rapport sur le sahara occidental
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rapport sur le sahara occidental

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17 Pages


ACTING Morocco’s Human Rights Violations in Western Sahara WITH and the Silence of the International Community IMPUNITY Content Preface5 6 Executive Summary Introduction7 Timeline8 10 Conceptual framework and methodology A human rights history of the Occupied Territories11 Human rights abuses in Western Sahara since April 201414 15 Te case of Mahfouda Lefkir 17 Te arbitrary detention and rape of Lahweij Rguibano MINURSO’s “neutrality,” arbitrary detention and torture20 Concluding remarks22 23 Recommendations Annex: Human rights violations in Western Sahara24 Acknowledgements26 26 Sources written by: Joanna Christian Allan Hamza Lakhal cover photos: Joanna Christian Allan Equipe Media Bartek Sabela layout & illustrations: Hans Marius Midtgarden hm@midtgarden.com publisher: SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund support: Norad you are alloud to: ◊ Share – copy, distribute & spread the work ◊ Rewrite – remix & build on the work Western Sahara desert. 1Photo: Ammar Hassan/Flickr CCPublished April 2015 Photo: SAIH Preface Tis year marks the 40th anniversary of Morocco’s dreadful occupation of Western Sahara. For decades, the occupiers have oppressed the Saharawi people and exploited their natural resources. Tis report aims to shed light on the immense sufering taking place in Africa’s last colony. SAIH has been engaged in the struggle for a free Western Sahara for 20 years.



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Published 14 April 2015
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Morocco’s Human Rights Violations in Western Sahara

and the Silence of the International Community
6 Executive Summary
10 Conceptual framework and methodology
A human rights history of the Occupied Territories11
Human rights abuses in Western Sahara since April 201414
15 Te case of Mahfouda Lefkir
17 Te arbitrary detention and rape of Lahweij Rguibano
MINURSO’s “neutrality,” arbitrary detention and torture20
Concluding remarks22
23 Recommendations
Annex: Human rights violations in Western Sahara24
26 Sources
written by:
Joanna Christian Allan
Hamza Lakhal
cover photos:
Joanna Christian Allan
Equipe Media
Bartek Sabela
layout & illustrations:
Hans Marius Midtgarden
SAIH – Norwegian Students’ and Academics’
International Assistance Fund
you are alloud to:
◊ Share – copy, distribute & spread the work
◊ Rewrite – remix & build on the work
Western Sahara desert.
1Photo: Ammar Hassan/Flickr CCPublished April 2015Photo: SAIH
Tis year marks the 40th anniversary of Morocco’s dreadful occupation of Western Sahara. For
decades, the occupiers have oppressed the Saharawi people and exploited their natural resources.
Tis report aims to shed light on the immense sufering taking place in Africa’s last colony.
SAIH has been engaged in the struggle for a free Western Sahara for 20 years. In March 2015,
we visited the Occupied Territories and met with Saharawi human rights activists. Tey told us
similar stories to the ones you are about to read. Stories about torture, rape, abductions, murder
and imprisonment. Stories of a people that has been protesting peacefully for the past 24 years
against deliberate marginalisation, unemployment and abuses by the Moroccan authorities.
Stories that the Moroccan government does not want the world to know about.
Te Moroccan authorities keep these stories from getting out by imposing an information
blockade through extensive and constant police surveillance of Saharawis in the Occupied Territories.
Tis blockade even extends into the United Nations, whose peacekeeping mission MINURSO
is the only UN mission created since the 1970s which has not been given a mandate to monitor
and report human rights violations. Te defciency in the mandate is largely a result of France’s
position in the Security Council, which afords France, Morocco’s main ally, the power of veto to
efciently block the introduction of human rights monitoring and reporting.
For most people, the decolonisation of Africa belongs to the history books. Yet for the Saharawi
people, this is not something of the past. We hope that you, the reader of this report, agree with us
that 40 years of occupation is enough.
We demand that:
◊ Te United Nations’ MINURSO mission must be allowed to report on human rights
violations in Western Sahara through the inclusion of human rights monitoring in its mandate.
◊ Te long promised self-determination referendum on Western
Sahara’s independence must be implemented.
◊ Universities in Norway must refrain from cooperating with companies engaged
in unlawful activities in Western Sahara.
Jørn Wichne Pedersen
Emilie Larsen Ørneseidet
Kristofer Kinge
4Photo: UN, Erik Schneider
Executive Summary Introduction
Western Sahara, partially occupied by also a problem, as the case of Mohammed Lamin 2015 will mark the fortieth year of Morocco’s occupation of its neighbour Western Sahara.
Morocco, is the last colony in Africa. While the Haidala shows. He died after being stabbed in Te UN has had a presence in the territory since 1991. Te UN Mission to Western Sahara
Saharawi people’s right to self-determinatio the necn k by settlers with a pair of scissors. (MINURSO) was tasked with holding a self-determination referendum for the people of the
is recognised by the UN, the International Torture is used systematically to extract territory, the Saharawis. Today, MINURSO has not only failed to conduct the referendum but
Court of Justice and the African Union, no confessions, and judges not only fail to inves- it has also, quite literally, stood by and watched whilst Saharawis are harassed, beaten, raped,
2country in the world recognises Morocco’s tigate allegations that statements have been tortured, disappear and eed ven murdered for their pro-independence opinions, or work fghting
sovereignty over Western Sahara. Despite this, extr acted under torture, but also habitually for the respect of human rights.
the international community has so far loo accept said statements in courked t. Tis report have
As a UN peacekeeping mission, MINURSO involve sporadic and short-term visits to the
on indiferently whilst Morocco plunders the identifed 55 Saharawis claiming to have been
is extremely unusual in that it has no mandate territory by UN experts, and Morocco’s own
territory and brutalises its people. subject to torture since April 2014, including
to monitor human rights. Whilst some permahuman r- ights framework and mechanisms.
