Press Conference in Rabat, 8-10-2012
We are giving this press conference to explain our campaign, share with you what happened and to correct some false statements of both the Moroccan and the Dutch government. The Moroccan government violated several human rights and the International convention of the Sea.
A lot of people have asked us why we worked with MALI and not with for example AMLAC or other women’s NGO’s. Women on waves always work with youth groups that are very courageous and putting everything at risk to actually do something to change society and not just talk about it. In MALI we found such a courageous partner and it is a great pleasure to work with them. We are very impressed with their courage.
I would now first like to address some false statements by the Moroccan government that the ship in the harbor was not the actual abortion ship. And the false statement from the Dutch government that women on waves is not allowed to provide the abortion pill in international waters. As proof I now show you footage from the Spanish news agence RTVE from the campaign in Spain 4 years ago.
As you can see, we used the same ship as here in Morocco and we provide medical abortions to women.
So this is what happened on Thursday in Smir:
The day of the expected arrival of the ship, the Moroccan authorities blocked the entrance of the harbor. Neither the crew of Women on Waves, nor journalists or the public were able to enter the harbor. Moreover, a big marine ship was noticed sailing in front of the harbor. At the entrance of the harbor the police and local authorities protected aggressive anti-abortion protesters who were planted there by the government, according to local resources.
Through the back exit from a hotel the Women on Waves and MALI activists, some journalists, and the Dutch parliamentarian Liesbeth van Tongeren were able to enter the harbor. At that moment the ship raised flags and banners and sailing through the harbor. Women on Waves had been blocked by warships during the campaign in Portual in 2004, which is why we developed this strategy to anticipate this possible reaction from the government.
After the yacht exposed its identity as the Women on Waves abortion ship, the Moroccan authorities searched the ship, confiscated the banners, and the captains were informed that they had to leave the harbor. When the captains asked for the lawyer, this was refused and they were instructed to leave even though nothing incriminating was found and no laws were broken. There was an overwhelming amount of police and secret service. The ship was escorted out from the harbor by the navy.
The reaction of the Moroccan Government against Women on Waves and MALI violated the following laws and international conventions:
Morocco violated the freedom of expression and its own laws by sealing the ship and forcing it to leave the harbor again under marine escort. In the case of Portugal we were able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled that Portugal violated our right to freedom of expression. Unfortunately, Morocco is not part of such an independent institution.
1- Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees the Right to freedom of expression.
Article 1 of the Moroccan Nationality Code states that ratified international treaties and laws take priority over internal laws in the county.
“Sources of law in terms of nationality: Provisions concerning Moroccan nationality are determined by law and eventually by ratified and published international treaties or agreements. Provisions of ratified and published treaties or international agreements take precedence over internal laws”
2- Article 13 of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
3- Article 19 of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
On 04/02/2009, the European court of Human Rights held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) when the Portuguese authorities decided to prohibit the ship Borndiep, which had been chartered with a view to staging activities promoting the decriminalisation of abortion, from entering Portuguese territorial waters.
4- Article 20 of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
In its Judgement No. 1413 of 23 May 2007, the Casablanca Appeal Court cited the above-mentioned Supreme Court judgement in support of its ruling, noting “that the international convention constitutes a special norm that has primacy over domestic law - specifically, in the instant case, the Personal Status Code and the Family Code, which have the status of a general norm - in accordance with the principle of the primacy of such conventions, which was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in its Judgement No. 754 of 19 May 1999”.
5- Morocco also violated Section 3 of the United nations convention on the laws of the sea
SECTION 3. INNOCENT PASSAGE IN THE TERRITORIAL SEA
SUBSECTION A. RULES APPLICABLE TO ALL SHIPS
Right of innocent passage
Subject to this Convention, ships of all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea.
Meaning of passage
1. Passage means navigation through the territorial sea for the purpose of:
(a) traversing that sea without entering internal waters or calling at a roadstead or port facility outside internal waters; or
(b) proceeding to or from internal waters or a call at such roadstead or port facility.
2. Passage shall be continuous and expeditious. However, passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only in so far as the same are incidental to ordinary navigation or are rendered necessary by force majeure or distress or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in danger or distress.
Meaning of innocent passage
1. Passage is innocent so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State. Such passage shall take place in conformity with this Convention and with other rules of international law.
2. Passage of a foreign ship shall be considered to be prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State if in the territorial sea it engages in any of the following activities:
(a) any threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of the coastal State, or in any other manner in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations;
(b) any exercise or practice with weapons of any kind;
(c) any act aimed at collecting information to the prejudice of the defence or security of the coastal State;
(d) any act of propaganda aimed at affecting the defence or security of the coastal State;
(e) the launching, landing or taking on board of any aircraft;
(f) the launching, landing or taking on board of any military device;
(g) the loading or unloading of any commodity, currency or person contrary to the customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations of the coastal State;
(h) any act of wilful and serious pollution contrary to this Convention;
(i) any fishing activities;
(j) the carrying out of research or survey activities;
(k) any act aimed at interfering with any systems of communication or any other facilities or installations of the coastal State;
(l) any other activity not having a direct bearing on passage.