Monday, December 12, 2005

Over US$ 2.5Mn raised to fight Aids in Morocco

Close to MAD 20.5 million, more than US$ 2.5 million, were raised on Friday during the "Sidaction 2005" hosted by the 2M TV channel part of the December 2-16 campaign to fight AIDS and help people affected by the disease.

The « Association de lutte contre le Sida » (ALCS), that sponsored the fund-raising show held under the Patronage of King Mohammed VI, said the figure could be revised up and contributions were made by associations and individuals, as well.

The funds will go for taking charge of the people living with the HIV virus, preventing the spread of the pandemic, as well as to conducting awareness promotion campaigns and fighting the stigma attached to the disease and HIV screening.

Bribery in Morocco a cause for concern

Bribery in Morocco has caused a major concern after the country ranked 78th this year from its earlier listing of 45 in 1999, according to an anti-bribery international organisation.

Eiz Eldin Aqasbi, secretary-general of Transparency International, Morocco branch, said on the sidelines of an international symposium held in Rabat as part of the second international day for combating bribery that “we, as an organisation, registered a critical situation of the phenomenon of bribery in Morocco, as the menace was showing a continuous drop worldwide, but Morocco moved from place No. 45 in 1999 to 78 in 2005.”

Aqasbi attributed the fall to the avoidance of punishment, non-independence of the judiciary and no enforcement of a clear strategy to combat the menace of bribery.

The branch of Transparency International in Morocco called for reforming the judiciary as well as taking strict measures in the field of control by activating the establishments entrusted with control, and awareness among the public on the risk of the phenomenon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

CIA prisoners "taken to North Africa"

Following the uproar in Europe over the alleged torture of CIA prisoners in prisons on European soil, Washington is reported to have moved the prisoners to "somewhere in North Africa" well ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's trip to Berlin and Brussels. While no concrete country is named, it expected that the CIA torture victims are now held in Egypt and/or Morocco.

Ms Rice is currently in Berlin, where she had a difficult task meeting Germany's new Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the German press. It will not be easier at European Union (EU) headquarters in Brussels or in Poland and Romania, the two countries most frequently named as the European countries hosting the CIA's torture centres as part of the "war against terrorism".

Media reports had revealed that Washington had sent alleged "terrorists" to detention centres outside the US, where the CIA could avoid legislation prohibiting torture during interrogation. Scandal broke lose in Europe as it was known that at least two European countries hosted such detention centres. Many pointed fingers at Poland and Romania. The EU and almost all European governments have demanded an explanation from Washington.

Given the delicate situation, the CIA's detention centres in Europe were no longer sustainable, Current and former CIA officers speaking to the US broadcaster 'ABC News' on the condition of confidentiality had said that Washington thus had "scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today."

"The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert," ABC News reports. The CIA officials had asked the US broadcaster "not to name the specific countries where the prisons were located, citing security concerns," 'ABC News' added. Official comments were not available from American authorities, which so far have denied the holding of CIA prisoners in Europe.

In North Africa and the Middle East, few countries have so far admitted to their cooperation with the US intelligence services. Human rights groups long ago however documented that at least Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Morocco are cooperating with the CIA regarding detentions of alleged "terrorists". Further, the US detains "terrorists" in foreign locations under its control but far away from the US legislation, including on its base in Guantanamo Bay (Cuba), Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison and detention centres in Afghanistan.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch, among others, has documented widespread use of torture in these detention centres controlled by the CIA. The Washington government, which terms this "light" torture "rendition", has asked lawmakers to approve of the use of torture in the "war against terrorism", but the US parliament has not bowed into pressure. Evidence of innocent people being tortured after having been captured and held as "terrorists" has made the CIA's case even more difficult.

Speculations are now high on where the 11 suspected "terrorists" sent to "somewhere in North Africa" now are held. In fact, the candidates are few. Libya is not cooperating with the US government in such ways. Tunisia and Algeria, while having relatively pro-US governments, do not have the full confidence of Washington. Egypt and Morocco, on the other hand, are the main US allies in the Arab world at large.

Human Rights Watch claims to have evidence of the CIA using detention centres in both Egypt and Morocco to be bale to use its new "rendition" methods against the alleged "terrorists". Also the anonymous CIA sources speaking to 'ABC News' mentioned "Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Egypt" as the countries used to host "unlawful combatants", where the CIA may use "interrogation techniques harsher than any authorised for use by US intelligence officers."

Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch today strongly criticised US Secretary of State Rice for her statements made in Berlin. "Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition," said Mr Malinowski. "In fact, it is a form of kidnapping and 'disappearing' someone entirely outside the law."

The US Secretary of State had noted that "where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured." But Human Rights Watch said that such assurances are ineffective and did not relieve Washington of its obligation not to send people to countries where they are likely to be tortured. "No one honestly believes that assurances from countries like Egypt and Syria can be trusted," said Mr Malinowski.

The widespread and systematic use of torture in Egyptian and Moroccan detention centres is very well documented. In both North Africa countries, opposition militants have been subjected to heavy torture. In Morocco, a young Sahrawi protester allegedly died of injuries sustained during heavy torture only in November.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hurricane strengthens despite cool waters

Hurricane Epsilon, the 14th hurricane of a record-breaking Atlantic storm season, defied expectations it would weaken over cool Atlantic waters and strengthened on Saturday as it churned slowly eastward.

