Moroccan Truth Commissioner Driss Benzekri dies
On Sunday evening, Driss Benzekri passed away in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Rabat, Morocco. He had been having complications from stomach cancer. Benzekri -57 year old -headed the Moroccan Truth Commission (l’Instance équité et reconciliation or IEC) that examined four decades of human rights abuses under King Hassan II.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Driss Benzekri was a political prisoner himself. He was imprisoned 17 years for being a Marxist. After liberation in 1991, Benzekri read International Law at Essex University in the UK. In 2004, he led the Equity and Reconciliation Committee (IEC). It was the first truth-seeking body in the Arab world. It organised public televised hearings. They tried to break a habit of silence backed by years of fear.
Benzekri investigated 16.000 victim files. His final report determined that between independence in 1956 and the end of Hassan's reign in 1999, 592 people were killed. 9,280 victims were entitled to payments. Then, IEC looked for out of court compensation for such Human Rights abuses.
The IEC has been praised for its meaningful contribution to political librealization in Morocco. But it was also criticised by human rights groups for not naming perpetrators of abuse so they could be prosecuted. They argued IEC promoted a process of self-amnesty of those responsible for what happened. Only last year, IEC issued a report naming those it judged perpetrators of abuses. Furthermore, it also made meaningful recommendations for reforms to prevent further human rights violations. Abolition of the death penalty is one of them.
Human rights groups worried the commission's efforts may be undone if government fails to accomplish the recommended reforms. Eighteen months have alreaduy passed since report was published.