The journalist Hajar Raisuni, 28, was sentenced last August in Rabat to one year in prison for abortion, which she denied. During the three months that Raisuni was deprived of liberty, before King Mohamed VI pardoned her, the reporter suffered the problems caused by the excess population in Moroccan prisons, an evil that the authorities have been diagnosing for several years and They fail to stop.
“In our cell,” Raisuni reminds EL PAÍS, “we were 12 or 15 inmates, depending on what they were transferring. There were only eight cement beds. The rest had to sleep on the floor, without mattresses or blankets. No partner was able to eat what they gave us. Most of the dams took only the chicken and turkey that they distributed twice a week and rejected the rest of the meal. ”
“I felt very sorry for the teenage girls,” Raisuni continues. “I saw the bad treatment they received, the blows of the guardians. There were hardly any activities for anyone. And as for drug addicts, they had no right to participate in professional training activities , when they were the ones who needed them most. ”
In the 76 prisons in Morocco there are 85,767 detainees, according to the General Delegation of the Penitentiary and Reintegration Administration (DGAPR), an agency that provided the latest official figures in September 2019. Of these, 40% are in preventive detention.
The authorities claim that overpopulation rates have been reduced in the last seven years from 45% to 36.9%. But they are aware that the number is still very high. The head of the DGAPR, Mohamed Salah Tamek, complained in 2017 to the Parliament’s Justice Commission about the shortage of material and human resources it has. That year, the number of prisoners was 80,000. Salah Tamek predicted that the situation could get worse. And now there are 85,767 inmates.
There are several prisons under construction, but Abdallah Mouseddad, secretary general of the NGO Moroccan Observatory of Prisons (OMP), objects that the solution is not to increase their number, but to reduce the number of prisoners.
In Spain, with a population of 46.8 million inhabitants, 10 million more than in Morocco, there are 27,250 fewer prisoners than in the neighboring country. In Algeria, with 42 million inhabitants, there were only 63,000 detainees in 2018. And this month, the Algerian government has just acquitted almost 10,000 detainees.
Morocco has 237 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, according to data collected by the Institute for Criminal Policy Investigation (ICPR), based in London. The prison population of Morocco far exceeds that of Sweden (61 per 100,000 inhabitants) and those of France (105) and Spain (124). But also to those of Tunisia (195), Egypt (116), Saudi Arabia (197) or United Arab Emirates (104).
A European official, who has visited several prisons in the Maghreb and speaks on condition of anonymity, believes that Moroccan prisons are no worse than those in the rest of the region. “It is true that there are no individual cells except for the most dangerous or those under observation. But that is because the imprisonment model throughout the Maghreb is to have about 25 people in the same cell. It is the usual practice. It is true that here in Morocco, as in Tunisia and Algeria, you visit what they let you visit and nothing else. But I have not seen people lying on the floor. Which I have observed in Mauritania, for example. However, more activities and more professionals are needed in prisons. ”
Another member of the European Union, knowledgeable about prisons in Morocco, believes that the causes of the excess of prisoners are several: “On the one hand, the Criminal Code should be reformed. There are crimes that should be wrong. In addition, probation concessions must be promoted. And, above all, there is a lack of sensitivity in the judges when administering preventive detention. ” In Spain, the percentage of preventive prisoners is 15% compared to 40% in Morocco.
Despite all the evils, Abdallah Mouseddad recognizes progress in recent years. “Prisoners can now speak abroad with the phone five minutes a week. There are televisions in the cells. The food has also improved. ”
But the activist insists that the main problem is that of overpopulation and all that that entails. “The budget available to the Administration is to feed only 80,000 inmates. And in reality there are much more prisoners than the 85,000 that DGAPR assumes. ”
Mouseddad believes that the main cause of overpopulation is the misuse that judges and prosecutors make of preventive detention. “They put anyone in jail for the mere fact of using drugs. Recently a young woman died whose crime was to have used drugs. ” Another issue that, according to Mouseddad, causes an excess of detainees, is that there are no alternative penalties outside the prison. “That is something that was implemented in Algeria, for example.” It also emphasizes that conditional freedoms are not granted. In 2018, only 12 of the 657 permits requested were granted.
In Morocco the pardons granted by the king are common, which are usually promulgated on festive dates such as the day on which his arrival to the throne is celebrated. In 2018, a total of 4,080 detainees benefited from real grace measures, whether the release or reduction of sentences. But not even the mass pardons have prevented Morocco from breaking records in number of prisoners.
In 2018, 180 prisoners died in Moroccan prisons, as recorded in the report of the General Delegation of the Penitentiary Administration and Reintegration (DGAPR). A total of 139 died in the hospital, 19 died “on the way to the hospital”, 10 “in detention” and 12 in “prison infirmary”. The NGO Moroccan Observatory of Prisons (OMP) ensures that the true causes of death are not usually investigated.
In 2018 there were 1,573 hunger strikes, according to official data. 65.77% organized in protest over the judicial process. And 28.7%, due to living conditions in jail. That same year there were 1,568 formal complaints from prisoners. Most of them (635) reported abuse. The most famous prisoner, the rifeño Naser Zafzafi, who led the Alhucemas protests in 2017, reported having been tortured.
The 76 prisons in the country only had 39 psychologists in 2018.