THE KINGDOM OF MOROCCO: FRIEND OR FOE?; Congressional Record Vol. 156, No. 114
(Extensions of Remarks - July 30, 2010)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1523-E1525]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. FRANK R. WOLF

                              of virginia

                    in the house of representatives

                         Friday, July 30, 2010

  Mr. WOLF. Madam Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of my 
colleagues to a letter I recently sent to Secretary of State Hillary 
Clinton as well as reports from nongovernmental organizations, NGOs, 
regarding human rights and religious freedom in Morocco and the 
Moroccan occupied territory of Western Sahara.
  Since March, dozens of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals have been 
expelled from Morocco without due process on charges of proselytism. In 
the wake of this action, I have repeatedly called on the board of the 
Millennium Challenge Corporation to suspend the $697.5 million compact 
with the government of Morocco. As Americans deal with tough economic 
times, it is unacceptable for U.S. taxpayer dollars to continue to flow 
into a country which flagrantly disregards the rights of U.S. citizens.
  I am continuing to press the MCC to act decisively to suspend the 
compact with Morocco until the government of Morocco agrees to the 
return of all United States citizens affected by the expulsions, 
thereby sending a clear message that these actions by a purported ally 
will not be tolerated.
  Morocco's recent actions may seem surprising to many, but to those 
who have followed events in the Moroccan occupied territory of the 
Western Sahara, this is business as usual for the Moroccan government.
  Yet the Obama administration has remained notably silent on these 
issues despite repeated calls from within the Congress to address these 
grave injustices. Just yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee 
passed its version of the FY 2011 State and Foreign Operations 
Appropriations measures which ``directed the Secretary of State to 
submit a report not later than 45 days after the enactment of this act, 
detailing steps taken by the Government of Morocco in the previous 12 
months on human rights, including deportation of U.S. citizens in 
Morocco without due process of law, and whether it is allowing all 
persons to advocate freely their views regarding the status and future 
of the Western Sahara through the exercise of their rights to peaceful 
expression and association, and to document violations of human rights 
in the territory without harassment.''
  I submit for the Record my letter to Secretary Clinton as well as 
reports by highly respected NGOs clearly illustrate Morocco's disregard 
for the basic principles of human rights and religious freedom as 
outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

                                     House of Representatives,

                                    Washington, DC, July 28, 2010.
     Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton,
     Secretary of State,
     Washington DC.
       Dear Secretary Clinton: I write today to express my 
     continued concern about the situation involving Americans in 
     Morocco and urge you to issue a strong statement in support 
     of the American citizens whose lives have been uprooted by 
     the Moroccan government's recent actions. I ask that either 
     you or President Obama call on the Moroccan government to 
     unconditionally allow all those expelled or denied reentry to 
     return to Morocco.
       Just yesterday, yet another U.S. citizen, Mike Hutchinson, 
     was denied reentry into Morocco. This came after repeated 
     assurances by the Moroccan government to the U.S. Embassy in 
     Rabat that the expulsion order issued to Mr. Hutchinson last 
     month had been suspended and he was free to reenter the 
     country at a time of his choosing.

[[Page E1524]]

       Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Rabat remained blissfully 
     unaware of the events unfolding at the airport. It is my 
     understanding the U.S. Embassy had been contacted and was 
     fully aware of Mr. Hutchinson's intentions to reenter Morocco 
     and had in its possession the details of his flight 
     itinerary. However, embassy officials failed to communicate 
     Mr. Hutchinson's planned reentry to the Moroccan government 
     to ensure his passage into the country.
       The U.S. Embassy in Rabat has an obligation to defend and 
     protect American interests in Morocco. This instance 
     demonstrates a clear failure by U.S. government officials to 
     carry out their basic duties. An American embassy should be 
     an island of freedom which vigorously represents the 
     interests of the United States and its citizens. These events 
     clearly reflect that the U.S. Embassy in Rabat is falling 
     short of its obligations.
       Despite all this, U.S. taxpayer dollars continue to pour 
     into Morocco through the Millennium Challenge Corporation 
     (MCC). The stated purpose of the MCC is to form 
     ``partnerships with some of the world's poorest countries, 
     but only those committed to: good governance, economic 
     freedom, and investments in their citizens.'' As a 
     precondition to receiving MCC funds, the government of 
     Morocco was evaluated on 17 key indicators of eligibility.
       A recent report by the Government Accountability Office 
     (GAO) on the Millennium Challenge Corporation found that on 
     the 17 key indicators ``Morocco met MCC's eligibility 
     criteria in 2005 and 2006 but has failed each year since.'' 
     The failure of the government of Morocco to meet the criteria 
     for four consecutive years shows a clear unwillingness to 
     live up to the pledges made when awarded the MCC compact. The 
     recent expulsion and denial of reentry to U.S. citizens 
     engaged in work which provided humanitarian services to the 
     people of Morocco should erase any doubt about Morocco's 
     commitment to the core principles of the MCC.
       It is unacceptable for U.S. taxpayer dollars to continue to 
     flow into Morocco under these circumstances. By failing to 
     suspend the MCC compact with Morocco, the United States sends 
     a message to the world that we are willing to turn a blind 
     eye to injustice, even when the interests of our own citizens 
     are at stake.
       Thank you for your attention to this important matter and I 
     look forward to your response.
       Best wishes.
                                                    Frank R. Wolf,
                                               Member of Congress.

