Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Western Sahara Echo chosen as the Blog of the Month by Arab Democracy.Com

To read the whole article on the blog , please click on the following link:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

tThe killing of Two Young Sahrawi Students in Agadir, morocco


Agadir student killings trigger protests
afrol News, 2 December - Two students of the southern Moroccan university in Agadir of Western Saharan origin have been killed, four others being injured. What government calls "an accident" has been termed "an assassination" by Saharawis, who are organising protest marches.

The young Saharawi students - Baba Abdelaziz Khaya (22) and Lheussein Abdsadek Lakteif (20) - yesterday were killed by a Moroccan bus that drove right on them and a group of other Saharawi students during a sit-in at the bus stop. The students were protesting the bus company's reluctance to transport them home freely to the Id celebrations, claiming they were discriminated against.

According to Moroccan authorities, which only reacted today, the incident was a tragic accident. It had been caused by the protesting students, which had surrounded the bus and thus caused the driver to lose his overview of the traffic situation. This had resulted in his losing control of the vehicle and fatal crashing into the students, authorities hold.

Pro-Saharawi groups however hold this cannot be true as the "incident" fits only too well into a greater pattern of suppression of Saharawi students in Morocco. According to human rights organisations in Western Sahara, the bus driver "drove fast towards the demonstrators to kill the two students" and injure others.

Three others were severely injured as the bus hit the protesting student crowd. Among these, Abouh Alkharachi was reported to be in coma in a hospital in Agadir. Five more students reportedly had suffered minor injuries due to the crash.

Also Saharawi student activist Rabab Amidane holds that the incident had been planned. According to testimonies from Agadir students she had interviewed, the bus driver "was given the order [by the police] to go ahead towards the students who were sitting in the protest." Ms Amidane says there had been prior contacts between the Agadir police and the bus company. Even prior to the incident, "the police were surrounding the bus station," she holds.

But also the aftermath of the lethal incident is suspicious, according to pro-Saharawi groups. "The bus driver escaped immediately after committing the crime," Ms Amidane reports. Further, she says, police entered the Agadir bus station "immediately after the crime," beating up students protesting there and detaining 11 protesters.

Also according to human rights organisations in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, the killings could not have been accidentally, as they fit into a long pattern of attacks on Saharawi students in Morocco. Further, a large number of Saharawis fighting for their rights had been tortured and killed by Moroccan troops and police during the last few years, these sources hold. UN human rights reports on Morocco have gone a long way to sustain these reports.

According to Ms Amidane, Saharawi students would be "continuing our peaceful struggle for independence and justice." The rather prominent Saharawi activist has already revealed plans for further demonstrations in Agadir, where Saharawi students will demand justice. A demand for justice among this student group includes demands for investigations into the death of Saharawi activists, but also for the right to express of a free Western Sahara, which is currently forbidden in Morocco.

The Saharawis, above all, want international attention for their case. "We, together with the martyrs students' families, are demanding that the international community, human rights organisations, international courts will follow this serious case," Ms Amidane says.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Africa's Last Colony

Africa's Last Colony
Gilonne d'Origny 11.15.08, 12:00 AM ET

On Nov. 13 in Washington a brave woman named Aminatou Haidar was presented with the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award. She has risked her life under Moroccan oppression to protect her fellow Sahrawi, the people of Western Sahara, who have suffered oppression, torture, kidnappings and murder at the hands of Morocco.

The award puts the spotlight on the plight of the West African territory, the continent's last colony, whose population is still, in 2008, seeking to exercise the basic human right to self-determination--to choose how to be governed and by whom.

How did Western Sahara remain stuck in the colonial era? And more importantly, how will it get out?

In 1974, much later than other colonial powers, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco agreed to grant the right to self-determination to the people of Western Sahara, a territory his country had administered since the Berlin Conference of 1884. Spain proposed to abandon the territory and its indigenous population, much as the Portuguese did in East Timor in 1975.

Spain conducted a census in the major coastal towns and announced a referendum on self-determination for over 74,000 Sahrawi counted. But before it could take place, Franco fell into a coma and Spain suffered a power vacuum during which the monarchy took over the reins, spending several months restructuring the system from a dictatorship into a parliamentary democracy--and too distracted to worry much about Western Sahara.

Morocco had announced its will to take over control over Western Sahara. But the International Court of Justice issued an Opinion stating that Morocco had no claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara and that Spain must conduct the referendum as soon as possible.

On Nov. 14, 1975, the cabinet of the soon-to-be King Juan Carlos of Spain signed the tripartite secret Madrid Accords with King Hassan II of Morocco and the government of Mauritania. In them, Spain agreed to share Western Sahara with Morocco and Mauritania. Both countries, as it so happened, had already begun invasions into the territory; Morocco from the North and Mauritania from the South.

It was the same year that Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Angola and the Comoros won independence.

The Madrid accord and the invasion flagrantly violated the finding of the International Court of Justice, which had declared that Morocco's claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara were groundless and that the Sahrawi people had a right to self-determination. Numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions have since agreed that Morocco has no right to the sand-swept territory.

A violent war ensued. Most Sahrawi fled eastward and settled in four refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. The 15,000-strong Sahrawi guerilla army defeated Mauritania, which capitulated in 1979. Morocco's 100,000-strong army was afraid the same might happen to it, and so, between 1981 and 1989, it built a 2,600 km long wall with the help of France, the United States, and Israel. The wall cuts the Northwest of Western Sahara off from the Southeast, with about two-thirds of the total territory under Moroccan control.

In 1991, the Moroccan government and the Sahrawi government, known as the Polisario, agreed to a cease-fire. A U.N. delegation, called the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), arrived in 1992 with the intention of holding a referendum on self-determination. It never took place.

So this year, Western Sahara once again petitioned the Fourth Committee, the U.N. General Assembly group dedicated to issues of decolonization. It made its 2008 case for independence alongside the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, New Caledonia, American Samoa and Guam. For now, Spain remains the reluctant administrator of Western Sahara. The only way, under international law, that it can rid itself from its duty of care will be to ensure that a free and fair referendum on self-determination takes place.

The American diplomat Christopher Ross was chosen this past summer to untangle this mess. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him special envoy to Western Sahara, just in time for the annual meeting of the Fourth Committee. The Polisario has welcomed his appointment. Morocco has yet to approve him.

If international law were followed, this would be an easy enough problem for Ross to sort out. Western Sahara falls under U.N. Charter laws. General Assembly Resolution 1514 outlawed colonialism and imposed an obligation on all colonial powers to let the indigenous population within the colonial territory vote for self-determination.

If Ambassador Ross convinces the parties involved to follow international law, he will have the honor of closing the door on Africa's colonial past. Let us hope that a year from now, Sahrawis are not back petitioning before the Fourth Commission and that Aminatou Haidar sees her work rewarded with freedom for her people.

