Amnesty International: Verdict Against Raissouni, a Devastating Blow for Women Rights in Morocco

Photo credit: Youssef Boudlal/Reuters

Rabat –  Amnesty International  issued a statement on September 30 to criticize a Moroccan court for sentencing Moroccan journalist Hajar Raissouni to one year in prison for “illegal abortion.”

The Rabat Court of First Instance ruled that Raissouni should be held responsible for illegal abortion and sex outside marriage, Her fiance also received the same sentence of one year in prison for participating in illegal abortion and premarital sexual relations.

As they responded to the news, some public figures described the sentence as “a sad day” and “black day” for individual freedoms and the struggle for human rights in Morocco. 

Responding to the verdict, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for MENA, Heba Morayef, agreed with that bleak assessment of Morocco’s human rights standing. She described the verdict as a devastating blow for women’s rights in Morocco.

“Hajar Raissouni, her fiance and the medical staff involved in the case should never have been arrested in the first place,” she said.

Read Also: Moroccan Court Sentences Journalist Hajar Raissouni to 1 Year in Prison

Morayef added that Moroccan authorities “should revoke” Raissouni’s conviction and “order her immediate release and unconditional release as well as the release for all others involved in this case.” She also described the journalist’s arrest and trial as it “publicly slander” and invasion of privacy. 

Morayef said that women have a right to make their own decisions “about their sexual and reproductive lives” under international law. 

However, Morocco criminalizes both abortion and sex outside marriage.

Swiping at Morocco’s official stance on abortion and out of wedlock sex, Amnesty said that criminalizing such acts a “form of discrimination against women.”

Amnesty also called on Moroccan authorities to repeal all laws that “violate women’s rights.”

Raissouni showed a victory hand to the press when she stepped outside the court after the verdict. 

Amid the controversy, Raissouni has consistently denied the abortion charges.the Police arrested the 28-year-old journalist on August 31 at the entrance of a building near the clinic where police say she had  an abortion. The clinic,, was routinely monitored due to suspicions of abortion surgeries, according to the public prosecutor at Rabat’s court.

Throughout her hearing session, Raissouni received solidarity and sympathy from public figures, feminists, and activists.

Following the verdict, September 30, Asma Lamrabet, prominent Moroccan Islamic feminist and women’s right activist, expressed feeling pained and frustrated.  

“This is a  sad day for Morocco. I really don’t have the words,” she wrote. As one of the country’s most prominent and revered  Islamic feminists, Lamrabet has been calling for equality in inheritance for years.

 Ahmed Benchemsi, the  Advocacy and Communications Director for Human Rights Watch (HRW) the Middle East and North Africa division, echoed the sentiment of frustration.  

Reacting to the verdict, the Moroccan journalist stressed that the court’s handling of the Raissouni case was a scary message for rights advocates, especially those calling for individual freedoms and women’s rights.

“Raissouni & her fiancé Rifaat Al-Amin have just been sentenced to one year in prison,” Benchemsi tweeted.

He went to describe the verdict as a “blatant injustice, a flagrant violation of human rights, and a frontal attack on individual freedoms.”

 “This is a black day for freedom in Morocco,” he said.