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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Morocco prison abuses 'rampant'
Candlelit vigil outside a prison
Human rights abuses continue
By David Bamford in Rabat

Morocco's 44 prisons are overcrowded with unhealthy conditions belonging to another age, according to a hard-hitting report.

The Moroccan Prison Observatory, an umbrella organisation which incorporates a number of local human-rights groups, speaks of a prison regime that is immersed in corruption, violence, disease and the sexual abuse of children as young as 12.

They say the country's prisons house anything up to 80,000 detainees in a system designed for less than half that number.

What makes the overcrowding worse is that, while some prisons are half-empty, in others the only place left to sleep for some prisoners are the toilets.

Hygiene is minimal, medical care normally non-existent and disease rife.

Child abuse

One of the most alarming aspects of the report deals with evidence that children as young as 12 are being kept in the prisons and are regularly falling victim to sexual abuse including rape, even though legally nobody under 16 years old is allowed to be in prison.

King Mohammed VI
Mohammed VI has promised reform
This is said to be just one aspect of a comprehensive climate of corruption in which, for instance, the only food available to prisoners is that which is brought in by family members who must first pay a bribe to prison warders.

The Observatory report is a damning indictment of the country's prison system at a time when the talk is of general reform and judicial improvement under the new king, Mohammed VI.

The fact that the details have been published in the mouthpiece of the senior political party in the coalition government will make it hard for officials to ignore.

See also:

05 Mar 00 | Africa
Morocco torture protest
31 Jul 99 | Africa
Morocco frees prisoners
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