Gilonne d'Origny is a lawyer and commentator on matters of sovereignty and decolonization.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

البوليزاريو تواصل استغلال حقوق الإنسان للضغط على المغرب دوليا

البوليزاريو تواصل استغلال حقوق الإنسان للضغط على المغرب دوليا


مدريد ـ 'القدس العربي' من حسين مجدوبي: تواصل جبهة البوليزاريو استغلال ورقة حقوق الإنسان لمواجهة المغرب في المنتديات الدولية، كما أن رئيس مجلس الأمن الدولي طالب بالكشف عن تقرير يتعلق بحقوق الإنسان في الصحراء الغربية، في حين ترى أوساط مغربية أن الأمر يتعلق بحملة لمواجهة الاقتراح الخاص بالحكم الذاتي كحل لهذا النزاع الذي يستمر منذ الخمسينات.
في هذا الإطار، تتسلم أميناتو حيدر، ناشطة حقوق الإنسان في الصحراء الغربية، يوم الخميس المقبل في العاصمة الأمريكية واشنطن، جائزة 'حقوق الإنسان' التي تمنحها مؤسسة روبير فرانسيس كينيدي.
وكانت عدد من الجمعيات الدولية قد رشحت أميناتو إلى هذه الجائزة نظرا لنشاطها الحقوقي والاعتقالات وفترات الحبس التي قضتها في سجن مدينة العيون في الصحراء الغربية بعدما كان قد أدانها القضاء المغربي بتهم التحريض وعدم احترام مؤسسات الدولة المغربية.
وستعمل البوليزاريو على استغلال هذه المناسبة للتنديد بما يجري في الصحراء من خروقات حقوق الإنسان والترويج لمبدأ تقرير المصير في هذا النزاع، لا سيما وأن بعض مساعدي الرئيس الأمريكي المنتخب باراك أوباما قد يكونون بين الحضور، ذلك أن عائلة كينيدي قد أيدت المرشح الديمقراطي، والمؤسسة التي تمنح اسم الجائزة تحمل اسم روبرت فرانسيس كينيدي شقيق الرئيس المغتال جون كينيدي.
وكان روبرت وزيرا للعدل ما بين 1961 و1964 واغتيل سنة 1968.
يذكر أن البوليزاريو تمكن خلال السنوات الماضية من نسج علاقات مع بعض قياديي الحزب الديمقراطي الأمريكي. وتدرك الجبهة التي تسعى لاستقلال الصحراء الغربية أن ورقة حقوق الإنسان ستكون محورية إبان رئاسة باراك أوباما، ولهذا تراهن كثيرا على هذه الورقة.
من جهة أخرى، طالب رئيس مجلس الأمن الدولي، ميغيل دي إسكوتو، من المفوضية العليا لحقوق الإنسان الكشف عن تقرير حول حقوق الإنسان أنجزته هذه المفوضية سنة 2006 ولم يكشف عنه حتى الآن.
ويعتقد أن الرباط عارضت توزيع التقرير على الدول الاعضاء في الأمم المتحدة حتى لا تتأثر المساعي الجارية للبحث عن الحل.
وأبرز رئيس المجلس في تصريحات خلال الأيام الماضية أن هذا التقرير يجب أن يجري تعميمه على جميع الدول الاعضاء بالأمم المتحدة في أقرب الآجال. واحتج على عدم توزيع هذا التقرير.
ويسود الاعتقاد أن المفوضية العليا لحقوق الإنسان ستجد نفسها مجبرة على توزيع التقرير. ويعتقد أنه سيوزع في القريب العاجل بعد طلب مجلس الأمن ذلك.
وأعرب ميغيل دي إسكوت عن قلقه من غياب تقدم في مفاوضات البحث عن حل لنزاع الصحراء وفي الوقت ذاته من تراجع حقوق الإنسان في الصحراء الغربية.
وكان ميغيل دي إسكوتو قد التقى زعيم البوليزاريو يوم الثلاثاء الماضي وبحث معه الوضع في الصحراء.
ورئيس المجلس من دولة نيكاراغوا التي تعتبر من أكبر المؤيدين لجبهة البوليزاريو بحكم العلاقة الوثيقة بين الأخيرة والجبهة السندينية الحاكمة في نيكاراغوا.
والتقى زعيم البوليزاريو محمد عبد العزيز في الوقت نفسه، الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة، بان كي مون وحثه على إيفاد بعثة حقوقية جديدة للصحراء تحت ذريعة تراجع هذه الحقوق بسبب ما وصفه بالخروقات الفظيعة التي يرتكبها النظام المغربي.
ويعتبر المغرب أن استغلال البوليزاريو لملف حقوق الإنساني يرمي إلى محاولة التغطية على ما يعتبره نجاحا يحققه اقتراح الحكم الذاتي لحل نزاع الصحراء الغربية، وهو الاقتراح الذي كان قد شدد عليه الملك محمد السادس في خطابه الأسبوع الماضي.
وقالت صحيفة 'أوجوردي لوماروك' نهاية الأسبوع الماضي أن حملة البوليزاريو في مجال حقوق الإنسان تعتبر بمثابة حملة تغليط للرأي العام الدولي

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Western Sahara's educational miracle

Western Sahara's educational miracle (24.10.08 Radio Netherlands International [The Netherlands])

The people of Western Sahara have lived in exile for 32 years, ever since Morocco occupied their country. But in the refugee camps, the literacy rate among them has soared, and many have become highly educated. The only drawback? Their skills and qualifications are going to waste. Correspondent Beatrice Newbery recently visited the camps.
It's not easy living in the desert for a week without a change of clothes, or a sun hat. But I could barely complain when my luggage never arrived at Tindouf airport in Algeria. After all, I was on my way to a refugee camp, whose inhabitants are accustomed to living in one of the world's harshest environments, without luxuries of any sort, their basic needs met by humanitarian aid. Western Sahara has a green and abundant coastline, and a kind climate. But many Saharawis cannot remember their own country. They were born in refugee camps and know only the shocking heat and the sandstorms of this home in exile.
Right to self-determination
The camps came into existence in 1975, when Morocco occupied Western Sahara. This was in defiance of a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which said that Western Sahara belonged to the Saharawi people and that they had a right to self-determination. Three weeks after that ruling, in what has become known as the Green March, the Moroccan government mobilised 300,000 Moroccan civilians to walk into Western Sahara, ‘reclaim their ancestral homeland', and start the occupation.
Despite the hardship of 32 years in exile, the Saharawi people have made a huge organisational success of their camps. The government in exile, called POLISARIO, has 17 ministries, and the camps themselves feel like a proper town, with a sense of community and neighbourliness. The layout of the camps is immaculate. Each one is split into six or seven villages or daira. The neighbourhoods are called hay, and they have a water cistern, a dispensary and a crèche. In the centre of the camps are the official buildings, a primary school (up to the age of eleven) and a kindergarten for the very small children.
It is in the area of education that the Saharawi exiles have shown themselves to be most visionary. In fact, this population of 200,000 refugees represents one of the best-educated people in Africa, despite the fact that they were almost totally illiterate when they were forced into exile, and despite their lack of educational resources in the camps. Their achievements in this field have been driven by the feeling that an effective resistance movement could only succeed with an educated workforce, which included educated women. In fact, the moment the exodus began, the Saharawis decided that education would be a priority.
Vital tent
Even as the women and children walked across the border into Algeria, with their men waging the beginnings of a 16-year war of resistance against the Moroccan invasion, there were two tents considered vital en route, the school tent and the dispensary. Today, the camps are full of women with degrees. Many have spent 20 years abroad - in Algeria, Cuba, Russia, Libya or Spain - gaining those qualifications. This was at no small cost to them. Many did not return to the camps a single time during those 20 years, and communicating with their families in the refugee camps is not easy. I met one boy who returned from studying abroad only to find that his mother had died six years earlier.
Eternal hope
These long years of sacrifice make it harder for the educated Saharawis to accept that there are few jobs or opportunities when they return to the camps. They hoped to be leading a new, independent country. Instead, they live in a place where boredom is the order of the day and where the economy barely functions. But hope does seem to spring eternal in the camps. After all, the Saharawis have spent years waiting for the UN to fulfil its promise to organise a referendum on independence for the territory. They know, that if they give up their hopes of a free Western Sahara, they are giving up all they have.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What should the United States do in Western Sahara

