Aagaw first victim to reveal human rights violations in Tazmamart
By Karima Rhanem 12/21/2004 | 6:08 pm
The first public hearing sessions of human rights victims – known as “the Leaden Years”- will be broadcast live today on national radio and television. A source from the Equity and Reconciliation Commission told Morocco Times the hearings will be open to national and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations. The same source added that around 200 victims, families of victims and witnesses of violations are due to participate in the hearings, which are scheduled to take place in 10 different cities, starting in the capital, Rabat, over a period of around 10 weeks.
The sessions, first of the kind in the Arab and Islamic world, will be broadcast today live on both Moroccan TV channels (2M and RTM). The hearings are organized by the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (ERC). ERC, headed by ex-political prisoner Driss Benzekri, is an independent body that was established last January to investigate abuses of human rights committed from 1956 to1999.
Abellah Aagaw, one of the victims, told Morocco Times that the commission has chosen him to speak in the hearings on behalf of Tazmamart victims and their families. He added that his group had agreed not to reveal people's names. However, he annouced that they would reveal the names of the organizations that were behind these violations.
A source from the Commission told Morocco Times that the hearings will be an opportunity to achieve reconciliation in the Moroccan society and to definitively close the file of the “Leaden Years”. The same source added that this event is “an encouragement for the state and the society to be more aware of the need to respect and protect human rights.”
Speaking at a meeting held by the Commission and the Institute of Amazigh Culture on "Hearings and oral history", Driss Benzekri said “victims who will testify at public hearings, will be totally free to express themselves.” However, he added, “ they won't reveal the names of the individuals they accuse of being the authors of the violations.”
A member of the “Truth and Justice Forum” NGO criticized the choice made by the Commission not to reveal the names of the authors of these violations. The same opinion was expressed by another human rights activist, Abdelhamid Amine, leader of the Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH).
Answering criticism over the decision not to reveal names, Benzekri explained that “if the Commission allows such names to be revealed, it will have to guarantee the accused the right to defend themselves,” adding that in 90% of cases accusers do not have convincing evidence.
Benzekri also added that “public hearings do not seek to resemble the South African or Ghanaian experiences where they turned into a sort of trial.” He argued that in Morocco, “the truth is known in its generalities and the hearings will rather be a means to freely express sufferings so as to usher in a new vision of the relationship between citizens and the state.”
Political parties, trade unions and professional associations also joined the IER approach, by insisting that the hearings were not not a trial but rather a message to preserve memory and convey educational values so that such practices do not occur again.
This initiative was also welcomed by Moroccan Human Rights Organizations as well as by other international organizations such as Amnesty International (AI). For AI, the initiative is designed to give victims and relatives of victims the opportunity to present, for the first time before the Moroccan public, testimonies of "disappearance" and arbitrary detention.
A set of criteria will be observed to ensure that these hearings are objective and transparent and that they are representative of all forms of violations and all historical stages. The IER has analysed cases related to human right abuses in the Tazmamart, Agdz, Tagounit, Kourbis and Dar Bricha centres and raised questions on collective redress of harm and reconciliation.
The hearings will be open to national and foreign journalists and non-governmental organizations and will be broadcast on national radio and television. Around 200 victims, families of victims and witnesses of violations are due to participate in the hearings, which are scheduled to take place in 10 different cities, starting in the capital, Rabat, over a period of around 10 weeks.
Participants will have about 20 minutes each to present their testimony and will be allowed to use their own narrative style, speak in the language of their choice and be accompanied by family members or friends for moral support.