Tis report is made from a study of all seven children. Te fates of hundreds of
disapnent members of the UN Security Council Te report also takes an in-depth look at
claims of human rights violations committed in peared S aharawis remain unaccounted for, whilst
have fought for human rights to be monitor human red ights abuses committed since the last
Western Sahara in the period from April 1, 2014politic al prisoners reportedly remain behind bars
by MINURSO, Morocco has loyal allies such UN vote on renewing MINURSO’s mandate
to March 1, 2015. Te claims origin from inter living in degr- ading and inhumane conditions.
as France, which has consistently used its in April 2014. Tis section is complemented
national human rights associations, Saharawi At the same time, the Saharawi population
power of veto to block such an initiative. Tis by an annex, which details all credible reports
human rights groups and local Saharawi media is exper iencing repression of their culture as
report focuses on human rights violations in of abuses committed between 1 April 2014
networks. Te study fnds 163 alleged eventsw ell as discrimination in the education and
Western Sahara since April 2014, when the and 1 March 2015. It concludes with
recomof human rights abuse. 256 diferent cases of emplo yment felds. In July 2014, the main
UN last rejected the inclusion of human rights mendations to the government of Norway, the
human rights have been identifed, involvingmosque used b y Saharawis was closed down
monitoring in Western Sahara. We argue that international community and universities.
283 named victims. Te UN has a peacekeeping by Moroccan authorities. Landmines continue
independent, impartial, comprehensive and Tis report is published on behalf of the
mission in Western Sahara known as the to endanger the lives of shepherds, with two
sustained monitoring of human rights is vital. Nor wegian Students’ and Academics’
InternaUnited Nations Mission for the Referendum Saharawi deaths since April 2014 in occupied
If MINURSO is to be more than just an idle tional Assistance Fund (SAIH), an organisation
in Western Sahara (MINURSO). It is a very Western Sahara. Unscrupulous multinationals
bystander to gross abuses, it needs, in April that advocates for the right to education globally.
unusual peacekeeping mission in that it has no and foreign governments are taking advantage
2015, a mandate to monitor human rights. Te report forms part of SAIH’s wider 2015
mandate to monitor human rights. Tereforof the dire, e situation to enter into agreements
Tis report outlines the background to the “Western Sahara: 40 years is long enough” campaign
Morocco is able to commit human rights with the Moroccan government to plunder
Western Sahara confict. It gives a history of for the inclusion of human rights monitoring in
abuses with impunity. Each April, the UN votes the vast natural resources of the territory. Two
human rights abuses in Western Sahara, whic MI h NURSO´s mandate, and for the Norwegian
on the renewal of MINURSO’s mandate. It has such companies are British Cairn Energy and
includes a discussion of alternatives to a human government to more actively support
self-deterso far failed to vote in favour of incorporUS Kosmos Energating y, who began exploratory
rights monitoring mandate for MINURSO.minatio n for the Saharawi people.
human rights monitoring into MINURSO’s oil drilling of the coast of Western Sahara in
Tese are UN Special procedures, which
competencies. Tis report focuses on abuses December 2014. Saharawis protesting
peacecommitted in Western Sahara since April fully against these companies have sufered
2014, when human rights monitoring was last police brutality. Indeed, there have been 51
rejected by the UN. reports of Moroccan authorities using violence
Te report fnds that Saharawis who expressagainst S aharawis since April 2014.
pro-independence views, who work on human Te continued gross human rights violations
rights activities, or who defend the territor co ymmitted in occupied ’s Western Sahara illustrate
natural resources against plunder continue to the total ina dequacy of Morocco’s national
face a particular pattern of harassment, politichuman r al ights framework. Whilst UN Special
imprisonment and judicial abuse. Tey are Procedures, which involve short and infrequent
arrested, often violently and without explanatio visits b ny UN r ights experts to Western Sahara,
as to the reason for their arrest, held incommare imporuni- tant, they are insufcient. A renewed
cado in secret detention centres or police statio mandate fns, or MINURSO, the UN Mission to
or taken to rural areas and tortured and of the terrten itory, to provide independent, impartial,
raped. Indeed, since April 2014, three Saharawiscompr ehensive and sustained human rights
have died in detention under suspicious circum mo -nitoring is vital if the abuses sufered by the
stances. A fourth Saharawi died six days after heSaharawi people ar e to be curbed.
was released from detention. Settler violence is
Two people carrying water at
Dakhla Refugee Ramp, Algeria.
6 7El Aaiun
Photo: Bartek Sabela
Background to the confict
Western Sahara is the UN Decolonisation Committee’s last open African fle. In 1975,
Spain sold of its former colony to Morocco and Mauritania. A war ensued between the
Saharawi guerrilla movement (the POLISARIO) and Morocco and Mauritania. Tens of
thousands of Saharawi refugees fed their homes and formed camps in Algeria. A Moroccan-
3constructed military wall, the longest active one of its kind in the w , divides the orld
Moroccan- occupied part of Western Sahara from the regions liberated by the POLISARIO.
Te UN brokered a ceasefre in 1991. MINURSO was tasked with organizing a referendum
for the Saharawis. However, Morocco has made this impossible. As the stalemate continues,
4165,000 Saharawi refugees continue to live in the camps in Algeria. Meanwhile, on the other
side of the wall, tens of thousands of Saharawis live under a Moroccan occupation.
1884 1963 1969 1970 1973 1974 1975 1976
Spain begins its colonisation Te UN places Western Te Vanguard Organisation 5000 Saharawis head to Te POLISARIO (Popular august: Spain begins october 16th:Te ICJ
of Western Sahara. Sahara on its list of for the Liberation of the Zemla square to demand Front for the Liberation of preparations for a referendum issues its opinio n: there february 26th:S pain
non-self-governing territor Saharies a, also known as independence. Te Spanish Saguia el Hamra and Rio de on self-determination for the wer e no ties of territorial ofcially leaves the territory
and begins to pressure Spain Liberation Front, is formed legion open fre. Bassiri is Oro) is formed with the aim Saharawi people. sovereignty between Westerof n Western Sahara, creating a
to decolonise. by Mohammed Sidi Brahim forcibly disappeared. of achieving independence. Sahara and Morocco or political vacuum.
december: Morocco claims
Bassiri. Mauritania. Te referendum
that before Spanish coloniza- february 27th:T o fll
should go ahead.
tion, Western Sahara formed this vacuum, the Saharawi
part of its territory. It seeks no vember: Te “Green state-in-exile, the Saharawi
the opinion of the Interna-March” advances on Western Arab Democratic Republic
tional Court of Justice (ICJ). Sahara. War ensues between (SADR) is proclaimed by the
POLISARIO and Morocco POLISARIO in the liberated
may: A UN Mission
and Mauritania. zone of Western Sahara.
of Enquiry fnds “an
overwhelming consensus”
for independence and
widespread support for the
recommends that the referendum
go ahead.
1979 1981–1991 1991 1991–2015 1999 2005 2010 2015
POLISARIO and MauritaniaMor occo constructs the Te UN brokers a ceasefre A stalemate ensues. Morocco Te frst intifada erupts in the Te seco nd intifada explodes, Te Gdeim Izik c amp is Te diplomatic situation
make peace and Maur longest active military wall in between POLISARIO and continuously blocks the Occupied Territories, in whic with demands this time h constructed in the desert near remains in deadlock. Moroccan
recognises the SADR. the world with Saudi, FrencMorh, occo. Te parties agreed referendum process. Saharawis demand human focusing on independence. El Aaiún city. Tousands violations of Saharawi human
Israeli and US backing. to a self-determination and socio-economic rights. of Saharawis live there rights abound.
referendum on independence protesting for socioeconomic
for the Saharawis, to be rights and sovereignty over
organised by MINURSO. natural resources.
8 9UN Photo, Erik Schneider.
Conceptual framework and A human rights history of
methodology the Occupied Territories
Te understanding of human rights used in this report draws on international human rights In 1990, Morocco created the Consultative The war years
law, which protects individuals from state violations of their internationally recognized rights. Council for Human Rights (CCDH) and
When Morocco and Mauritania invaded People, “rights-holders,” have human rights as individuals, rather than as citizens of a particular in 1991, appointed its frst ever Minister
Western Sahara, those Saharawis that were able state, and states, “duty-bearers,” have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfl human rights. Te 17for Human Rights. Whilst, by the early
to fed their homes for the desert of neigh-international community sees violations of human rights as of international, rather than of purely nineties, there were few forced disappearances
bouring Algeria. As they did so, the Moroccan domestic, concern. A series of customary laws, declarations, binding instruments and mechanisms of Moroccan political dissidents, as Amnesty
air force resorted to napalming civilian refugee exists at an international level to support the international community to hold states to account. International points out “[f ]or Saharawis,
5 encampments on at least four occasio ns.Similar conventions, commissions and courts exist at the Afr ican level. “disappearance,” for a few weeks or months or
Morocco and Mauritania took hold of the main Tis report draws on interviews, which took place between April 2014 and February 2015 in indefnitely, [still] seems to have been used as the
Saharawi urban centres and began to terrorize Western Sahara, Morocco and Spain, with Saharawi survivors of human rights abuses. It also 18“normal” punishment”.
the local population. Tose Saharawis suspected makes use of research by international human rights organisations, reports by UN Special
Proceof links with the POLISARIO were rounded dures, national parliamentary and foreign citizen delegations to occupied Western Sahara, and The end of the “Years of Lead”?up and imprisoned, often accompanied by their the work of Saharawi human rights and media groups. A total of 163 events where human rights
8 9entire famil incy, luding children. Others who By 1993, the so-called “Years of Lead,” the were alleged violated have been collected, analysed and systematised. All these events are collected
had no suspected links with the POLISARIO period that marked the peak of human rights in an online annex to this report, found on www.saih.no. Each event are associated with a larger
were reportedly selected at random to receive violations for political dissidents, was over for number of violations. For example, the frst event in the online database is the arbitrary detention
the same treatment, in order, it has been argued,Morocc ans. Some sections of the Moroccan and subsequent trial (two abuses) of Almoujahid Mayara, Hajoub Khatari, Larabas Sleima (3 named
to create a climate of fear amongst the popu-press and Moroccan human rights groups victims). Te second event, a violently repressed protest, involving 20 named victims, although the
10 19lation. Detained Saharawis sufered violence were beginning to speak out as early as 1990 actual number of victims may well have been much larger. Te claims of violations origin from
and torture (several testimonies highlight about the disappearances of Moroccans in international human rights organistations, Saharawi solidarity groups and media groups.
that this treatment was extended to pregnant the seventies and eighties. Yet, the topic of It is important to stress that these are all allegations. Tey have been cross-checked as much
11women and even babies) and indeed many Western Sahara was too dangerous to touch. as possible, but they remain allegations. And this is the entire point. Only an independent and
were tortured to death or died soon after their Just as was the case for criticising the King, permanent mechanism can seriously assess the veracity o these claims.
release due to their injuries. referring to the actions of the Moroccan state Te scope of this report is limited to human rights abuses committed against Saharawis in
in Western Sahara in critical terms carried the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, and against Saharawis detained and imprisoned in Morocco.
risk of serious retributions. As such, Moroccan It does not cover the part of Western Sahara controlled by POLISARIO, or the POLISA- The lead up to the ceasefre
NGOs maintained silence over the continued RIO-run refugee camps in Algeria. Human Rights Watch, however, has recently published an In 1987, the UN visited the territory in
206 disappearances of Saharawis. Indeed, whilst in-depth report on the human rights situation in the latter. order to research the conditions for the planned
throughout the nineties Amnesty International An annex to this report includes a full list of alleged human rights violations documented self-determination referendum ahead of the
reported progress with regards to the human between 1 April 2014 and 1 March 2015. 1991 ceasefre. Hundreds of Saharawis came out
rights situation in Morocco, it simultaneously
to demonstrate in favour of independence. In
lamented that the improvements did not, by
retribution, 300 were disappeared by Moroccan
21any means, extend to Western Sahar a.