What should the United States do in Western Sahara? (13.10.08 Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS) [USA]) *

A recent opinion piece by five former US ambassadors to Morocco (A Seismic Shift in U.S. North African Policy’, Middle East Times, 6 October 2008) strongly supported a Moroccan proposal to offer the disputed territory of Western Sahara limited autonomy. Morocco invaded the territory in 1975 against the wishes of the native Sahrawi population, who have been fighting for independence since 1973, when Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. In 1991, the UN Security Council sent a mission to Western Sahara to organize a referendum on independence, yet Morocco has refused to allow such a vote. Instead Morocco has ‘offered’ Western Sahara autonomy, despite the fact that no country in the world has recognized Moroccan sovereignty over the Colorado-sized territory. The former Ambassador’s pro-Morocco argument is ostensibly based upon ‘realism’ and what is in the US interest. However, their self-interest certainly comes into play. In recent years, Morocco has spent millions of dollars lobbying in Washington to cover up its illegal occupation and dismal human rights record in Western Sahara — one of the ‘worst of the worst’ according to Freedom House. Autonomy is not the most realistic solution for Western Sahara because it will require an expensive international peacekeeping force to guarantee the safety of the population and mutual implementation of the agreement. Considering the lack of resources to stop genocide in Darfur, is there really enough international will for an even more robust intervention into Western Sahara? This, however, assumes Morocco and the Western Saharan independence movement can reach an agreement in the first place. In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, at least there is the fundamental agreement on a two-state solution. In Western Sahara, there is no fundamental agreement. The Bush administration has recently claimed that an independent Western Sahara is not in the US interest because it would be weak. Western Sahara is a vast desert territory, but it will have a significant resource base from which to build an economy: some of the world’s highest grade phosphate deposits, the richest fishing grounds in Africa and various other untapped resources (e.g., hydrocarbons). In terms of government, the Western Saharan independence movement has embraced multi-party democracy and free market capitalism. The question of viability is more than a function of per capita GDP. There are plenty of densely populated countries that are unstable and poor, just as there are very wealthy nations with small populations. Viability depends largely on the policies of the international community and neighboring states. The case of Chad is a prime example. Though it is a poor, landlocked country, competing interests (e.g., French, Libyan and international oil companies) are a significant factor in that country’s problems. During the Cold War, Somalia — synonymous with ‘instability’ — was the site of some of the most intense US-Soviet rivalry. After being ignored for a decade in the wake of the 1993 ‘Blackhawk Down’ incident, Somalia is now a front in the war on terror, with regional rival Ethiopia playing a proxy role for the White House. Mauritania, Western Sahara’s southern neighbor, is also a sparsely populated Saharan country. In the past three years, Mauritania has suffered two coup d’états amidst increasing terrorist activity within and across its porous borders. Yet neighboring Morocco has supported the recent toppling of Mauritania’s first democratically elected president, just to bolster its strategic position in Western Sahara. The Western Sahara independence movement is quite aware of the fact that it needs strong support from Washington. For that reason, they have developed bipartisan support in the US congress. They also accepted a 2003 peace proposal designed by then UN envoy, former US Secretary of State James Baker. Morocco, knowing full well that Baker’s proposed referendum would lead to Western Sahara’s independence, refused to cooperate, forcing Baker to resign in 2004. The problem for U.S. interests is Morocco’s instability not Western Sahara’s viability. The legitimacy of the authoritarian monarchy in Morocco is partially based upon its conquest of Western Sahara. Should Western Sahara achieve independence, France and US have long worried that the monarchy will fall. Yet Western Saharan nationalists will not accept direct Moroccan rule and give up their internationally recognized rights because it is supposedly not in the US interest. The last thing Western Sahara needs is pro-Moroccan lobbying disguised as a compassionate call for peace. Cheerleading from former US officials who are either in the pay of the Moroccan monarchy (e.g., the Moroccan-American Center for Policy) or to have business interests in Morocco will only exacerbate the conflict by alienating Western Saharan nationalists from an already fragile peace process. Calling on the UN to impose a solution against the obvious wishes of the Western Saharans and against international law reveals the moral bankruptcy of Morocco’s Washington proxies. If they were truly interested in peace, they would support the long-held US position in support of self-determination for Western Sahara.
* (by Jacob Mundy, originally published by Peace Voice)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Haidar's Struggle

Haidar's Struggle
Stephen Zunes | October 7, 2008

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus

Aminatou Haidar, a nonviolent activist from Western Sahara and a key leader in her nation's struggle against the 33-year-old U.S.-backed Moroccan occupation of her country, won this year's Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

This recognition of Haidar and her nonviolent freedom campaign is significant in that the Western Sahara struggle has often gone unnoticed, even among many human rights activists. In addition, highlighting the work of an Arab Muslim woman struggling for her people's freedom through nonviolent action helps challenge impressions held by many Americans that those resisting U.S.-backed regimes in that part of the world are misogynist, violent extremists. Successive administrations have used this stereotype to justify military intervention and support for repressive governments and military occupations.

Unfortunately, given its role in making Morocco's occupation possible, the U.S. government has little enthusiasm for Haidar and the visibility her winning the RFK prize gives to the whole Western Sahara issue.

Moroccan Occupation
In 1975, the kingdom of Morocco conquered Western Sahara — on the eve of its anticipated independence from Spain — in defiance of a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark 1975 decision by the International Court of Justice upholding the right of the country's inhabitants to self-determination. With threats of a French and American veto at the UN preventing decisive action by the international community to stop the Moroccan invasion, the nationalist Polisario Front launched an armed struggle against the occupiers. The Polisario established the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in February 1976, which has subsequently been recognized by nearly 80 countries and is a full member state of the African Union. The majority of the indigenous population, known as Sahrawis, went into exile, primarily in Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria.

Thanks in part to U.S. military aid, Morocco eventually was able to take control of most of the territory, including all major towns. It also built, thanks to U.S. assistance, a series of fortified sand berms in the desert that effectively prevented penetration by Polisario forces into Moroccan-controlled territory. In addition, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Morocco moved tens of thousands of settlers into Western Sahara until they were more than twice the population of the remaining indigenous Sahrawis. Yet the Polisario achieved a series of diplomatic victories that generated widespread international support for self-determination and refusal to recognize the Moroccan takeover. In 1991, the Polisario agreed to a ceasefire in return for a Moroccan promise to allow for an internationally supervised referendum on the fate of the territory. Morocco, however, refused to allow the referendum to move forward.

French and American support for the Moroccan government blocked the UN Security Council from providing the necessary diplomatic pressure to move the referendum process forward. The Polisario, meanwhile, recognized its inability to defeat the Moroccans by military means. As a result, the struggle for self-determination shifted to within the Moroccan-occupied territory, where the Sahrawi population has launched a nonviolent resistance campaign against the occupation.

Nonviolent Resistance
Western Sahara had seen scattered impromptu acts of open nonviolent resistance ever since the Moroccan conquest. In 1987, for instance, a visit to the occupied territory by a special UN committee to investigate the human right violations sparked protests in the Western Saharan capital of El Aaiún. The success of this major demonstration was all the more remarkable, given that most of the key organizers had been arrested the night before and the city was under a strict curfew. Among the more than 700 people arrested was the 21-year-old Aminatou Haidar.

