SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 29, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):University of Mohammed V-Rabat

Region & Country:Northern Africa | Morocco

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 29, 2020, authorities reportedly detained Maati Monjib, a Moroccan professor of history, journalist and the head of the Ibn Rushd Institute for Investigative Journalism, which provides training to Moroccan journalists. The arrest was one of a string of actions targeting professor Monjib over the past several years.

In October 2015, Professor Monjib, an outspoken advocate in favor of freedom of expression and against corruption, was subjected to a restriction on academic travel in connection with allegations that he had “tarnished the country’s image abroad.” A few weeks later, he was charged with “threatening the internal security of the state.” (See report). The charges appeared to relate to Professor Monjib’s receipt, along with a group of other activists, of foreign funds to finance pro-democracy workshops. Although prosecutors claimed that Professor Monjib had been guilty of financial impropriety, the case against him was reportedly postponed more than twenty times over the course of five years, without resolution. 

On December 29, Professor Monjib was sitting at a restaurant near his home, when plainclothes police officers took him into custody. In the months preceding his arrest, Professor Monjib, along with four of his relatives, had reportedly been summoned for interrogation multiple times. Although media sources and human rights groups report that Professor Monjib was arrested for alleged financial improprieties —  suggesting that the new arrest may relate to the facts underlying his 2015 charges — it is not clear as of this report whether Professor Monjib has been charged with a crime, or, what factual bases exist to support his arrest. 

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the detention of a scholar and activist, in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from retaliating against such conduct. Where a legal basis exists for detention or prosecution, such actions must be transparent and supported by evidence, and must comply with international human rights and due process standards. In addition to the harm to the immediate individual, detentions intended to punish nonviolent expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On January 27, the Court of First Instance in Rabat, Morocco convicted Maati Monjib of fraud and endangering state security. He was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 dirhams (USD $1,116).