Morocco is a monarchy with a constitution and an elected parliament. According to the constitution, ultimate government authority rests with King Muhammad VI, who presides over the council of ministers and appoints or approves members of the government. While a process of gradual political reform has been underway for a decade, challenges to democratic progress remain. The September 2007 parliamentary elections went smoothly and were marked by transparency and professionalism, but exceptionally low turnout and high numbers of protest ballots revealed wide dissatisfaction with government institutions and political parties. The country's human rights record continued to show significant progress. Problems remained, however, including the issue of police impunity for violations committed in Western Sahara and the lack of due process for suspects linked to terror cells. The judiciary lacked full independence, and corruption remained a problem that drew increasing public and governmental attention. There was extensive and largely open debate in public and in the press. In 2007 there were a limited but important number of specific cases of government restriction on freedoms of the press and speech linked to the "red lines" of the monarchy, religion, and territorial integrity. As a result, many journalists practiced self-censorship.
The ongoing U.S. strategy for promoting human rights and democracy integrates advocacy, assistance, training programs, and public diplomacy outreach. This reform and democracy promotion strategy addresses governing justly and democratically, investing in people, promoting international understanding, and encouraging economic growth. Based on input from interlocutors in civil society, four areas dominate U.S. efforts: strengthening democratic institutions, particularly the parliament; promoting rule of law through anticorruption and judicial independence; protecting and expanding freedom of expression; and addressing extremism through a focus on youth and prisoner stabilization and societal integration.
The U.S. strategy is predicated on supporting and shaping the proven, if uneven, government commitment to reform. Empowering the government and civil society and supporting their initiatives wherever possible enhances the effectiveness and durability of reform. The ambassador and other U.S. officials engage with the government and civil society at all levels to encourage continued progress. Visiting U.S. officials and congressional delegations meet regularly with parliamentarians and government officials to share ideas and promote reform. Through the annual Human Rights Dialogue launched in 2007, U.S. officials engage in a constructive and pointed discussion with the government on human rights issues, including in Western Sahara, where a higher degree of abuses and impunity persists.
The U.S. government continues to expand its support for the political process. The United States plans to complement its existing parliamentary support program, which includes budget and oversight training, with civic education efforts focused on citizen engagement with their members of parliament and political parties. The United States is also supporting a growing movement from within political parties to enhance their internal democracy and effectiveness. The U.S. government will also continue to encourage and support the trend towards greater governmental decentralization. In July 2007, after U.S. officials engaged with the government in a long advocacy campaign stressing the importance of international election monitors, the government allowed international observers to monitor the September 2007 parliamentary elections. The United States contributed funding for election observation and civil education efforts. These programs were conducted in cooperation with other government partners. The government gave a local NGO overall responsibility for coordinating and supervising the observation effort, which established an important precedent by placing electoral transparency and participation firmly in the arena of human rights and the public purview. The U.S. government will continue advocating the establishment of an independent electoral commission to safeguard the gains in electoral transparency made in 2007.
The ambassador and other U.S. officials consistently raise issues of freedoms of speech and press at the highest levels of government. The United States will continue to press for a revised press code that eliminates prison sentences for libel. In addition, U.S. officials will continue to engage publishers, journalists, and others involved with the media to promote press freedom along with national journalistic ethical standards and professionalism. Journalist training programs are a foundation of U.S. engagement with the country. In 2007 the United States funded a pilot project to train regional journalists on the use of new media technologies and citizen journalism techniques to enable them to play a greater role in promoting grassroots democracy. Also in 2007, the United States funded a program that allowed a local television news crew to travel to the United States and interview Moroccan-Americans about their experiences with democracy, freedom of religion, education, and life in the United States. The interviews were aired on national television and had widespread popularity. Other planned activities include engaging local journalists on U.S. elections to build their interest and experience regarding the election coverage.
U.S. officials continue to advocate the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and judicial and penal reform with government counterparts and civil society. The United States continues to strengthen professional associations, such as the Moroccan Judges' Syndicate, as they implement ethical codes of conduct to help them resist monetary corruption and undue external influence on the judiciary. The United States advocates for penal reform, including improved conditions in prisons, and supports a local NGO working to improve the penitentiary system through training and institutional capacity building. In a program that concluded in June 2007, the United States funded the country's first human rights and public interest legal clinic, which provided training to young lawyers and law students to provide legal assistance under the supervision of the law faculty and private human rights lawyers. The U.S. government plans to increase anticorruption efforts, focusing on the court system, through programs involving the Judicial Training Institute and other governmental and civil society actors.
U.S. officials strongly advocate for the application of human rights protections, including in the disputed Western Sahara. U.S. officials discussed allegations of torture and lack of due process with the government; in particular, the ambassador has highlighted details on security officers identified as committing or permitting abuses. Noting the need for progress, U.S. officials shared with the government their plans to monitor activity in this area and informed them that they will note progress or inaction on specific cases in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. U.S. officials have also succeeded in securing the return of confiscated passports or the issuance of new travel documents to human rights activists in Western Sahara.
U.S. officials will continue to perform outreach and constructively engage with youth, prisoners, and other at-risk segments of society in order to lessen their vulnerability to extremism and help integrate them into broader democratic processes. U.S. officials engage with members of the Berber community to discuss issues related to their cultural, economic, and political marginalization and connect them with resources and technical assistance within and outside the country. The United States supports a program through which residents of lower income areas gain input into decisions that have an impact on their lives such as the placement of roads, housing, and services.
The U.S. government continues to promote enhanced respect for human rights and democratic reform, including promoting women's rights and combating trafficking in persons. The United States continues to fund literacy programs focused on increasing women's participation in broader decision-making processes and the political process. The U.S. government trained women on how to become effective candidates for political office. The U.S. government also continued to fund programs related to implementation of the revised 2004 family code through modernization of the training curriculum for judges and strengthened women's participation in the legal sector. U.S. officials meet regularly with local NGOs working to eliminate child labor, forced labor, and trafficking in persons and with those supporting the reintegration of children and trafficked persons into society. In November 2007 the U.S. government launched a project to rescue children in the labor force, help children at risk remain in school, and began an awareness campaign on the dangers of child sex tourism.