For four years she was "disappeared," held without charge or trial, and kept in secret detention centers. In these facilities, she and 17 other Sahrawi women underwent regular torture and abuse.

Most resistance activity inside the occupied territory remained clandestine until early September 1999, when Sahrawi students organized sit-ins and vigils for more scholarships and transportation subsidies from the Moroccan government. Since an explicit call for independence would have been brutally suppressed immediately, the students hoped to push the boundaries of dissent by taking advantage of their relative intellectual freedom. Former political prisoners seeking compensation and accountability for their state-sponsored disappearances soon joined the nonviolent vigils, along with Sahrawi workers from nearby phosphate mines and a union of unemployed college graduates. The movement was suppressed within a few months. Although the demands of what became known as the first Sahrawi Intifada appeared to be nonpolitical, it served as a test of both the Sahrawi public and the Moroccan government. It paved the way for Sahrawis to press for bolder demands and engage in larger protests in the future that would directly challenge the Moroccan occupation itself.

A second Sahrawi intifada, which because known as the "Intifada al-Istiglal" (the Intifada of Independence), began in May 2005. Thousands of Sahrawi demonstrators, led by women and youths, took to the streets of El Aaiún protesting the ongoing Moroccan occupation and calling for independence. The largely nonviolent protests and sit-ins were met by severe repression by Moroccan troops and Moroccan settlers. Within hours, leading Sahrawi activists were kidnapped, including Haidar, who was brutally beaten by Moroccan occupation forces. Sahrawi students at Moroccan universities then organized solidarity demonstrations, hunger strikes, and other forms of nonviolent protests. Throughout the remainder of 2005, the intifada continued with both spontaneous and planned protests, all of which were met with harsh repression by Moroccan authorities.

Haidar was released within seven months as a result of pressure from Amnesty International and the European parliament. Meanwhile, nonviolent protests have continued, despite ongoing repression by U.S.-supported Moroccan authorities. Despite continued disappearances, killings, beatings, and torture, Haidar has continued to advocate nonviolent action. In addition to organizing efforts at home, she traveled extensively to raise awareness internationally about the ongoing Moroccan occupation and advocate for the Sahrawi people's right to self-determination.

U.S. Increases Backing for Morocco
As repression increased, so did U.S. support for Morocco. The Bush administration has increased military and security assistance five-fold and also signed a free-trade agreement. The United States remained largely silent over the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Western Sahara while heaping praise for King Mohammed VI's domestic political and economic reforms. This year's Republican Party platform singles out the Kingdom of Morocco for its "cooperation and social and economic development," with no mention of Western Sahara.

However, the occupation itself continues to prove problematic for Morocco. The nonviolent resistance to the occupation continues. Most of the international community, despite French and American efforts, has refused to recognize Morocco's illegal annexation of the territory.

As a result, the Moroccan kingdom recently advocated an autonomy plan for the territory. The Sahrawis, with the support of most of the world's nations, rejected the proposal since it would not allow them the choice of independence, as all those living in non-self-governing territories have the legal right to do.

Indeed, the autonomy plan is based on the assumption that Western Sahara is part of Morocco, a contention that the UN, the World Court, the African Union, and a broad consensus of international legal opinion have long rejected. To accept Morocco's autonomy plan would mean that, for the first time since the founding of the UN and the ratification of the UN Charter more the 60 years ago, the international community would be endorsing the expansion of a country's territory by military force, thereby establishing a very dangerous and destabilizing precedent.

In addition, Morocco's proposal contains no enforcement mechanisms, nor are there indications of any improvement of the current poor human rights situation. It's also unclear how much autonomy Morocco is offering, since it would retain control of Western Sahara's natural resources and law enforcement. In addition, the proposal appears to indicate that all powers not specifically vested in the autonomous region would remain with the kingdom.

Despite this, the Bush administration refers to Morocco's autonomy plan as "credible and serious" and the "only possible solution" to the Western Sahara conflict, further insisting that "an independent state in the Sahara is not a realistic option." While visiting Morocco last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed her support for the "good ideas" put forth by the Moroccan occupiers. Referring to the 35-year-old conflict, she proclaimed that "it is time that it be resolved," presumably with the Sahrawis accepting their fate as permanently living under Moroccan rule.

Key House Democrats have weighed in support of Morocco's right of conquest as well, with Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), who chairs the Subcommittee on the Middle East, joining Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) in signing a letter endorsing the autonomy plan. Prominent Republicans signing the letter included Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). Indeed, more than 80 of the signers are either committee chairmen or ranking members of key committees, subcommittees and elected leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives, yet another indication in this post-Cold War era of a growing bipartisan effort to undermine the longstanding principle of the right of self-determination.

Advocacy for Haidar
The RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights' selection of Haidar — one of the most prominent opponents of the U.S.-backed autonomy plan — may make it more difficult for the Bush administration to push acceptance of the Moroccan proposal through a reluctant UN Security Council. Ironically, the United States rejected a more generous autonomy plan for Kosovo and instead pushed for UN recognition of that nation's unilateral declaration of independence, even though Kosovo was legally part of Serbia and Western Sahara is legally a country under foreign military occupation.

Alas, U.S. administrations have gone to great lengths to prevent RFK award recipients from even having the opportunity to tell their stories. For example, the Reagan administration denied entry to the United States to representatives of the 1984 winners CoMadres — the group of Salvadoran women struggling on behalf of murdered and kidnapped relatives and other victims of the U.S.-backed junta. They couldn't even receive their award.

In addition to a modest cash reward, the human rights award includes the expectation the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights will launch an ongoing legal, advocacy and technical support through a partnership with the winner. According to Monika Kalra Varma, the center's director, "The RFK Human Rights Award not only recognizes a courageous human rights defender but marks the beginning of the RFK Center's long-term partnership with Ms. Haidar and our commitment to work closely with her to realize the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people."

Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), brother of the slain senator for whom the prize is named, stated, "I congratulate Aminatou Haidar for receiving this honor. All who care about democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for the people of the Western Sahara are inspired by her extraordinary courage, dedication and skilled work on their behalf."

Next Steps
Western Sahara remains an occupied territory only because Morocco has refused to abide by a series of UN Security Council resolutions calling on the kingdom to end their occupation and recognize the right of the people of that territory to self-determination. Morocco has been able to persist in its defiance of its international legal obligations because France and the United States, which wield veto power in the UN Security Council, have blocked the enforcement of these resolutions. In addition, France and the United States served as principal suppliers of the armaments and other security assistance to Moroccan occupation forces. As a result, at least as important as nonviolent resistance by the Sahrawis against Morocco's occupation policies would be the use of nonviolent action by the citizens of France, the United States and other countries that enable Morocco to maintain its occupation. Such campaigns played a major role in forcing the United States, Australia, and Great Britain to cease their support for Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. Solidarity networks have emerged in dozens of countries around the world, most notably in Spain and Norway, but don't yet have a major impact in the United States, where it could matter most.

A successful nonviolent independence struggle by an Arab Muslim people under the Haidar's leadership could set an important precedent. It would demonstrate how, against great odds, an outnumbered and outgunned population could win through the power of nonviolence in a part of the world where resistance to autocratic rule and foreign military occupation has often spawned acts of terrorism and other violence. Furthermore, the participatory democratic structure within the Sahrawi resistance movement and the prominence of women in key positions of leadership could serve as an important model in a region where authoritarian and patriarchal forms of governance have traditionally dominated.

