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Village of Hope Orphanage Appeal Dismissed by Moroccan Court

Disheartening News for Foster Parents Awaiting their Return

Washington, D.C. (October 22, 2010) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Moroccan courts are on the verge of dismissing the appeal of Village of Hope (VOH) orphanage staff who were expelled from the country on allegations of proselytism. The courts are effectively saying the appellants have no legal standing to appeal on behalf of VOH since VOH was forced to relinquish all control of the orphanage after it was seized by the Moroccan government.

Earlier this year, the Moroccan government expelled 16 foster parents and foreign national staff from the VOH orphanage near Ain Leuh, Morocco. Accused of proselytizing, the staff was deported from the country within hours after being notified of the eviction. The staff said they were not granted due process and have been fighting the case on that basis in Moroccan courts.

On August 3, the Tribunal de Premiere instance in Meknes ruled that VOH no longer represented the expelled foster parents and staffers in Moroccan courts (verdict no. 1069-9-201) since the government has disbanded the organization in the country. The judgment was made in the absence of any legal representative from VOH and without informing any member of the VOH association. The ruling came as a surprise to VOH’s legal representatives who were only recently informed of the decision during proceedings at the Rabat Administrative Court. “These deportees shouldn’t have been targeted for deportation simply because of their beliefs.  We, as their legal counsel, were never even informed about this latest decision until the government sprung it on us at Rabat.  Incredibly, the government is now challenging us as not having standing to bring the claim for VOH because the orphanage is now under government management and all of the deportees have been dismissed,” Alliance Defense Fund attorney Roger Kiska told ICC.

The Moroccan government holds to its position that VOH staff is guilty of all accusations against them, namely proselytizing. However, many believe that allegations of proselytizing are merely government justification for a broader crackdown against Christians in Morocco. “None of the deportees were formally charged with proselytism. It has just been an excuse used by the Moroccan authorities who say they know the deportees were guilty and that is enough for them to be barred from the country,” said Kiska.

The court has postponed the announcement of its final decision; however, the ruling seems to be influenced by the Moroccan government and dampens the hopes of staff looking to return.  “It appears Morocco can use its legal system to take over the management and assets of an NGO without presenting evidence or allowing access to the courts by the accused to defend themselves. In the case of VOH, we have lost the right to care for 33 precious children and had well over $1,000,000 of assets seized,” VOH foster parent Colin Dickinson told ICC.

Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Since the VOH ruling impacted the largest group of expelled foreign nationals, it casts a dark shadow over the cases of all the foreign nationals expelled from Morocco seeking basic due process rights to a hearing.  The ruling verdict reflects badly on the values and basic fairness of the Moroccan justice system and courts, being not only an injustice to the VOH staffers but also callous disregard of the interests of the 33 children who know VOH as their only family.  Human rights in Morocco continue to suffer significant setbacks.”

For interviews, contact Aidan Clay, Regional Manager for the Middle East: [email protected]