Morocco is toughening up its laws to prevent citizens from leaving the country to join foreign terrorist groups.
A Moroccan parliamentary commission on Wednesday (December 14th) agreed to impose 5-15 year prison sentences on citizens attempting to join Daesh jihadists in Syria or Iraq,
Having already strengthened laws against money laundering, the government has been working on legislation to criminalise participation in the Islamic State (ISIS) and other foreign terror organisations.
Parliament last month transferred the bill to the National Human Rights Council (CNDH) for review.
The council also recommended that legislators add a provision to the draft to classify the recruitment of children by terror groups as an aggravating factor.
Furthermore, the council called on the government to consider introducing alternative sentences and court supervision measures, such as electronic tagging, to punish attempts to join terrorist groups and/or undertake foreign training.
The bill amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow any Moroccan within the country or abroad, as well as any foreign national in Morocco, to be prosecuted for terrorist offences committed outside Morocco.
"It is essential to crack down on terrorism by strengthening the country's laws," said Mohamed Ben Abdessadak, an MP representing the Party of Justice and Development.
Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid told MPs that the purpose of criminalising the act of travelling to join terrorist entities abroad was to protect young Moroccans and maintain national security.
The government was also targeting propaganda intended to recruit young Moroccans and encourage them to wage jihad, the minister added.
Many young Moroccans have already been indoctrinated.
The justice minister said that of the 1,212 Moroccans who had joined the Islamic State (ISIS), 147 had returned home.
Given the large number of Moroccan fighters, as well as the number of cells dismantled in the kingdom in recent months, new legislation to combat the terrorist threat is imperative, Ramid said.
Morocco has no option but to toughen its counter-terrorism laws, especially since the country is a target, political analyst Jamal Farhani said. But the legislation must respect human rights and avoid falling into the trap of incriminating innocent people, he added.
Rahma Chatibi, a sociologist, argued that the government should do more than merely strengthen the law in its efforts to curb terrorism.
"We need to tackle the causes that spur young people to join the ranks of fighters," she told Magharebia.
"Some studies have shown that the main causes that motivate them to go and fight alongside jihadists in Iraq and Syria are social in nature and not related to religion, contrary to what one might think," she said.
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