A Moroccan appeals court has increased the jail sentences of three men convicted of the repeated rape of an 11-year-old girl, a case that sparked public outrage. The victim, who is now 12 years old, had been raped repeatedly over several months by the three men. The lower court had previously sentenced one of the attackers to two years in prison, and the others to 18 months each, a decision that sparked widespread condemnation in the North African country.
In the recent ruling, the appeals court in Rabat sentenced one of the attackers to 20 years in prison, while the other two received a sentence of 10 years each. Although the lawyers for the victim had appealed for a maximum sentence of 30 years, they expressed satisfaction with the ruling, which they said delivered justice to the victim. However, they expressed concern over the shorter sentence given to two of the attackers and were considering a further appeal to the Court of Cassation after consulting with the victim’s family.
The appeals court also ordered the three men to pay damages totaling 140,000 dirhams (nearly $14,000) instead of the 50,000 dirhams ordered by the lower court. The defendants were charged with “misappropriation of a minor” and “indecent assault on a minor with violence,” but the prosecution requested that “rape” be added to the charges, a request which was rejected by the judge.
During the hearing, the victim and a witness, who was also a minor, testified in private, citing child protection concerns. The public gallery was packed, and the victim, accompanied by her grandmother and father, appeared frail and silent.
One of the men was confronted with a DNA test proving that he was the father of a now 13-month-old child born to the girl. When asked how this happened, he repeatedly said, “I don’t know.”
The case has caused uproar in Morocco, and a petition condemning the sentences handed down in the original trial has amassed tens of thousands of signatures. Women’s rights groups, such as the Jossour Forum of Moroccan Women and the National Solidarity for Women’s Rights (INSAF), have been following the girl’s case closely and advocating for justice to be served.
Although the recent decision has been seen as a step towards justice for the victim, it also highlights the ongoing issue of sexual violence against minors in Morocco and the need for stricter penalties and better protection for victims.