While the Moroccan government has welcomed the spotlight, the conference has also drawn attention to its more authoritarian and repressive elements.
Morocco has just experienced its most intense public protests since the Arab Spring. On 28 October, fisherman Mouhcine Fikri was crushed to death by a garbage truck compactor in the port town of Hoceima, as he tried to recover goods confiscated by the police. Activists accused police officers of ordering Fikri’s death, and civil rights associations denounced the illegality of the confiscation. Fikri’s individual case has been seen as emblematic of what is known as hogra: arbitrary abuses at the hands of the authorities.
These abuses occur in a wider context of human rights violations, corruption and impunity, in which the makhzen (the King and the royal establishment) exert decisive political control. Abuse of the rule of law by security forces is widespread.
Moroccan activists and journalists are routinely harassed or arrested. During the conference, negotiators and observers will likely be communicating through platforms such as Whatsapp, Skype and Viber. These VoIP (voice over international protocol) applications however were only recently unblocked in Morocco, and citizens fear they will be restricted once the summit concludes.
The annual UN Climate Talks started this week in Marrakech. While all eyes are glued to the (in)action of governments to address climate change, a piece written by Daniel Voskoboynik on The Verb explains more about the troubling nature of the location of this year’s Climate Conference: