Who does Omran justice?
In December 21st, 2016, and amid dubious media and social silence, a court made its ruling on the case of Omran. The verdict had caused a lot of anger.
Omran went missing one night in one of Casablanca’s neighbourhoods. After extended search, police found him buried alive, in a coma. He was revived hours later, and the police arrested the 16 years old perpetrator, who raped the child and buried him to conceal his crime.
Many considered the 5 years in prison penalty to be unfair, and does not do justice to Omran, who’s still under close medical and mental watch.
In a phone call with Dune Voices, Omran’s father Najieb stated his dissatisfaction with the court’s decision “We are not satisfied with the verdict at all. We were all shocked. Just yesterday, we had to operate on Omran’s leg. This verdict does not put off our resentment. We are still suffering from what happened to our son, the violation and the attempted murder. We are still suffering with him as a family, our entire life turned upside down because of what happened.”
Najieb goes silent for a few seconds trying to supress his tears, then he carries on to say “Law has not done us justice. We will appeal, we won’t let it go. 5 years are too short, I know we can’t go back in time, but we want justice, we want to protect Omran and other children from these monsters. We won’t give up, we’ll keep trying”.
Fatima, mother of another child rape victim from Fnideq, north west of Morocco. She expressed her solidarity with Omran’s family in a phone call with Dune Voices. Fatima also expressed her resentment at Moroccan law; “They’ve done Omran injustice, as they have done my child. I don’t have faith in judiciary anymore”. The mother of “Fnideq Child” is bitter because the rapist was cleared of accusations, despite convicting evidence. The same suspected had been convicted in a similar case before, and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The victim’s mother says her child “went to the grocery to buy eggs, but he was raped by the shopkeeper. He was taken to Tétouan hospital, where the medical report confirmed the sexual assault”. A week later the child was examined by a psychologist, who confirmed that the child is suffering nocturnal enuresis, drooling, nightmares, fugue and difficulties in concentration as a result of the sexual assault.
In a recent report on “Sexual Abuse of Children”, the Moroccan Human Rights Association revealed that a total of 1012 children were victims of sexual assaults in 2016. 626 of those children were boys. 386 were girls. In 2015, the figure was 954. This suggests that assaults are increasing.
According to the same report, children between 5 and 14 are the main victim of these assaults. 75% of the time, perpetrators are relatives of children. 80% of all children abuse instances in Morocco, are of sexual nature.
Human rights activists Amina Alshafi’i points out the lack of psychological and anthropological studies made on the subject, and the absence of monitoring mechanisms. Amina says “many factors add up together to cause this increase in sexual assaults against children. Some of those factors are lack of awareness within families, schools, and the media”.
The human rights activist continues to say that “the role of organisations working on the subject has also receded in comparison to last year. The role teachers play in Moroccan schools today, is different from that in the 70’s for example. Crimes against children go beyond rape; children are being sold and murdered.
Does law have a say?
The phrases “sexual assaults against children” or “Sexual abuse of children” does not occur in Moroccan criminal law. The law however, states that rape, or attempted rape of children under the age of 18 is punishable with 10 to 20 years in prison, according to article 486. If the perpetrator is a relative or a guardian of the child, then the penalty is 20 to 30 years in prison according to article 487. If a girl’s hymen is damaged as a result of the assault, then the penalty is 20 to 30 years in prison.
In a statement to Dune Voices, member of Rabat committee, lawyer Alsharqawi Mohammad said that “the majority of rulings made in cases related to sexual assaults on children, have not fully engaged article 486 in Moroccan criminal law. Penalties have generally ranged between 1 to 4 years in prison, and in some cases perpetrator were cleared of charges due to lack of supporting evidence as the court saw.”
Najat Anwar, human rights activist, and head of “Don’t touch my child” organisation, said in a statement to Dune Voices that “legal loopholes are abused. For years, we’ve been trying to aid these children and pursue their rights, and to provide them with psychological support, but unfortunately, Moroccan law has not been on our side. Crimes are on a steady rise, our organisation has been blowing whistles, but does anyone listen?”
Psychiatrist Halima Almarabti on the other hand says “prison should not be the perpetrator’s punishment when they’re arrested. They need care themselves. Perpetrators, a lot of the times, had suffered similar abuses themselves, and had not been able to address their own issues. And they try to overcome their issue by becoming the villain rather than the victim, to bring a sort of self-accomplished justice.”
“This is the main cause” adds Almarabti, “but it’s not the only one. Physical abuse is another reason. Social conditions of families, separated parents, lack of emotional care are also reasons.”
Studies have shown that one third of children who were victims to sexual abuse, become sexual perpetrators themselves as teenagers and adults.