authorities. Most were kept in secret detention
It was not until 1998 that the climate of
centres and regularly subjected to torture.
silence over gross human rights violations in
Te majority of those that disappeared in
Western Sahara was challenged. And when
1987 and survived the violence (according to
the challenge came, it was by the Saharawi
Amnesty International (AI) at least 48 of the
formerly-disappeared themselves. Tis group
Saharawis disappeared since 1975 had died by
began supplying information to Amnesty
13this point) were released, along with other
International in the early nineties, and in 1998,
prisoners that had been detained in the
sevenbegan travelling to Rabat and putting pressure
ties and early eighties, in 1991, parallel to the
on the CCDH regarding the cases of Saharawi
ceasefre. All had been kept incommunicado
survivors of forced disappearance, and of those
and without trial. Of the released prisoners,
who continued to be disappeared. Tey also
AI said, “Some are paralysed or blind due to harsh
began to work in partnership with Moroccan
14prison conditions, others left their cells insane.”
survivors of forced disappearance. Te
15Many more remained in detentio n.
concerned Saharawis and their families sufered
Te arrival of MINURSO in the territory
threats and intimidation from police for doing
seems to have had no impact on human rights
22so. It is therefore noteworthy, when
considviolations: Human Rights Watch reported in
ering alternatives to a human rights monitoring
1995 that since the fnal quarter of 1991 hundreds
mandate for MINURSO, that the silence on
more Saharawis were arrested and detained
gross human rights abuses against Saharawis
incommunicado, despite what it described as
was not broken by the new Moroccan state
MINURSO’s unpractised but “implicit” powers
human rights mechanisms and institutions, but
to “protect human rights” during the transitional
by ex-disappeared persons who did so under
16period of the Settlement P lan.Awsard Refugee Camp, Algeria. conditions of great personal risk.
10 11Photo: Bartek Sabela
Saharawi victims of enforced disappearance After 26 months of pre-trial detention, In recent years, human rights monitoring The intifadas
and their families felt marginalized by the on 17 February 2013 25 Saharawis were has become an integral part of UN
peaceTe death of the Moroccan King Hassan
severely fawed fnancial compensation schemes found guilty of various charges of violence keeping operations internationally. Indeed,
II in 1999 and the ascension to the throne of
of the CCDH’s Arbitration Commission on surrounding the Gdeim Izik camp by a militar MI y NURSO is the only peacekeeping operation
Mohammed VI ushered in a new phase for
35Compensation. Just like its predecessor, the court. Sentences included nine for life impr criseated since 1978 not to hav- e a mandate to
human rights in Morocco. Te promise of a
CCDH did not bring justice for Saharawis. onment. Some prisoners claim the real reaso mon nitor human rights. As HRW argues, such
new era of relative openness coupled with the
It is not an exaggeration to conclude that the for their imprisonment is due to their peaceful a mandate would deter abuses and promote
by now obvious failure of the UN Settlement
45inaction of the IER and CCDH indicated a advocacy for human rights and independence accountabilit. and the POLy, ISARIO would
23Plan led an intifa whicda, h focused on
lack of political will on the part of Morocco to As HRW points out, all prisoners claim welcome the extension of monitoring to the
demands for socio-economic and human rights.
46improve its human rights record in Western innocence and that the “confessions” (the main, camps. Besides, the UN itself recognizes its
Te initial protests involved sit-ins in front of
Sahara. if not the sole evidence used to convict them) responsibility to look after the “well-being” and
the Nagjir hotel, where many MINURSO staf
43were extracted under torture. “just treatment” of the peoples of
non-self-govlive. Nevertheless, the Saharawi protestors were
erning territories such as Western Sahara, as
24 Gdeim Izikviolently beaten, and some disappear ed.
well as ensuring their “protection against abuses,” MINURSO: Idle bystandersOn the other hand, the new King estab- Te construction of the Gdeim Izik in 47in Article 73 of its Char ter.
lished an arbitration commission to decide October 2010 marked the greatest unrest in the In his April 2014 report to the UN Security In April 2014 the UN Security Council
on compensation for certain victims of disap-Occupied Territories since the 1991 ceasefre. Council, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki voted not to include human rights monitoring
pearance and arbitrary detention in previous Gdeim Izik was a protest camp formed on the Moon called for “sustained, independent and in the mandate of MINURSO. It decided to
25 44decades, and released some political prisoners, outskirts of El Aaiún by Saharawi families impartial monitoring of human rights.” We prolong the “rol” of MIe NURSO staf as idol
26including 56 Saharawis in November 2001. demanding their socio-economic rights and a have seen that the Moroccan state’s human bystanders, or, as AI puts it, “silent witnesses” to
In 2003, the human rights situation took, halt to the plunder of their natural resources. rights mechanisms cannot achieve this. Not grave human rights abuses. Tis report
high36in AI’s words, “a step backwards,” and “a sharp An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Saharawis only are they not independent, they are also far lights the human rights violations that have
rise” in the torture of political prisoners was pitched their tents and lived peacefully at been committed since the days leading up the
27observed. In June of that year, the Saharawi-led Gdeim Izik for a month, until it was violently “This silence works in Morocco’s interests 2014 vote, in a bid to illustrate the extremely
Sahara branch of the Moroccan human rights razed to the ground by Moroccan authorities. urgent need for monitoring to be included in by ensuring a lack of pressure from organization the Forum of Truth and Justice was Following the destruction of the camp, the mandate in 2015.
