With its official report due out in the spring, the Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) needs to act fast. After its inaugural hearing on 21-22 December in Rabat, the Commission is starting to fan out its public sessions in those regions most affected by the repression during the "years of lead".
On Saturday 29 January, the IER convened a hearing in Figuig, a small town of 8000 inhabitants in south-east Morocco, near the Algerian border. The Commission was set up by a royal "dahir" to investigate serious human rights abuses committed by the Moroccan state between 1956 and 1999, covering the period from independence to Mohammed IV's accession to the throne (see IJT 15). The first hearings in Rabat could be seen as a showcase for the Commission's work. In the public gallery, a hand-picked selection of representatives from political parties, trades unions and non-governmental organisations witnessed an unusually public ritual: two four-and-a-half hour hearings broadcast live on Moroccan public television that was widely followed by the population.