the initiators of the global Convention against Torture Initiative, which aims for universal ratification and implementation of the Convention against Torture by 2024, it is incumbent on the Moroccan Government to demonstrate leadership on the implementation of the Convention and to ensure that national laws, policies and procedures provide for strong safeguards against torture and ill-treatment.
Members of the London Support Group for Ali Aarrass were joined by representatives of Amnesty International at a demonstration for Ali outside the Moroccan Embassy in London on 28 October, calling on the Moroccan government to free Ali.
We were able to hand in a document setting out Ali’s five demands, but neither the ambassador, Princess Lalla Jamoula Alaoui, nor her political counsellor Zineb Bentahla, nor any member of the diplomatic staff were able to receive a delegation.
In fact security officials called the police, with whom, when they arrived – two members of the diplomatic protection unit on motorbikes with blue lights blazing – we had a friendly word.
Frances Webber, London Support Group of Ali Aarrass
(fr) Des membres du groupe de soutien de Londres pour Ali Aarrass et des responsables d’Amnesty International ont appelé le gouvernement marocain à libérer Ali lors d’une manifestation pour Ali devant l’ambassade du Maroc à Londres le 28 octobre.
Nous avons pu remettre un document avec les cinq demandes d’Ali , mais ni l’ambassadeur, ni la Princesse Lalla Jamoula Alaoui , ni son conseiller politique Zineb Bentahla , ni aucun autre membre du personnel diplomatique ont voulu recevoir une délégation .
Les responsables de la sécurité ont appelé la police. Quand ils sont arrivés – deux membres de l’unité de la protection diplomatique sur des motos avec des lumières bleues flamboyantes – nous avons eu avec eux un entretien aimable.
Friends of Ali Aarrass
London Support Committee
Ambassador of Belgium in the UK,
17, Grosvenor Crescent
London SW1X 7EE
15 October 2015
We are writing to ask you to convey to your government our grave concern about the condition of Ali Aarrass, the dual Belgian/ Moroccan national imprisoned in Salé II prison since his conviction in November 2011 on evidence obtained by torture.
On 25 August 2015 M. Aarrass embarked on hunger strike in protest against continued bullying, humiliation and mistreatment at the hands of prison staff. Since then, his situation has become even worse, with Amnesty International issuing an Urgent Action in respect of reports from his family that he was severely beaten on 29 September by several men, some in green uniforms, others in plain clothes, during a cell search.
M. Aarrass is calling for his release, two years after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Moroccan authorities to release him immediately, following its conclusion that he had been convicted solely on the basis of “confessions” extracted under torture. He is also protesting against the significant delays in the investigation carried out by the judicial authorities into his torture allegations, as well as the Court of Cassation’s failure to make a decision in his case nearly three years after submitting his appeal against his conviction to the court.
You will be aware that in September 2014 the Belgian Court of Appeal rejected your government’s appeal against the High Court’s ruling that it was obliged to offer diplomatic assistance to M. Aarrass, as a Belgian national, since the Moroccan government was not a party to the Hague Convention which precludes the provision of protection to dual nationals against the authorities of their other nationality, and because of the fundamental human rights engaged by M. Aarrass’ case – protection from inhuman or degrading treatment or torture and the right to physical and psychological integrity. It is highly regrettable that your government appears to have taken no effective action to protect its national M. Aarrass since the Court of Appeal’s ruling, and has instead appealed the Court’s ruling, while allowing him to remain incarcerated in intolerable conditions (according to authoritative rulings from UN human rights bodies).
We urge your government to intervene to protect M. Aarrass from further ill-treatment, and to ensure that he is treated in accordance with humanitarian norms. This would of course be entirely without prejudice to your legal position that you are under no binding obligation to do so – a position maintained by the minister M. Reynders in August 2013 when, during M. Aarrass’ almost fatal hunger and thirst strike, he was prevailed on to intervene with the Moroccan authorities.
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International (UK)
Smita Bajaria, Solicitor
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
Professor Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Naima Bouteldja, Freelance journalist
Professor Bill Bowring, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Professor Emeritus Lee Bridges, School of Law, University of Warwick
Victoria Brittain, Author and journalist
Dr Eddie Bruce-Jones, School of Law, Birkbeck College, University of London
Louise Christian, Solicitor
Committee on the Administration of Justice, Belfast
Helen Curtis, Barrister
Liz Davies, Barrister
Liz Farrell, Solicitor
Liz Fekete, Director, Institute of Race Relations
Daniel Furner, Solicitor
Omar Geloo, Solicitor
Professor Avery Gordon, University of California Santa Barbara
Professor Penny Green, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Richard Harvey, Barrister
Trevor Hemmings, Researcher
Michael House, Barrister
Catriona Jarvis, former Judge Upper Tribunal
Professor Mark McGovern, Edge Hill University
Dr Thomas Macmanus, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London
Professor Philip Marfleet, University of East London
Piers Mostyn, Barrister
Terry Munyard, Barrister
Greg O’Ceallaigh, Barrister
Beth O’Reilly, Barrister
Peter Pelz, Director, Soul of Europe
Collin Prescod, Film maker, Chair, Institute of Race Relations
Revd. Donald Reeves, Director, Soul of Europe
David Renton, Barrister
Ronan Toal, Barrister
Anthony Vaughan, Barrister
Frances Webber, Barrister, Vice-chair, Institute of Race Relations
Marc Willers QC, Barrister
There is a shocking video at youtube ( http://www.freeali.eu/?p=5822 ) which I want you to watch, and to circulate to as many people as possible. Taken three years ago in Sale II prison, it shows all the scars and marks of torture on Ali’s body. Yet still the Moroccan authorities keep him incarcerated, and still the Belgian government fails to act to protect its national.
I’m also forwarding the AI Urgent Action for your information.
Diplomatic intervention by the Belgian government is, we believe, vital to ensure Ali’s safety and survival. We would urge you to write to Guy Trouveroy, Ambassador, the Embassy of Belgium in the UK, at 17 Grosvenor Crescent, London SW1X 7EE, email firstname.lastname@example.org, asking his government to intervene with the Moroccan government to ensure that Ali’s treatment is fully consistent with international humanitarian standards. You may remember that the Belgian government was ordered to provide diplomatic assistance to Ali by the Brussels Court last year, an order which was upheld by the Court of Appeal, but the government is pursuing a further appeal.
However, although it has always refused to acknowledge any legal duty to intervene, the Belgian government did intervene in August 2013, when Ali was at risk of death from a prolonged hunger and thirst strike.
While Ali remains at the mercy of the Moroccan prison authorities, we must do all we can.
London Friends of Ali Aarrass