28dissolved by El Aaiún’s Court of First Instance .rioting of Saharawis in El Aaiún ensued, and international civil society” Leaked cables have recently suggested a
Such setbacks, as AI has stated, were in “stark both Moroccan police and Saharawis died strong Moroccan lobby within the UN to
29contrast” to the 2003 establishment of the during violent clashes. Moroccan civilians, from impartial, and have consistently failed the block a human rights monitoring mandate
Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER), some allegedly brandishing machetes, accom- Saharawi people. Whilst UN Special Procedures, for MINURSO, as well as the bribery of the
which was tasked by Mohammed VI with panied by Moroccan police looted Saharawi such as the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Navanethem Pillay, the former UN High
37investigating cases of enforced disappearances. homes and beat their inhabitants. Over 100 Torture (see p. 18), are welcome and important, Commissioner for Human Rights, and
In its fnal report, scarce information and no Saharawis were detained in relation to the they are nevertheless short, rare and certainly 48members of her ofce Te UN c. laims to be
names were published of Saharawis disappeared disturbances in the month following the camp’s not comprehensive or “sustained,” and have investigating this case. Te Robert F. Kennedy
in the war years. Te IER, “born with serious destruction and over 150 were still in detention proved overwhelmingly insufcient. It is the Centre for Justice and Human Rights (RFK
30 38faws,” failed the Saharawis. awaiting trial over a year later Man.y allege conviction of the report authors that the best and e) has called, in February 2015, for said
In 2005 the Saharawi Independence Intifada to being abused in detention, including rape in most viable solution is to extend MINURSO’s investigation to examine the issue of whether
39erupted, the aftermath of which saw the return come cases. mandate to incorporate human rights moni- the actions taken by Morocco and UN staf
Te MINURSO of some numerically limited but long-term toring. prevented the expansion of the MINURSO
forced disappearances of Saharawi pro-inde- headquarters
49Superfcial reforms mandate to include human rights monitor ing.
in El Aaiún.pendence activists, a practice which, before then,
But why does Morocco go to such eforts to In 2011, in response to widespread protests 31had been largely absent since the early nineties.
prevent human rights monitoring? Te current for reform in Morocco, the King announced a
lack of independent, impartial, comprehensive revised constitution containing strong human
A failing human rights and sustained human rights monitoring means rights provisions. However, according to
that Morocco enjoys impunity in committing framework Human Rights Watch, these provisions “did
40 abuses. Tese abuses, which are targeted espe-not translate into improved practices.” Said In January 2006, the Follow-up Committee
cially at those who demand self-determination, superfcial provisions included the establish-of the Advisory Council on Human Rights
are arguably designed to instil such fear into ment, in Dakhla and El Aaiún, of two regional (CCDH), Morocco’s national institution for
the Saharawis that they will accept Moroccan ofces of the National Human Rights Council the promotion and protection of human rights,
rule and abandon the fght for independence. (CNDH). However, as Western Sahara Action was set up to continue the work of the IER.
Te lack of monitoring also serves to prolong Forum (WSAF) has reported, two of the Tree years later, refecting on IER’s work,
the media silence on the conditions in Western ofces’ committee members have since resigned AI concluded “little progress has been made in
Sahara. Tis silence works in Morocco’s inter-at the ofces’ “failurela,” “ck of political will” and providing victims with efective access to justice
ests by ensuring a lack of pressure from inter-32 “means” to monitor human rights in Western and holding individual perpetrators to account.”
41 national civil society for the Saharawis’ right to Sahara. HRW found, in April 2014, that the Whilst televised hearings that gave a platform
self-determination. It is also worth pointing two ofces “have not made public a single report to victims and relatives of the disappeared were
out that a truly free and fair referendum could about human rights violations in the areas under held throughout Morocco, those planned for
never take place in a context of fear. Te lack 33 their purview” and that Moroccan authorities El Aaiún were cancelled without explanatio n.
of human rights monitoring therefore directly have responded “rarely, if ever” to the individual Western Sahara was also left out of the wider
undermines the UN’s own peace process and cases of Saharawis put forward by the two collective reparations ofered to regions
dispro42 prolongs the Moroccan occupation.34 ofces.portionately afected during the “years of lead.”
12 13Photo: Te Saharawi Club for
Media and Documentation
Photo: Equipe Media
The case of Mahfouda LefkirHuman rights abuses in Western Mahfouda Lefkir is a 30-year-old activist from El Aaiún. She has a history of being targeted
by Moroccan police. Her testimony of the abuses she has sufered in the lead up to, and aftermath
of, the 2014 MINURSO vote illustrates the lack of freedom of expression and assembly for those Sahara since April 2014
who advocate for human rights and self-determination.
On 11 January 2014, Mahfouda says she again. On 2 April 2014, along with her father
was assaulted by Moroccan police whilst and dozens of other Saharawis, she was taking
participating in a protest demanding the release part in a protest for the monitoring of human
of all political protesters on Smara Street, rights b El y MINURSO. Mahfouda says, “a
Aaiún. She reports injuries to her face, near group of policemen in civilian clothes beat me and
her eyes and mouth. A few days later, on 15 pulled my hair. Tey dragged me in the street. As
January, Mahfouda took part in another prtheotest y dragged me, they tried to take of my clothes.”
on Smara Street. Tis time, protesters demonMahf- ouda, along with several other protest
strated in favour of human rights monitor paring ticipants, needed hospital treatment.
to be included in MINURSO’s mandate. On 10 April, Mahfouda reports further
Mahfouda says “the Head of the Security Zone police violence whilst demonstrating for
and some other ofcers insulted me and hit me. self-determination. “A group of policemen in
Tey also threatened to rape me if I took part in civilian clothing once again beat me and dragged
any more protests.” me in the street. Tey insulted me with bad words.”