Epsilon's maximum sustained winds reached 80 mph (130 kph) by 4 p.m. (2100 GMT), comfortably over the threshold for a tropical storm to be categorized as a hurricane, and it was about 930 miles west of Portugal's Azores islands, the U.S.
National Hurricane Center said.

But the cyclone posed no threat to land, and the hurricane center said in a bulletin that Epsilon could not maintain that intensity for much longer.

Hurricanes are normally spawned over warmer Atlantic waters further south. They need warm water to gain power and higher than normal sea surface temperatures this year have helped the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, which formally ended on Wednesday, enter the record books in a multitude of ways.

Epsilon, the sixth hurricane to occur in December since records began in 1851, was named like its four predecessors for a letter in the Greek alphabet after the official list of storm names for 2005 was exhausted.

This season has witnessed the most tropical storms on record -- 26. It has seen the most hurricanes, with 14. The highest number of hurricanes previously on record was 12, in 1969, and the highest number of named storms was 21, in 1933.

The long-term average is 10 storms per season, six of which become hurricanes.

This year also set a record of three Category 5 storms -- the top rank on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity -- including Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,200 in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Hurricane Wilma in October briefly became the most powerful hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic. This summer also saw the first recorded tropical storm -- Vince in October -- strike the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

While most climatologists agree that the large number of storms can be blamed on a natural and periodic switch in climatic conditions, some experts say they also see signs that global warming could be increasing the average intensity of the storms

Friday, December 02, 2005

AIDS cases in Morocco on the increase

“AIDS cases in Morocco are increasing year after year,” confirmed Wednesday the President of the Pan-African Organisation against AIDS, Nadia Bezad.

In an interview published by the French-speaking daily Aujourd'hui le Maroc, Bezad said that in 2005, over 17,719 people are HIV-positive in Morocco including 1,839 full-blown AIDS cases.

She stressed that heterosexual relations are the main cause of the transmission of the virus, adding that ‘non protected sexual intercourse and ignorance contribute a great deal to the spread of the disease.

According to Bezad, women are more and more vulnerable to AIDS. “The disease increasingly affects women, because of their abstaining from using means of protection,” she said.

The French language daily also said that the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria offered USD 9 million to Morocco to fight the phenomenon.

“Annually, 350,000 new cases of sexually transmissible diseases are registered. As far as AIDS is concerned, Over 17,000 people are HIV-positives in Morocco. Those under 40 years old are most affected by the epidemic,” underlined Bezad.

The first infection was detected in 1986 in Morocco. The number multiplied to reach 165 in 1999 and 205 in 2005.

Statistics have shown that 76% of contamination is due to multiple heterosexual relations. About 4% of cases are drug addicts.

About 84% of infections are registered in urban areas and 12% in rural areas.

Moroccan civil society is mobilized to join the fight against AIDS. In addition to their many activities on the ground, associations have played a significant role in behavioural change communication.

HIV is one of the biggest social, economic and health problem standing as an obstacle to the development of the world.

It is considered to be a global emergency claiming over 8,000 lives every day.

Access to Sahrawi sites blocked within Morocco

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the censorship of many websites supporting the Polisario Front’s struggle for Sahrawi independence, such as, which have been made inaccessible within Morocco.

Calling on the Moroccan authorities to stop blocking access to sites dealing with the Sahara, the organisation said : “It should not be possible to take a decision to filter a website without a fair trial taking place first. Banning an online publication simply on the basis of an administrative decision is a serious violation of free expression.”

Reporters Without Borders has verified that the, and websites have all been rendered inaccessible in Morocco since 21 November. These sites all criticise Morocco’s control of Western Sahara and encourage protests, but they do not call for violence.

A “connection failure” type of error message is displayed when someone tries to access one of these sites. The decision to block may have been taken by the communication ministry, which is responsible for censorship, or the interior ministry, while monitors the Sahrawi problem. Local sources said the filtering can nonetheless be easily sidestepped by using an online proxy such as

ARSO - the Free and Legitimate Referendum in Western Sahara Support Association - carried photos on its website in September that showed Sahrawi prisoners being held in extremely harsh condition in the prison in El Ayoum, the territory’s main city. The local state prosecutor reacted by ordering an investigation with the aim of “exposing all those implicated in this vile act that jeopardises the reputation of the prison where the inmates are held.”

Thursday, December 01, 2005

2M produces documentary on caves in Morocco

The second Moroccan national channel 2M has produced ‘one thousand and one cave' documentary serial, to inform viewers about caves in Morocco, said a release of the channel.

The documentary aims at highlighting Morocco's richness in terms of nature and geography, answering the demands of the channel's viewers, who are keen on discovering the thousands facets of the country.

The Moroccan extraordinary landscapes attracted the attention of journalists to shoot and broadcast a scientific documentary serial, bringing the viewers closer to the secrets of Cavernology.

The documentary also tends to inform viewers about the causes and circumstances of the formation of caves in many areas in Morocco.