Thursday, November 09, 2006

DEATH PENALTY: Abolition Still a Mere Dream

Ambiguity among key cabinet members about capital punishment has emboldened the interior minister to crack down on abolitionist demonstrations and quashed for now chances of a repeal of Morocco's death penalty laws.

Still, human rights groups say that while their dream of abolishing the death penalty must be put on hold for now, they are convinced police actions paradoxically will serve the abolitionist movement.

The Moroccan Coalition Against the Death Penalty was not allowed to hold a sit-in outside of Parliament on Oct. 10 to commemorate the world day against capital punishment. The interior ministry would not say why the peaceful civil demonstration was not allowed to take place.

In response, Driss Ould El Kabla, a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH), told IPS that a lawsuit against the minister was now being prepared.

"Forbidding the sit-in will serve the abolitionists more than allowing it would have done," he said. If the proceedings are accepted by justice, "everyone will know about it for a long period of time." If the sit-in had been allowed to happen, the public would have long forgotten about it, he added.

That key decision by the minister of interior is now being changed into a pressure card on the Moroccan government, he said.

Bouchra Khiari, deputy of the opposition party le Front des Forces Démocratiques (FFD), introduced a bill in October to abolish the ultimate punishment. By law, the bill must be approved by the government before it is brought to parliament for a vote.

Abolitionists believe they have enough support for the bill to pass if it were brought before the lawmakers. Up to now, government has made no decision on whether to allow it to be discussed, Mohamed Nabil Benabdellah, minister of communication and government spokesman, told IPS.

"There is not any official position. The bill has not been studied yet," the minister said.

Human rights observers believe the issue pits the justice minister, who supports abolition, against the interior minister, who opposes it.


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