                  [From the Economist, July 29, 2010]

                       Stop Preaching or Get Out

       Evangelical Christians In the poor world are rarely accused 
     of undermining public order. All the more surprising, then, 
     that in recent months around a hundred have been deported 
     from Morocco for just that. The Christians, mostly from the 
     United States and Europe, have been accused of trying to 
     convert Muslims to Christianity, a crime punishable by 
     imprisonment under Moroccan law, which protects the freedom 
     to practise one's faith but forbids any attempt to convert 
       Rules against proselytising are quite common in Muslim 
     countries but Morocco has long enjoyed a reputation as a 
     bastion of religious tolerance in the region. Almost all the 
     country's 32m citizens are Sunni Muslims but churches and 
     synagogues exist, alongside mosques, to cater for the 1% of 
     the people who are Christian or Jewish.
       Such open-mindedness presumably appealed to the Christian 
     missionaries who ran the ``Village of Hope'' home for 
     children 80km (50 miles) south of Fez, a former capital known 
     for religion and scholarship. The 16 aid-workers had cared 
     for abandoned children for over a decade when, in March, the 
     Moroccan authorities sent inspectors to the orphanage, then 
     gave the workers a few days' notice to leave the country. 
     Witnesses reported distraught farewells between the Moroccan 
     children and the foreigners who had acted as foster parents.
       Morocco's communications minister, Khaled Nacirl, said the 
     missionaries ``took advantage of the poverty of some families 
     and targeted their young children''. The aid-workers deny 
     pumping the children with Christianity. But sympathisers say 
     that even if they did, a few hours of preaching was a small 
     price to pay for education and pastoral care. There have been 
     further expulsions since then, most recently of an 
     evangelical Spanish teacher.
       Local residents are quick to point out that it is not only 
     Christians who have been targets; last year a similar 
     campaign was waged against Morocco's even smaller population 
     of Shia Muslims. But the motivation for the crackdowns is 
     probably political more than religious. Morocco's 
     constitution is based on the hereditary position of the king 
     as ``commander of the faithful''. Any drift of Muhammad VI's 
     subjects away from the dominant stream of moderate Sunni 
     Islam might, his advisers fear, diminish his authority.
       The American branch of an evangelical organisation, Open 
     Doors, which speaks up for persecuted Christians across the 
     world, is backing a campaign by a Republican congressman, 
     Frank Wolf, to press the Moroccans to be kinder to the 
     evangelicals. Seeing that Morocco is one of America's closest 
     Arab allies, the American administration has been notably 

                 [From the Star Tribune, July 24, 2010]

                  Is Our Man in Morocco Up to the Job?

                         (By Katherine Kersten)