On 21 February 2014 Mahfouda was out for On 30 April, Mahfouda took part in a
a walk with her husband, Lahbib Boutingiza,pr otest demanding the release of all Saharawi
his friend Embairik Essah, and the couple’s political prisoners. She says, “policemen under the
Outrage on Smara Avenue, El Aaiún. two children: a girl, Noheila, then aged 11 supervision of the Head of the Security Zone and
and a boy, Mohammed, then aged 4. “We were El Aaiún’s Chief of Police Nabil Laawina stripped
walking along Skeikima Street, an avenue near of my melhfa [Saharawi women’s traditional
Freedom of Expression and Assembly our home when suddenly, at around 20:15, four clothing] and they beat me and insulted me. Once
police cars stopped beside us and a number of ofcers again, the same ofcer who always threatens me In January 2015, the international civil liberties, democracy and human rights NGO Freedom
House listed Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara as amongst the “worst of the worst” territories got out. Tey began to attack me, in front of my told me he was going to rape me.”
50 husband and kids. Tey insulted me with very rude in the world with regards to freedoms, along with Tibet and ten countr Since Apries.il 2014,
Saharawis have continued to protest regularly in order to draw attention to human rights words and told me that they were going to rape Te following month, Mahfouda reports
me. My husband tried to rescue me, but they hit that the Moroccan authorities tried a diferent concerns, socioeconomic issues and their right to self-determination. Tey have faced brutal
repression when doing so. Indeed, the report identifes 51 alleged incidents of brutality committed him too, as well as his friend. Tey then told us they tactic to discourage her from participating in
would take my daughter and rape her too. She was protests. She says that her social security beneft by the Moroccan authorities. In its 2015 report on human rights in the world (referring to
events over the course of 2014), Human Rights Watch states that “[i]n Western Sahara, authorities 11 years old at the time.” (of approximately €95) was stopped at the end
In the lead up to the vote on the renewal of of May, without explanation. prohibited all public gatherings deemed hostile to Morocco’s contested rule over that territory, dispatching
large numbers of police who blocked access to demonstration venues and often forcibly dispersed Saharawis MINURSO’s mandate, Mahfouda was targeted
51seeking to assemble.”
54On 2 April 2014, a group of Saharawis organisations.
“A group of policemen in civilian organised a vigil in solidarity with Saharawi As the UN Secretary General noted in his
political prisons, and calling for a human April 2014 report to the Security Council, clothes beat me and pulled my hair.
rights monitoring mechanism to be included “on most occasions” Saharawi protests are met
in MINURSO’s mandate. According to with “heavy-handedness on the part of the The dragged me in the street. As they
55the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights security forces.” Similarly, the UN Human dragged me, they tried to take off my Defenders (CODESA), there was heavy Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary
police mobilization on the streets of El Detention has noted “a pattern of excessive use clothes.”
Aaiún to prevent Saharawis from reaching of force in repressing demonstrations and arresting
the announced site of the vigil. Te Saharawi demonstrators calling for self-determination for the
56organization alleges that several people trSyahring awi population.” Tis same Working Group
to reach the vigil were “subjected to beatings, reports that such demonstrators, once arriving
slander, verbal abuse, and other degrading at a police station or during their transfer there,
52practices” from the Moroccan police. Eight tend to be “beaten, insulted and forced to reveal the
57Saharawis were subsequently taken to the A names ofcci- other protestors.” Te Working Group
dent and Emergency department of El Hassan also pointed to information they have received
53Ben Alehdi hospital, El Aaiún. In the days regarding the alleged abandonment of victims
58leading up to, and post, the MINURSO vote,in r ural areas after the assaults, as well as the
pro-human rights monitoring demonstratio“ns regular” raids of Moroccan police of “the private
spread across all the major towns of Wester homes ofn alleged or known supporters of independence
Sahara. All were met with heavy and violent for Western Sahara, using procedures that include
59repression, according to Saharawi human rights beating and ill-treatment of the inhabitants.”
14 15Photo: Te Saharawi Club for
Media and Documentation
Judicial Abuses Arbitrary detention The arbitrary detention and rape of Lahweij Rguibano
Diferent Saharawi groups operate with Short-term disappearances of Saharawis On 16 December 2014 in El Aaiún 24
difering numbers of political prisoners in have continued throughout 2014. Such tempo- year-old Lahweij Rguibano was detained by
60Moroccan jails. Human Rights Watch rary disappearances form part of a decades-long police. Rguibano is a known activist who claims “They started hitting me noted in 2014 “a pattern” of Moroccan courts pattern of treatment for Saharawi activists in he is often targeted by the Moroccan police.
convicting defendants in politically sensitiv whice h victims are held incommunicado and Lahweij says he was on his way to a peaceful on my face and all over
cases “solely on the basis of their confessions, without a trial, and without informing family demonstration that called for the release of all
69without investigating claims that the police members or a lawyer Indeed,. in its August my body with their ba-Saharawi political prisoners in Moroccan jails
extracted the confessions through torture and 2014 report on Morocco and Western Sahara when he was detained. Te protest was taking tons. And I heard them
61ill-treatment.” Similarly, the UN Human to the UN General Assembly, the Working place on Smara Street, one of the main
thorRights Council Working Group on ArbitrarGry oup on Arbitrary Detention claimed to saying, “we will rape oughfares of El Aaiún near Maatalla district,
Detention fnds that torture is used systematicontinue - receiving “credible” allegations of where many Saharawis live. you.” So they took off my 70cally to extract confessions, and judges not o instances of inconly mmunicado detentio n. “While I was walking down an alley, the
fail to investigate allegations that statements Such was the fate of Mahmoud El Haissan, pants and they raped Moroccan police caught me and put me in their
have been extracted under torture, but also a Saharawi journalist. According to Reporters car.” Lahweij was then reportedly driven to a me with a baton.”62routinely accept said statements in cour t. Without Borders, on 4 July 2014 El Haissan rural area.
