Morocco to act on atrocities probe

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MOROCCO'S King Mohammed VI has ordered the release of a report probing three decades of rights abuses, including killings and torture, while his human rights panel called on the state to apologise and end impunity.

The king has "taken note of the nature of the final report of the Equity and Reconciliation Panel (IER) and commanded that it be published and brought to the knowledge of the people," a palace statement in the north African kingdom said.

The IER, a 17-member independent panel set up by the king in November 2003 to probe reports of killings, disappearances, torture and other serious abuses between 1960 and 1999, the reign of his father Hassan II, meanwhile urged the state to apologise and develop a "national strategy against impunity".

"We intend to give a very warm welcome to the different recommendations made in this report," government spokesman Nabil Benabdellah said. "We consider the report to bear witness of the deep desire of His Majesty the King and his government to turn a page in our history."

The king's decision to set up such a commission, which reported back to him last month after a series of investigations and opening mass graves around the country, including inside the notorious Tazmamart prison in the south, was the first of its kind in the Arab world.

Hundreds of families had reported atrocities and disappearance during what were known as the "leaden years", when Hassan II was a staunch ally of the west but maintained power at home surrounded by hardline security and interior ministers and secret services while keeping a multi-party system going.

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