Five international rights groups have issued an urgent appeal, calling on Morocco to release Nasser Zefzafi, the leader of the Hirak Rif protest movement.
The movement gained significant traction in Al-Hoceima in 2016 and has since been the subject of international attention.
In a joint statement, Freedom House, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Centre for Victims of Torture, and the Project on Middle East Democracy emphasized the need for Zefzafi’s immediate and unconditional release, highlighting the oppressive nature of his current detention.
Nasser Zefzafi played a prominent role in the Hirak Rif movement in 2016, advocating for legal, social, and economic rights both within Morocco and on an international level. However, sources close to him have reported that his health is deteriorating rapidly while in prison.
The Moroccan authorities had accused the Hirak Rif movement of being influenced by foreign powers and separatists seeking to destabilise the country’s national security. The movement initially started in response to the death of a fish seller, which sparked widespread protests. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, resulting in the arrest of countless individuals. While the majority of detainees were eventually released, eight, including Zefzafi, were handed lengthy prison sentences, with Zefzafi himself receiving a 20-year term.
Prior to this urgent appeal, Moroccan political parties and rights groups had already called for the release of the protesters, including Zefzafi. These organisations have criticised the government’s decision to issue harsh sentences against the activists, suggesting that it infringes upon their rights to free speech and peaceful protest.
The current urgent appeal from international rights groups highlights the growing concern over the treatment of political activists and the suppression of dissent in Morocco. These organisations, renowned for their commitment to human rights and freedom of expression, are urging the Moroccan government to reassess its stance and release Nasser Zefzafi without delay.
As calls for his release intensify, it becomes increasingly critical for Morocco to address these concerns and uphold its commitments to human rights as outlined in international conventions.
The treatment of political activists must be in line with fair and just standards, and the imprisonment of peaceful protesters should be seen as a clear violation of fundamental human rights principles.