Te same Working Group also drew attentio was taken frn om his home in El Aaiún by “Tey started hitting me on my face and all
to testimonies from lawyers that indicate that police to a secret location and, for 48 hours, over my body with their batons. And I heard them
they are denied access to their clients within his whereabouts remained unknown. After saying, “we will rape you.” So they took of my After he had made it home, Lahweij visited
the legal time frame, and hence, “in the major this time perity iod, he was transferred to the pants and they raped me with a baton.” Belmehdi hospital seeking treatment for his
of cases, lawyers meet their clients only at the frst Black Prison. El Haissan’s lawyer reported After his ordeal, Lahweij says he was head, neck, arm, leg and back injuries. Tis
63hearing before the judge.” Te right to trial signs of physical mistreatment on his client’s abandoned in the rural area on the outskirts of was on the same day as the detention. Lahweij
without unreasonable delay also seems to be body. El Haissan was accused of “belonging to El Aaiún where the rape took place. Tis was says he did not tell the doctor who had abused
regularly abused, according to reports from an armed group”, “obstruction of public roads”, on the eastern banks of the Red Canal, “Saguia him, as he knew he would not be issued with
Saharawi human rights organisations published “assaulting police ofcials on duty” and “damaging el-Hamra.” a medical certifcate if he mentioned the
64since April 2014. pubic property”. However, Saharawi human
police. He was provided with a certifcate,
Mohammed Daoudi, who is known for rights organisations believe he was arrested for
which attests to his rape and brutal beating.
his pro-self-determination views, is one such covering violent dispersal of demonstrations on
Lahweij has presented an ofcial complaint to
Saharawi who has experienced delayed trial. 30 June for POLISARIO news channel RASD
the Moroccan authorities with regards to his
71Daoudi was detained in September 2013, and, TV. On 17 September, El Haissan initiated a
although he is a civilian, is awaiting a militarhungy trialer str ike with six other Saharawi political
Lahweij did not have the chance to complete
despite Morocco’s March 2014 parliamentary-pr isoners in protest at having been tortured in
his primary education. He says this was because
approved reforms to end the jurisdiction of mili fro-nt of other inmates. After several delays, he
he was expelled after raising a Saharawi fag in
65tary courts over civilians. He has told his lawyers was fnal ly tried on 3 December 2014, along
school. Lahweij, however, denies this allegation.
that he was beaten and forced to sign a “confession,with Abdelkar” im Buchalga, a known Saharawi
Lahweij is a member of the Coordination of
to the charge against him of possessing mater human rials ights activist. Buchalga faced the same
Gdeim Izik for Peaceful Movement group.
to build a weapon. He is currently detained in S chargalé es as El Haissan. Both were sentenced to
66 72prison, far from his family. 18 months imprisonment.
Daoudi began a hunger strike on 1 November20 y ear-old Mohammed Lamin Haidala
in protest at abuse by prison guards and the was also the victim of an arbitrary detention
repeated delay of his trial. On 9 December, by police. His case is particularly abhorrent,
Frontline Defenders reported that Daoudi wasending , as it did, in his death. After being
vomiting blood, was unable to walk or talk and stabbed in the nec k with a pair of scissors by
was having difculty opening his eyes. Daoudi a gr oup of Moroccan settlers, Haidala was
who, according to his family had been survivingarrested b y police on 30 January 2015, who
on tea and sugar, ended the hunger strike af shufed him better ween El Aaiún hospital and the
51 days. According to Frontline Defenders,cel ls of a police station over a period of several
Daoudi’s detention was “believed to be related to days. Denied adequate medical treatment,
his advocacy for the right to self determination of the Haidala died on 6 February. He was allegedly
73Sahrawi people and the fact that he had testifed as buried by police without his family’s consent.
a witness to the execution of a family in February
1976, whose bodies were discovered in the mass Prison conditions
67 grave of Amgala in June 2013.” Daoudi was
Te UN Human Rights Council Working released in March 2015.
Group on Arbitrary Detention has found over-All fve of Daoudi’s sons have been arrested
crowding of prisons to be a “serious problem.” It at least once since 2013, and four have served, or
continues, “[o]vercrowding inevitably leads to se-are serving, prison sentences. Brahim Daoudi,
rious violations, such as denial of or insufcient ac-currently held in Inzagan prison, began a hunger
cess to medical care, nutrition, sanitation, security strike on 8 January in protest against the
miser74and rehabilitation services.” Since April 2014, able conditions in which he is held and the torture
68 dozens of Saharawi political prisoners have to which he claims to have been subjected.
16 1780used hunger strike in protest at their treatment torture is used to extract confessio that ns Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural can’t fnd a job. You fnd Moroccans coming from
in prison, which includes being subjected to there is a “pattern of excessive force in repressing Rights (ICESCR) on the occasion of MoroccoN’s orth Morocco to work in El Aaiún, and getting
98torture and solitary confnement, being denied demonstrations and in arresting protestors,” and fourth periodic report on its implementation ofpaid a g ood salary, and the natives can’t fnd a job.