The eventual outcome rests not just on the Sahrawis alone, but whether the international community, particularly those of us in the United States, decide whether such a struggle is worthy of our support.

Stephen Zunes, a Foreign Policy In Focus senior policy analyst, is a professor of politics and chair of Middle East Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Young Western Saharan refugees build for the future in Cuba

Source: UNHCR

Young Western Saharan refugees build for the future in Cuba
24 Sep 2008 13:50:26 GMT
Source: UNHCR

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

HAVANA, Cuba, September 24 (UNHCR) – The plight of the Sahrawi is one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world, but over the past quarter century a few thousand have been allowed to leave their desert camps in Algeria and study in a Caribbean island paradise.

Hafdala, Mehdi and Hababa are just three of the estimated 3,000 young Sahrawis who have received a secondary and tertiary education in Cuba . Currently, 175 young refugees are studying courses at the Cuban-Sahrawi Friendship School on the Isla de la Juventad (Isle of Youth). A further 358 are at universities or vocational taining centres across the island republic.

The Cuban government covers the cost of their tuition, board and health care, while the refugees study the same curricula as Cuban students. The UN refugee agency helps fund extra items such as soap, toothpaste, sheets and towels. UNHCR also monitors their protection needs and helps some of the students to return to Algeria at the end of their studies.

Although they return to exile, the education that they receive in Cuba will put them in a good position to build new lives once a durable solution has been found for the tens of thousands of Sahrawis living under harsh conditions in five border camps near Algeria's border with the Western Sahara territory.

The Sahrawis began fleeing Western Sahara in 1975 during a conflict over the right to govern the territory when Spain withdrew from the region. UNHCR supports some 90,000 of the most vulnerable refugees. This support includes providing a basic education for the Sahrawi children, most of whom were born in Algeria and have never stepped foot in their homeland.

"We attended school in the camps, but only until junior high school, and even at this level there were not enough opportunities for everyone," notes Hafdala. "For this reason, many young Sahrawi refugees have to go to other countries such as Algeria , Mauritania , Spain and Cuba to continue their education," he adds.

Mehdi jumped at the chance to study in Cuba . "I knew that many Sahrawis had obtained university degrees in this country and I wanted to do the same," he says. "Although it's hard being so far away from relatives, my parents gave permission because they also want the best for my future. Now we see that the sacrifice is worth it."

The Sahrawi students have been thriving, understanding that a good education could be their ticket to a happy and prosperous future in freedom. Mehdi and Hafdala, both aged 18 and in their final year of secondary school, were the only overseas students to win prizes in Cuba 's Spanish-language contest this year.

Hafdala, whose particular loves are the theatre and writing poetry and short stories, has also won several awards in national environmental contests. "I am interested in the environment because I have lived in the desert, which is continuously expanding because of the damage caused by man. We must convey the message so we can leave a better world to future generations."

Nineteen-year-old medical student Hababa, meanwhile, won a prize two years ago in an annual reading contest on the literary works of José Martí (1853-1895), regarded as Cuba 's national hero and apostle of independence. "Martí was not simply a Cuban, but a man of universal significance, and his thinking still has great relevance," Hababa asserts.

Despite his passion for literature, Hababa is determined to become a doctor. "Studying medicine will give me the opportunity to be useful to my community, either in the Tindouf camps [of Algeria ] or once we return to our homeland."

A small group of Sahrawi instructors ensure that the young refugees do not forget their roots. They organize activities reinforcing Sahrawi culture and traditions. The Sahrawis can also practise their Islamic religion, including the current fasting month of Ramadan.

Once they complete their secondary education, those who have done well enough at the Cuban-Sahrawi Friendship School – like Hababa – can continue their studies at various higher education centres throughout the country.

The Sahrawis appreciate the support they have received from both the Cuban government and UNHCR, and most of them are optimistic about the future. "We know that many refugees do not have the opportunities that have been given to us; for this reason we will continue studying to be in a better position to offer the same solidarity to those who need it," says Hafdala.

By Alberto Aragón in Havana , Cuba

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Bloody Massacre in Semara City in the Occupied Territory

الانتقام الأعمى.. بالسمارة المحتلة

في محاولة من الغزاة المغاربة لإسكات صوت أبطال انتفاضة الاستقلال البواسل بالسمارة المحتلة، تفذ الأوغاد المحتلين ليلة البارحة 21/09/2008 ابتداءا من الساعة العاشرة حملة قمع دموية: حيث اعتقل العشرات ونكل بالعشرات وفرضت حالة الطوارئ بالمدينة.
وهذه قائمة أولية بأسماء المعتقلين:
1-*عبداتي بن علال : اعتقل من منزل أهل سلكي حيث تم تعذيبه بشدة من طرف كبار الجلادين حيث أصيب بكسر على مستوى اليد ولم يتمكن الأطباء من وضع الجبص على الكسر نظرا لتورم الساعد ،كما أصيب بكدمات حادة في مختلف أنحاء جسمه و أفاد انه قد تم تعليقه لساعات طويلة.( الصور).
2-*الشيخي ابراهيم : عذب بوحشية وأفادت أنباء عن نقله الى المستشفى في حالة خطيرة ،وقد تم اعتقاله من أمام منزله لينقل إلى وجهة مجهولة.
3-*غالي منصور : اعتقل من شارع النصر وأطلق سراحه حوالي الساعة الخامسة صباحا وهو لا يقوى على الحركة .
4-*لعبيدي السالك عبد الودود: اعتقل وعذب بدوره.
5-*المحفوظ السالك عبد الودود:إصابات مختلفة.
6-*محمود كديري: إصابات خطيرة في مختلف أنحاء الجسم.
7-*ددي محمد ولد صالح : اعتقل وعنف داخل سيارة تابع للقمع المغربي.
8-*احمد محمد ولد الصالح: تم اعتقاله وتعذيبه بعد نقله الى مخفر القمع المغربي .
9-*احمد لعبيد البشير : اعتقل حوالى الواحدة ليلا من شارع النصر، أفرج عنه بإصابات بالغة على مستوى الظهر .
10-*الزاوي فكاك: اعتقل قرب السوق الصغير وعذب قي مكان اعتقاله ونقل الى وجهة مجهولة.
11* حمى الخيل ولد المحجوب: واعتقل قرب السوق الصغير ونكل به.
12-*محمد صالح بوحنانة.
13-*محمد امبارك ولد محمد صالح بادة.
14-* الحسين ولد ابية تعرض لاعتقال أطلق سراحه فيما بعد .
كما تم الاعتداء على مجوعة من المواطنات الصحراويات :
· الناشطة الحقوقية: النكية بوخرص إصابة على مستوى الوجه وردود على أنحاء الجسم كما تمت مصادرة هاتفها النقال.
· متو بابوزيد : صفعات ولكمات على الأطراف وتمت مصادرة هاتفها النقال.
· الناهة منت سلكي: إصابة على مستوى الرقبة.
· فركانة منت سلكي :إصابة على مستوى الذراع
· هند افظيلي محمد صالح البار: دخلت في مشادات مع فرقة قمعية بعد الاعتداء عليها ونهب هاتفها النقال وبعض النقود.
· متو افظيلي محمد صالح البار.
وأثناء حملة الاعتقالات و التنكيل هذه تم مداهمة المنازل التالية:
*منزل أهل سلكي حيث عذب أبو العائلة وهو طريح الفراش .
*منزل أهل لبات بحي الطنطان.
*منزل اهل اعلى ولد النفاع دوهم حوالي الساعة الواحدة والنصف بحثا عن ابن العائلة خطور النفاع ومجموعة من أبطال الانتفاضة.
*منزل أهل بي قرب مندوبية النقل حيث عذبت بداخله بعض النساء الصحراويات.
وتبقى هذه اللائحة بأسماء الضحايا و المنازل المداهمة أولية : حيث إن عدد المعتقلين تجاوز العشرين معتقلا اغلبهم اعتقل من شارع النصر وحي الطنطان الصامد.
وقد تم إطلاق سراح المعتقلين المذكورين أعلاه وهنا أنباء متضاربة عن وجود مجموعة من الشباب الصحراوي الثائر داخل معتقلات العدو المغربي بالسمارة المحتلة .ومع حلول الصباح تحولت منازل الضحايا إلى محج للجماهير الصحراوية من اجل مؤازرتهم والرفع من معنوياتهم ، فيما لا زالت حملة الاعتقالات مستمرة إلى الان حيث علمنا منذ قليل بمداهمة منزل بحي السلام الصامد واعتقل الأخوة المتوكل.

