Moroccan protesters denounce interference with rights groups

Rabat (AFP) - Hundreds of Moroccans rallied Sunday outside the country's parliament to protest alleged government interference in the work of independent human rights groups.

"We have a right to human rights!" protesters chanted outside the parliament building in Rabat, an AFP reporter said.

Most of the protesters were members of the independent Moroccan Association of Human Rights (AMDH), which has been denouncing the government for imposing a "systematic ban" of its activities.

"There must be an end to these rising prohibitions," AMDH president Ahmed el Haij told AFP.

In July, Interior Minister Mohamed Hassad accused local groups he did not name of undermining the country's fight against terrorism through their criticism of its rights record.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch charged that Morocco had blocked more than 15 meetings of the AMDH since around the time Hassad made his allegations.

"The authorities have also denied venues for events planned by the Moroccan League for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and other organisations," HRW said in a statement on November 7.

"Morocco should stop arbitrarily impeding the peaceful activities of the country's independent human rights groups and allow them to operate freely," it said.

Government spokesman Mustapha Khalfi has denied any "offensive against human rights groups," pointing out that NGOs had organised more than 4,000 events in Morocco this year.

Sunday's protests came as Morocco is set to host the World Forum on Human Rights later this month.