       Minneapolis lawyer Sam Kaplan--a DFL fundraiser 
     extraordinaire--was a member of Barack Obama's national 
     campaign-finance committee. In 2009, Obama rewarded him by 
     naming him ambassador to Morocco.
       The exotic posting must have seemed a plum job. Morocco has 
     been known as an oasis among Arab nations--largely free of 
     the repression that mars so many other Muslim countries. It's 
     ``the opportunity of a lifetime for a guy from Minnesota,'' 
     Kaplan enthused to the Star Tribune in April.
       But since Kaplan's arrival, Morocco has turned from a 
     diplomatic dream job to a depressing despotic reality. Since 
     March, it has expelled about 100 foreigners, including 50 
     U.S. citizens. Among the deportees were foster parents at an 
     orphanage, businesspeople and aid workers who taught the poor 
     to grow their own food.
       Their crime? Christian ``proselytizing''--against the law 
     in this Muslim monarchy.
       On June 17, some deportees told their heart-wrenching 
     stories at a hearing convened by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va, 
     cochairman of Congress's Human Rights Commission.
       Witnesses included Eddie and Lynn Padilla, foster parents 
     at Village of Hope orphanage. The orphanage--which has both 
     Christian and Muslim staff--cared for 33 abandoned children 
     and had operated for 10 years with official approval. But in 
     March, the police moved in and swept through children's 
     bedrooms while they slept, searching for Christian 
       After three days of grilling, the Padillas and others were 
     given two hours to clear out, as their children sobbed in 
     anguish. Though no evidence was presented, their assets were 
     seized and their bank accounts frozen. Since their departure, 
     there is evidence that some children have been beaten or 
       Witness Michael Cloud, also a Christian, founded 12 centers 
     that treat Moroccan children with cerebral palsy. Cloud 
     testified that authorities barred his reentry as he tried to 
     return from Egypt (where his wife was being treated for 
     cancer). He was held for 13 hours and deported with no 
     explanation. The ``hard work'' of 14 years was lost, he 
       So how's our man Sam Kaplan doing defending American 
     citizens from these egregious human-rights violations?
       The Padillas testified that the U.S. Embassy had no time 
     for them during their ordeal: ``They just told us, ``Do what 
     they are telling you to do.' They offered no help . . . [or] 
     any kind of counsel, just pack and go.'' Cloud testified that 
     when he sought help, the embassy just gave him a list of 
       At the hearing, international-law expert Sandra Bunn-
     Livingstone stated that despite victims' pleas, Kaplan 
     refused to release a Moroccan government diplomatic note with 
     a list of deportees, citing protocol. As a result, 
     ``Americans who would like to appeal under Moroccan law . . . 
     have been refused that right'' since they lack written proof 
     of expulsion, she said. The British and Canadian governments 
     did hand over such notes, she added.
       Perhaps Kaplan had other priorities. ``A few weeks ago,'' 
     Cloud testified, ``the American embassy in Rabat brought 
     Moroccans to Washington, D.C., and fed them and housed them 
     to help them brainstorm on how to build businesses in the 
     Muslim world.''
       That would make sense. According to the embassy website, 
     Kaplan's goal as ambassador is ``to help fulfill President 
     Obama's vision of a new beginning for U.S. relations with the 
     Muslim world based on mutual respect and . . . mutual 
       In April, Kaplan responded to critics. He told the Star 
     Tribune he had released a statement saying that the embassy 
     was ``distressed'' by the expulsions. ``We hope to see 
     meaningful improvements in the application of due process,'' 
     he wrote.
       What's Kaplan doing to alleviate distress and promote due 
       A top priority seems to be to impress the Moroccan media, 
     which complained that his statement had ``stepped over the 
     diplomatic line,'' according to the Star Tribune. ``When your 
     press has been almost unanimously positive for 5\1/2\ months, 
     the change is something that is different,'' Kaplan 
       Cozy relations with the Moroccan monarchy are another 
     priority. According to the Star Tribune, ``Kaplan noted that 
     King Mohammed has spoken about judicial reform in the past.''
       ``We're not speaking out in contrast to what the government 
     has said,'' Kaplan told the paper. ``We're simply joining 
     with His Majesty and saying if we can be helpful, we'd like 
     to do that.''
       Wolf rejects this. ``An American embassy should be an 
     island of freedom'' in the country where it's located, 
     vigorously advocating for its citizens, he says. ``Every 
     ambassador has to decide whether to represent Americans' 
     interests in the country they're in or whether to represent 
     the country they're in to America.''
       Looks like Kaplan has made his choice.

                          [From Freedom House]

              Freedom in the World--Western Sahara (2010)

       Talks between the Moroccan government and the pro-
     independence Polisario Front continued in 2009, but the two 
     sides remained at odds over whether to allow a referendum on 
     independence. Pro-independence activists continued to be 
     detained and harassed, and

[[Page E1525]]

     the conditions on the ground for most Sahrawis remained poor.
       Western Sahara was ruled by Spain for nearly a century 
     until Spanish troops withdrew in 1976, following a bloody 
     guerrilla conflict with the pro-independence Popular Front 
     for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro 
     (Polisario Front). Mauritania and Morocco both ignored 
     Sahrawi aspirations and claimed the resource-rich region for 
     themselves, agreeing to a partition in which Morocco received 
     the northern two-thirds. However, the Polisario Front 
     proclaimed an independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic 
     and continued its guerrilla campaign. Mauritania renounced 
     its claim to the region in 1979, and Morocco filled the 
     vacuum by annexing the entire territory.
       Moroccan and Polisario forces engaged in a low-intensity 
     armed conflict until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire 
     in 1991. The agreement called for residents of Western Sahara 
     to vote in a referendum on independence the following year, 
     to be supervised by the newly established UN Mission for a 
     Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). However, the vote 
     never took place, with the two sides failing to agree on 
     voter eligibility.
       Morocco tried to bolster its annexation by offering 
     financial incentives for Moroccans to move to Western Sahara 
     and for Sahrawis to move to Morocco. Morocco also used more 
     coercive measures to assert its control, engaging in forced 
     resettlements of Sahrawis and long-term detention and 
     ``disappearances'' of pro-independence activists.
       In 2004, the Polisario Front accepted the UN Security 
     Council's Baker II plan (named after former UN special envoy 
     and U.S. secretary of state James Baker), which called for up 
     to five years of autonomy followed by a referendum on the 
     territory's status. However, Morocco rejected the plan, as it 
     could lead to independence, and in 2007 offered its own 
     autonomy plan.
       Because the Polisario Front remained committed to an 
     eventual referendum on independence, the two sides failed to 
     make meaningful progress in several rounds of talks that 
     started in 2007 and continued through 2009. Also in 2009, 
     some UN Security Council members expressed concern about the 
     human rights situation and proposed that the council consider 
     expanding MINURSO's mandate.