رغم القمع رغم السجون ***سنظل صامدين

السمارة المحتلة
يوم 22/09/2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Minatou Haidar Awarded the Robert Kennedy Foundation Award for Human Rights

For Immediate Release:Contact: Jeffrey Buchanan (202) 463-7575 ext 241
Western Sahara Human Rights Defender wins 2008 RFK Human Rights AwardAminatou Haidar to be presented with RFK Human Rights Award for her campaign on behalf of the self-determination of Western Sahara and against government abuses and disappearances of prisoners of conscious. The ceremony will take place in Washington, D.C the morning of November 13th, in the Russell Senate Office Building’s Caucus Room.
Washington DC, September 16th, 2008--- Aminatou Haidar is the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Laureate. Ms. Haidar is being recognized for her courageous campaign for self-determination of Western Sahara from its occupation by Morocco and against forced disappearances and abuses of prisoners of conscious. Regularly referred to as the “Sahrawi Gandhi,” Ms. Haidar is one of Western Sahara’s most prominent human rights defenders.
“For me, as an individual, the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award represents a great honor. As a Sahrawi human rights activist, I consider it recognition that the cause of the Sahrawi people is just and legitimate and that our non-violent resistance is noble and righteous, in spite of the risks and the intimidation of the Moroccan authorities,” said Aminatou Haidar. “The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award will provide constructive support to the struggle of the Sahrawi people for liberty and human dignity.”
"I congratulate Aminatou Haidar for receiving this honor. All who care about democracy, human rights, and the rule of law for the people of the Western Sahara are inspired by her extradorinary courage, dedication and skilled work on their behalf," said Senator Edward Kennedy. Senator Kennedy has been an outspoken champion of Western Sahara in the U.S. Senate for over two decades.
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy will preent Ms. Haidar with the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award in a public ceremony sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy the morning of November 13th, 2008 in the Russell Senate Office Building’s Caucus Room. Stay tuned to for details.
“Aminatou Haidar has shown extraordinary courage and heroic leadership for human rights in Western Sahara, one of the forgotten corners of the world and the last colony in Africa. Her nonviolent struggle for the freedom and dignity of her people reflects the kind of leadership that Robert Kennedy most admired, and that his brother, Ted Kennedy, has long supported,” said John Shattuck, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, current CEO of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and RFK Human Rights Award Judge.
Once a Spanish colony, Western Sahara has been under strict military control by the Kingdom of Morocco since its invasion in 1975. The region has experienced an extended conflict between Moroccan military and the Sahrawi ("Saharawi") independence group, the Polisario Front. In response to the International Court of Justice’s rejection of Morocco’s claims of sovereignty in the region, the Polisario Front, in 1976, proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as Western Sahara’s legitimate government in exile.
In 1988, the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed to settle the dispute through a UN-administered referendum that would allow the people of Western Sahara to choose between independence or integration with Morocco. The vote still has not been held. A UN-administered ceasefire has been in place since 1991. In 2007, the United Nations began facilitating peace talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front, but talks have stalled over disagreements including who qualifies to participate in the potential referendum and whether full independence is an option for Sahrawis.
Ms. Haidar is part of a younger generation of Sahrawi leaders working through non-violent means to organizing peaceful demonstrations in support of the referendum and to denounce the human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict. Her peaceful efforts have been met with increased police aggression and brutality. In 1987, at the age of 21, Ms. Haidar was one of 700 peaceful protestors arrested for participating in a rally in support of a referendum. Later she was “disappeared” without charge or trial and held in secret detention centers for four years, where she and 17 other Sahrawi women were tortured. In 2005, the Moroccan police detained and beat her after another peaceful demonstration. She was released after 7 months, thanks to international pressure from groups like Amnesty International and the European Parliament.
Since then Ms. Haidar has traveled the globe to expose the Moroccan military’s heavy handed approach and to advocate for the Sahrawi people’s right to self determination. Her efforts helped change the Moroccan government’s violent tactics for dispersing pro-independence demonstrations. Unfortunately, the torture and harassment of Sahrawi human rights defenders continue behind closed doors.
“The RFK Human Rights Award not only recognizes a courageous human rights defender but marks the beginning of the RFK Center’s long-term partnership with Ms. Haidar and our commitment to work closely with her to realize the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people,” said Monika Kalra Varma, Director of the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights.
For 40 years, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial has worked for a more peaceful and just world. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was established in 1984 to honor courageous and innovative human rights defenders throughout the world. There have been 38 RFK Human Rights Laureates from 22 countries to date. The award includes a cash prize of $30,000 and on-going legal, advocacy and technical support through a partnership with the RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights. Award winners are selected by an independent panel of human rights experts, which this year included: John Shattuck; Gay McDougall, U.N. Independent Expert on Minority Issues; Ambassador Bill vanden Heuvel, RFK Memorial Board Member and Of Counsel with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan; Makau Mutua, Dean of Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York; Sushma Raman, President of Southern California Grantmakers.
For more info on Western Sahara click here:
Source: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Press and Peter Van Walsum's Non-Renewed Contract as a Special Envoy to the Westeren sahara


VN-gezant Van Walsum weg (28.08.08 NRC Handelsblad [The Netherlands])