medical attention, books, newspapers, adequate the covenant by a coalition of human rights and Discr imination allegedly reaches new levels
90food, and, in some cases visits from family cultural organisatio states that emplons yment when the Saharawi in question is known for “55 Saharawis have complained of
sufmembers or any other sort of contact with the discrimination against Saharawi individuals is her or his politic al activities. Mohammed El fering torture since April 2014, including outside world. “severe.” Te coalition reports that Saharawis Baikam, for example, who is a representative
are under-represented in terms of employment of the Associatio n of Saharawi Fishermen of seven minors.”On 14 April 2014, political prisoner Salek
Laa91in almost every professional sector As a c . ase Dakhla, claims to have lost his job following sairi began a 38 day hunger strike in protest at
that protestors are “routinely” beaten on route in point, they note the Fos Boucraa phosphate his par ticipation in protests against the plunder his belongings being confscated and destroyed
81to, and at, police statio Wns.ith regards to mine (as WSRW notes in its own submission the of Western Sahara’s fsheries by the European by prison guards, severe beatings from guards,
99El Aaiún’s Black Prison, he reported receiving ICESCR, this is the biggest source of revenueUnio n and others. being put in solitary confnement, and the
“credible testimonies relating to torture and for Morocco derived from selling the natural denial of medical treatment. He claims that he
ill-treatment […] including rape, severe beating resources of Western Sahara at $220 million per Discrimination in has endured such treatment for the ten years
75 and isolation up to several weeks, particularly of annum). Saharawi organizations alledge that that he has so far spent in prison. educational institutionsinmates accused of participating in pro-indepen- there are fewer than 200 Sahrawi among the
82dence activities.” He noted that the practice of 1900 mine workers, all of them forced to work in Te right to education is enshrined in The use of torture
83 93incommunicado detention continues. manual labour positions. Saharawis employed at Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of
On 1 December 2014 the Optional Protocol 100Fos Boucraa claim that certain benefts are ofered Human Rights. In their aforementioned
to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) Freedom of Association to Moroccan employees that are not extended to report to ICESCR, a coalition of human rights
94announced that Morocco had ratifed its Saharawis. WSRW has noted similar patterns of and cultural organisations fnd that Saharawi Open debate, criticism of the government
76treaty A f. ew weeks later, 22 year-old gross underrepre- students are routinely “neglected, insulted or and pro-independence activities continue to
Saharawi Abdul Baqi died in El Aaiún’s Black sentation beaten” by some teaching and administrative be repressed in Western Sahara. Contact with
prison (he had been there just one month), of staf at school, especially when they speak the outside world for Saharawis is extremely
allegedly tortured to death after complaining of 101Hassania, the Saharawi dialect of Ar abic.limited, as the expulsions of foreign journalists,
the poor conditions there. As is the case with Older, politically active students are often human rights activists and students attests to.
the other seven Saharawi prisoners that have 102expelled from school under various pretexts. Over the course of 2014, at least 40 foreign
died in suspicious circumstances in the last Saharawi culture and history is omitted from citizens were either expelled from inside
two years, no investigation has been opened 84 the school curriculum. Moroccan law enforce-Western Sahara or denied entry at its bor ders.
to establish the cause of death or to bring the ment ofcers maintain a presence in secondary Te majority of the expulsions occurred in
77guilty parties to justice. 103schools and around their perimeters. Te the weeks immediately surrounding the UN
Following its visit to occupied Western coalition states that it has received “several Security Council vote on the renewal of
Sahara, the UN Human Rights Council testimonies of arbitrary violence perpetrated by MINURSO’s mandate. Also, in 2014, Amnesty
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention security forces against Sahrawi children, ranging International complained that its activities in
reported, in August 2014 that, for supporters 85 from stealing food to sexual harassment and serious Morocco had been restricted by author ities,
of independence for Western Sahara, “there is 104physical assaults.” Isabel Lourenço, member of whilst the UN Human Rights Council
a pattern of torture and ill-treatment by police the Western Sahara human rights organisation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
ofcers […] Many individuals have been coerced Adala UK, has documented several testimonies regretted that its meetings in El Aaiún (which
into making a confession and sentenced to prison on Saharawis in of school children collected during her visit to took place in December 2013) were monitored.
78the sole basis of that confession.” the agricultural and El Aaiún in Autumn 2014. Te testimonies Te organization also expressed serious
95In its May 2014 report on the use of torture fsheries industries. Indeed, the UK attest to the rape and serious physical assault by concerns about Saharawi prisoners voicing fear
in Western Sahara and Morocco, Amnesty 10586 parliamentary delegation to Western Sahara’s police of school children as young as eight.of reprisals for participating in interviews.
International identifed the most common April 2014 report states that all ofshore fshing 2015 marks the 40th year of the Moroccan Saharawi-led organisations that focus on
types of torture practiced on detainees in is by Moroccan-owned trawlers and that very few occupation of Western Sahara. During those human rights are still systematically prevented
both countries: beatings, including blows to licenses are granted to Saharawis for traditional four decades, Morocco has not seen ft to build a from registering, as has been noted by the UN
96the head, genitals, soles of the feet, and other inshore fshing. single university in Western Sahara. Travelling to Secretary General in his 2014 report to the
sensitive body parts, sometimes while stripping 87 Saharawis who have had the chance to fnish a Morocco to attend a university there is a signif-Security Council. Human Rights Watch has
people naked; suspending detainees by the higher education in Morocco lament discrimina-icant economic burden for Saharawis. As such, highlighted that this barrier extends even to
97wrists or other body parts while beating them; tion in the job market over their Saharawi or igin.higher education is not an option for many. Tose those organisations that have won
administraforcing detainees’ heads down toilet bowls or Fatan Abaali, a Saharawi student at Agadir Saharawis that do manage to club together the tive court rulings over their wrongfully denied
gagging them with urine-soaked materials; 88 necessary funding complain of discrimination. recognition.
prolonged solitary confnement; and rape and “During those four decades, Morocco Many allege racist treatment on the part of some Tese photos show
79other sexual violence 55 S. aharawis have of their teachers and university administrative Mohammed Lamin Discrimination in has not seen ft to build a single univer-complained of sufering torture since April 106staf. Over the course of 11 and 12 December Haidala, who died shortly
2014, including seven minors. the Job Market 2014, 14 Saharawi students protesting against the after being stabbed in the sity in Western Sahara.”
Tere seems, regrettably, to have been no administrative failings of the University of Agadir neck by settlers with a pair Te general principle of equality and
progress made since the release of the 2013 107University, described the situation as follows: were arrested and allegedly tortur ed.of scissors, January 2015. non-discrimination is a fundamental element of report of Juan Mendez, the UN’s Special It’s like a club, a private club. If you visit El Photo: SAIHinternational human rights law and the right to
Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, Aaiún, inshallah, you will notice that there are a Right to Cultural Expressionwork is enshrined in article 23 of the Universal inhuman or degrading treatment or punish- lot of Saharawi youths just like us: educated; with 89Declaration of Human Rights. Te numerous restrictions on, and the
ment. Mendez found that in Western Sahara a bachelors degree or a Masters degree, but they still serious repression of, Saharawi culture as A January 2015 submission to the International
18 19