                  Political Rights and Civil Liberties

       As the occupying force in Western Sahara, Morocco controls 
     local elections and works to ensure that independence-minded 
     leaders are excluded from both the local political process 
     and the Moroccan Parliament.
       Western Sahara is not listed separately on Transparency 
     International's Corruption Perceptions Index, but corruption 
     is believed to be at least as much of a problem as it is in 
       According to the Moroccan constitution, the press is free, 
     but this is not the case in practice. There is little in the 
     way of independent Sahrawi media. Moroccan authorities are 
     sensitive to any reporting that is not in line with the 
     state's official position on Western Sahara, and they 
     continue to expel or detain Sahrawi, Moroccan, and foreign 
     reporters who write critically on the issue. Human Rights 
     Watch (HRW) reported that In October 2009, plainclothes 
     police told two Morocco-based Spanish journalists to leave 
     the El-Aaiun home of Sidi Mohamed Dadach, who heads the 
     Committee to Support Self-Determination in Western Sahara 
     (CODAPSO). Online media and independent satellite broadcasts 
     are largely unavailable to the impoverished population.
       Nearly all Sahrawis are Sunni Muslims, as are most 
     Moroccans, and Moroccan authorities generally do not 
     interfere with their freedom of worship. There are no major 
     universities or institutions of higher learning in Western 
       Sahrawis are not permitted to form independent political or 
     nongovernmental organizations, and their freedom of assembly 
     is severely restricted. As in previous years, activists 
     supporting independence and their suspected foreign 
     sympathizers were subject to harassment in 2009. HRW, which 
     has documented several violations, reported that Moroccan 
     authorities referred seven Sahrawi activists to a military 
     court in October after charging them with harming state 
     security; there were no verdicts at year's end. Moroccan 
     officials appear to be particularly wary of Sahrawis who 
     travel abroad to highlight the plight of their people and 
     argue for independence. According to HRW, police in October 
     2009 began breaking up visits by foreign reporters and human 
     rights activists to the homes of Sahrawi activists, rather 
     than simply monitoring them; the police said the visits 
     required clearance from Moroccan authorities.
       Among Sahrawi activists themselves, HRW documented the case 
     of Naama Asfari of the Paris-based Committee for the Respect 
     of Freedoms and Human Rights In Western Sahara (CORELSO), who 
     has been detained and harassed on numerous occasions over the 
     years. In August 2009, he was sentenced to four months in 
     jail after an argument with a police officer over the Sahrawi 
     flag that Asfari had on his keychain. Asfari's cousin, who 
     was with him during the encounter, was also sentenced to jail 
     time. In another high-profile case, activist Aminatou Haidar, 
     head of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders 
     (CODESA), returned in November to Western Sahara from the 
     United States, where she had received a human rights award. 
     She indicated on her reentry paperwork that she lived in 
     Western Sahara, and when she refused to change the document 
     to indicate Morocco, she was detained and eventually deported 
     without a passport to Spain's Canary Islands. Haidar was able 
     to return home in December 2009 after a month-long hunger 
     strike and considerable diplomatic pressure, but the 
     authorities continued to monitor her and restrict her 
       Sahrawis are technically subject to Moroccan labor laws, 
     but there is little organized labor activity in the resource-
     rich but poverty-stricken territory.
       International human rights groups have criticized Morocco's 
     record in Western Sahara for decades. A highly critical 
     September 2006 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human 
     Rights--intended to be distributed only to Algeria, Morocco, 
     and the Polisario Front--was leaked to the press that 
     October. The human rights situation in the territory tends to 
     worsen during periods of increased demonstrations against 
     Moroccan rule. The Polisario Front has also been accused of 
     disregarding human rights.
       Morocco and the Polisario Front both restrict free movement 
     in potential conflict areas. Morocco has been accused of 
     using force and financial incentives to alter the composition 
     of Western Sahara's population.
       Sahrawi women face much of the same cultural and legal 
     discrimination as Moroccan women. Conditions are generally 
     worse for women living in rural areas, where poverty and 
     illiteracy rates are higher.