De Nederlandse diplomaat Peter van Walsum is niet langer de persoonlijke afgevaardigde van VN-secretaris-generaal Ban Ki-moon voor het conflict over de Westelijke Sahara. De VN hebben geen reden gegeven waarom zijn contract niet wordt verlengd. Maar het Saharaanse onafhankelijkheidsfront Polisario liet de VN onlangs weten dat Van Walsum „zich heeft gediskwalificeerd” als bemiddelaar door de kant van Marokko te kiezen. Van Walsum kreeg de afgelopen maanden een stortvloed van kritiek te verwerken van Polisario en Algerije, maar lof toegezwaaid door Marokko, de VS, Frankrijk en Spanje. In een interview met deze krant in mei onderstreepte hij dat een onafhankelijke Westelijke Sahara uitgesloten moet worden, omdat de Veiligheidsraad nooit bereid zal zijn deze optie met geweld op te leggen aan Marokko. Van Walsum zei vanochtend dat hij sinds zijn laatste rapportage in april geen enkel contact meer heeft gehad met de secretaris-generaal en zijn staf. „Mijn contract liep afgelopen maandag af en ik heb niks gehoord, dus is voor mij de consequentie dat ik niet langer de persoonlijke afgevaardigde ben”, aldus Van Walsum, die verder geen commentaar wilde geven op mogelijke wrijvingen met de secretaris-generaal. Al in april weigerde Ban Ki-moon om, zoals gebruikelijk, de mening van Van Walsum op te nemen in zijn rapportage aan de Veiligheidsraad over de voortgang van de onderhandelingen. Sinds vorige zomer is er onder leiding van Van Walsum vier keer gesproken tussen Marokko, dat de voormalige Spaanse kolonie in 1975 annexeerde, en Polisario. Van Walsum liet in zijn laatste rapport onomwonden weten dat het streven naar een referendum over onafhankelijkheid van het gebied, zoals Polisario wil, als niet-realistisch afgeschreven moet worden. Van Walsum begon zijn werk in 2005 nadat de Amerikaanse ex-minister van Buitenlandse Zaken James Baker na jaren onderhandelen was teruggetreden. Hoewel hij als eerste onderhandelaar erkende dat Polisario het internationaal recht aan zijn zijde had, werd zijn conclusie over het wekken van valse hoop over onafhankelijkheid uitgelegd als partijdigheid in het conflict. Van Walsum zei vandaag dat zijn conclusie nog recht overeind staat dat de onderhandelingen tot niets leiden zolang Polisario niet werkt aan een alternatief, autonomie onder Marokkaanse vlag. „Als ik op dezelfde manier was doorgegaan zou er over jaren nog niets veranderd zijn.” Het is niet duidelijk hoe de onderhandelingen tussen Marokko en Polisario voortgezet moeten worden. Polisario heeft herhaaldelijk gesuggereerd dat het niet uitsluit de wapens weer op te nemen. De vijfde overlegronde die voor dit najaar is gepland, zal bijna zeker niet doorgaan. Volgens Van Walsum blijft het nuttig het onderhandelingsproces op gang te houden. „Al zal het moeilijk zijn om iemand te vinden die door alle partijen wordt geaccepteerd.”

Western Sahara envoy says UN mandate not renewed (28.08.08 AFP [France])

The UN has not renewed the mandate of its mediator on the Western Sahara dispute, Peter van Walsum, the Dutch diplomat announced in an article in a Spanish newspaper Thursday. The POLISARIO Front, which is seeking independence for the Western Sahara, announced last month it was ready to pursue direct negotiations with Morocco over the region but wanted Van Walsum replaced. It charged the 74-year-old diplomat "is biased in favour of Morocco after a declaration that the independence of Western Sahara is an unrealistic option." Van Walsum, who has been in the post since 2005, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not renewed his mandate, which expired on August 21. "I am writing this tribune as former personal envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Western Sahara," Van Walsum said in an op-ed piece for the newspaper El Pais. "I was originally appointed to this post by Secretary-General (Kofi) Annan in August 2005, and the fifth semi-annual extension of my appointment expired on August 21st last." In an interview with El Pais earlier this month, Van Walsum said the POLISARIO Front's demand for independence is not achievable even though it is backed by international law. The POLISARIO has "international law on its side," he said in the interview published on August 8. "But the Security Council is not ready to exercise its authority ... and impose it." Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony which was annexed in 1975 by Morocco. The POLISARIO Front, backed by Algeria, wants independence for the territory on the west African coast. The two sides agreed to a truce in 1991 under the auspices of the UN. Talks in the New York state town of Manhasset have been going on since June 2007. The fourth round of talks ended last March without success, but a date for the fifth round has not been set. Rabat has offered a form of autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, while the POLISARIO wants a referendum on self-determination. In his op-ed piece in El Pais Thursday, Van Walsum was cautiously optimistic about the chances for an eventual settlement on the issue. "There is a way out, but it is an arduous one that would lead through tough, genuine negotiations," he said. "If the POLISARIO could tentatively contemplate a negotiated solution short of full independence, it would instantly be assured of overwhelming international support... "I do not expect that the POLISARIO will take this step in the foreseeable future," he said. "For the time being, nothing will change: the POLISARIO will continue to demand a referendum with independence as an option, Morocco will continue to rule that out, and the Security Council will continue to insist on a consensual solution. Meanwhile the international community will continue to grow used to the status quo."

Sahara: le mandat de l'envoyé spécial de l'ONU van Walsum non renouvelé (28.08.08 Le Monde [France])

L 'ONU n'a pas renouvelé le mandat de son envoyé spécial pour le Sahara occidental, le Néerlandais Peter van Walsum, a annoncé jeudi ce dernier dans une tribune publiée par le quotidien espagnol El Pais. M. van Walsum, 74 ans, qui occupe depuis 2005 ce poste où il avait remplacé l'Américain James Baker, a précisé que son mandat, qui expirait le 21 août, n'a pas été renouvelé par le Secrétaire général des Nations unies. Il indique avoir écrit sa tribune dans El Pais en tant "qu'ancien envoyé spécial personnel" de M. Ban Ki-moon. Le diplomate néerlandais avait estimé en avril puis début août dans une interview à El Pais que l'indépendance du Sahara occidental, ancienne colonie espagnole annexée par le Maroc en 1975, "n'(était) pas un objectif accessible", alors qu'elle est réclamée par le Front POLISARIO. Il précise jeudi dans le quotidien espagnol que "si le POLISARIO continue à exiger un référendum pour l'indépendance, le Maroc le rejettera de nouveau et le Conseil de sécurité (de l'ONU) va insister pour trouver un accord consensuel. Et rien ne changera". Le départ de M. van Walsum, qu'avait réclamé le Front POLISARIO fin juillet, risque de retarder à nouveau la recherche d'une solution à un conflit de plus de 30 ans. Le Maroc propose une seule option: l'autonomie du territoire sous sa souveraineté, que le POLISARIO rejette, avec notamment le soutien de l'Algérie. Selon les indépendantistes sahraouis, M. van Walsum "était de parti pris en faveur du Maroc après avoir déclaré que l'indépendance du Sahara occidental est une option irréaliste". Rabat et le POLISARIO poursuivent depuis 2007, sous l'égide de l'ONU, des négociations à Manhasset, près de New York, destinées à déterminer l'avenir de l'ancienne colonie espagnole. Le quatrième round de ces discussions s'est achevé en mars et la date de la prochaine séance de négociations n'a pas encore été fixée. Pour M. van Walsum, dans son article d'El Pais jeudi, le "long et complexe problème du Sahara", n'est "pas insoluble", même s'il semble difficile à régler. Selon lui la seule "sortie" possible au conflit serait que le POLISARIO "puisse envisager une hypothétique solution négociée qui ne soit pas une indépendance totale" du territoire contesté, sur la base de la proposition marocaine. Il prévoit toutefois un prolongement de l'actuel "statu quo" en raison de l'intransigeance des parties en présence.

