The Equity and Reconciliation Commission (Instance Equite et Reconciliation, or IER for short) submitted its final report to Mohammed VI, the king of Morocco, on Friday.

The IER urged authorities to apologise and to deepen reforms, including the independence of the judiciary and ending impunity for security officials, so Morocco can put abuses and repression behind it.

It also called for the adoption of a national strategy to pursue abusers.

The IER "recommends the primacy of international human rights law over Moroccan law, the separation of powers, the total independence of the judiciary and the presumption of innocence as well as the right to a fair trial", the panel said.

The investigations shed light on 592 people listed as "disappeared" and found that 322 of them had actually been killed during riots in the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s, all by disproportionate force.

Findings

The report said that victims either died in police custody in south and central Morocco or in street riots during a period known to Moroccans as the "years of lead".

"The IER is convinced that the cases of 66 other victims it had analysed look like forced disappearances, and believes the state is obliged to pursue investigations to shed light on their fates"

The Equity and Reconciliation Commission

The findings of the two-year investigation by the 17-member panel were outlined by the Moroccan state-run MAP News Agency.

Another 174 people died while being held in illegal detention centres. More than 100 graves of those killed were discovered, the panel said.

The IER, which received 16,861 files to investigate, confirmed at least 9779 cases of rights abuses ranging from deaths and injuries in detention, extra-judicial killings, "forced disappearances", "forced exiles" and sexual abuse.

The commission has also demanded investigation of the cases of 66 persons still considered missing.

"The IER is convinced that the cases of 66 other victims it had analysed look like forced disappearances, and believes the state is obliged to pursue investigations to shed light on their fates," the report said.

The report said the IER recommended that 9280 victims were entitled to get compensation, including 1895 who will receive additional benefits for jobs or other professional opportunities they had lost.

Human right reforms

The king said the goal of the panel
was reconciliation with the past

The commission, seen by many as a ground-breaking body for the Arab world, was formed by a royal decree on 7 January 2004 to examine human rights violations perpetrated from independence in 1956 until the death of King Hasan II in 1999.

It was charged with investigating alleged cases of kidnappings, arbitrary detention, disappearances and torture.

The 17-member panel was made up of former political prisoners and human rights activists. It was presided over by Driss Benzekri, a university professor imprisoned for 17 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

King Mohammed commanded that the report be published and brought to the knowledge of the people. His decision to set up such a commission was part of a human rights reform effort.

He told El Pais, the Spanish daily newspaper, that the objective of the panel was to reconcile Morocco with its past by "examining, without any complex and any shame, this page of our history, as a starting point to move forward in the best conditions."

Mass grave

Moroccan authorities discovered a mass grave last Monday of up to 100 people killed in the Casablanca uprising in 1981.

Moroccan media quoted human rights groups as saying that the victims were shot dead and buried for protesting against food price increases. 

The grave was discovered at Casablanca's main fire station on Saturday.

The remains were reburied in individual graves.

Security officials prevented families and journalists from visiting the site of the mass grave and the new ones.

Human rights groups said the government buried the dead in at least seven mass graves scattered across Casablanca, including the one unearthed at the fire station.

Benzekri said another mass grave existed somewhere in Casablanca, but it had not yet been found.