UN's Western Sahara envoy's mandate 'not renewed' (28.08.08 Moneybiz [South Africa])

The UN has not renewed the mandate of its mediator on the Western Sahara dispute, Peter van Walsum, the Dutch diplomat announced in an article in a Spanish newspaper today. The POLISARIO Front, which is seeking independence for Western Sahara, announced last month it was ready to pursue direct negotiations with Morocco over the region but wanted Van Walsum replaced. It charged the 74-year-old diplomat "is biased in favour of Morocco after a declaration that the independence of Western Sahara is an unrealistic option." Van Walsum, who has been in the post since 2005, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has not renewed his mandate, which expired on August 21. "I am writing this tribune as former personal envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Western Sahara," Van Walsum said in an op-ed piece for the newspaper El Pais. "I was originally appointed to this post by Secretary-General (Kofi) Annan in August 2005, and the fifth semi-annual extension of my appointment expired on August 21th last." In an interview with El Pais earlier this month, Van Walsum said the POLISARIO Front's demand for independence is not achievable even though it is backed by international law. The POLISARIO has "international law on its side," he said in the interview published on August 8. "But the Security Council is not ready to exercise its authority...and impose it." Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony which was annexed in 1975 by Morocco. The POLISARIO Front, backed by Algeria, wants independence for the territory on the West African coast. The two sides agreed to a truce in 1991 under the auspices of the UN. Talks in the New York state town of Manhasset have been going on since June 2007. The fourth round of talks ended last March without success, and a date for a fifth round has not been set. Rabat has offered a form of autonomy for the territory under Moroccan sovereignty, while the POLISARIO wants a referendum on self-determination.

UN Western Sahara envoy to leave over disagreements with POLISARIO (28.08.08 DPA [Germany])

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has not renewed the mandate of Peter van Walsum, his personal envoy for Western Sahara, who was criticized by the Western Saharawi independence movement POLISARIO Front, the Spanish daily El Pais reported Thursday. The Dutch diplomat, whose mandate expires this month, confirmed the report in an article he wrote for El Pais. Van Walsum, 74, was appointed in 2005 as successor to former US secretary of state James Baker, who resigned in 2004 over the difficulties in solving one of the UN's longest-running conflicts. POLISARIO has sought the independence of Western Sahara since it was annexed by Morocco after the colonial power Spain withdrew from there in 1975. The UN brokered a ceasefire to a 15-year war in 1991, but the planned referendum on independence was never staged because of opposition from Morocco, which quarrelled with POLISARIO over who would be allowed to vote. Van Walsum came to the conclusion that although POLISARIO's demands were legitimate, independence was not a realistic goal, because the UN Security Council would not force Morocco to comply with the referendum plan. There was a risk of creating false hopes and of prolonging the status quo for 160,000 Saharawi refugees languishing in Algerian camps, the diplomat argued. It would be wiser for POLISARIO not to insist on "total independence," van Walsum writes in El Pais. Morocco is offering Western Sahara autonomy instead of independence. Van Walsum's stance angered POLISARIO, which accused him of being pro-Moroccan and urged Ban to sack him. The envoy had "disqualified himself," El Pais quoted POLISARIO leader Mohammed Abdelaziz as writing to the Secretary-General. Van Walsum's departure left the Western Sahara conflict in a "dead end" once again, the daily commented.

Rabat alaba 'coraje' de Van Walsum y rechaza un 'sexto Estado en el Magreb' (28.08.08 EFE [Spain])

El Gobierno de Marruecos alabó hoy el 'coraje' de Peter Van Walsum por sus declaraciones sobre el conflicto del Sáhara Occidental y rechazó la creación de un 'sexto Estado en el Magreb'. El ministro marroquí de Comunicación y Portavoz del Gobierno, Jalid Naciri, declaró hoy ante la prensa que el representante de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental ha expresado 'la postura más lógica' para la solución de ese conflicto. El pasado abril Van Walsum consideró que la independencia del Sáhara Occidental, defendida por el Frente POLISARIO, no es una opción 'realista' y hoy reconoció en un diario español que su mandato, que expiraba el 21 de agosto, no ha sido renovado, aunque Naciones Unidas no lo ha anunciado todavía oficialmente. El ministro marroquí, que se manifestó así después de la reunión semanal del Gobierno de Marruecos, añadió que 'las opiniones expresadas por Walsum demuestran su gran objetividad y su serenidad en su auspicio de las negociaciones entre nuestro país y el Frente POLISARIO'. 'Van Walsum ha tenido el coraje de expresar públicamente lo que piensa todo el mundo: no es posible concebir un sexto Estado en el Magreb, eso es absurdo', subrayó. El ministro marroquí indicó que 'el diplomático holandés honró al Consejo de Seguridad y a la Asamblea General de la ONU cuando consideró que no es realista imaginar la independencia de nuestras provincias del sur' (como Marruecos denomina al Sáhara Occidental, que se anexionó en 1975). Y aseguró: 'no pienso que la ONU vuelva a buscar soluciones sin sentido como en el pasado. Ahora el conflicto debe ser solucionado mediante una visión de futuro y que respete la integridad territorial de Marruecos'. Las declaraciones de Van Walsum, interpretadas como de apoyo a la posición de Marruecos, fueron calificadas en su momento por el Frente POLISARIO como 'una puñalada al proceso de paz y a las negociaciones auspiciadas por Naciones Unidas'. El POLISARIO decidió no retomar la quinta ronda de negociaciones con Marruecos mientras el diplomático holandés continuara en el cargo. Desde junio de 2007 el Frente POLISARIO y Marruecos han mantenido cuatro rondas de negociaciones bajo los auspicios de la ONU en Manhasset (Estados Unidos), sin que hayan dado como resultado avance significativo alguno hacia la solución del conflicto. Marruecos presentó en 2007 una propuesta que concede autonomía para el territorio de la antigua colonia española pero dentro de Marruecos -que no renuncia a la soberanía sobre el territorio aunque no controla éste en su totalidad-, mientras que el POLISARIO defiende que se celebre un referéndum de autodeterminación.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A very British compromiseRather than shrugging its shoulders about Western Sahara, the UN should use the Commonwealth as a role model

A very British compromise
Rather than shrugging its shoulders about Western Sahara, the UN should use the Commonwealth as a role model

Ian Williams,

Friday August 15 2008 18:30 BST

It was a bit like telling a rape victim to stop struggling. Peter van Walsum, the Dutch diplomat who is the UN representative to Western Sahara, told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that Western Sahara will never achieve independence, even though he admitted that international law and successive UN resolutions have called for self determination in the vast desert country mostly occupied by the Moroccans.
He castigated Spanish civil society - which is very active on the issue since Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony that Franco threw to the Moroccans to protect his own "Gibraltars" in Morocco, the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta - for encouraging the Sahrawis in their resistance.
Van Walsum almost has a point when he says the UN security council "is not ready to exercise its authority under article VII of the UN charter, and impose it." But why is he attacking the victims and their friends? One would have thought a Dutch diplomat, with the record of acquiescence to "facts on the ground" in Srebrenica, would be more circumspect. Why has he not pilloried Morocco and its friends in the Security Council - the US, France and Britain?
The silence of the UN Secretariat over the years has been stunning, since Morocco reneged on its 1991 agreement to allow a referendum in the territory. Indeed, there has often been complicity and connivance, as when then UN secretary-general Perez de Cuellar, in his last week in office tried to get the security council to adopt a pro-Moroccan resolution over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
I was at the press briefing back in 1991 when Johannes Mantz, the Swiss diplomat charged with heading MINURSO announced that it would only take a year to identify the voters and hold the referendum. I asked him at the time if he had consulted the King of Morocco, who had made it plain that the only referendum he would allow was one that he was guaranteed to win. Since then, Mohammed and his heir Hassan each refused to allow the referendum while the UN has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the sand dunes in preparation for it.
There is a deafening sound of silence about Morocco's refusal to accept international law and security council resolutions, let alone honour its own promises. Initially backed strongly by France, Morocco now has American support, which nowadays always carries automatic British acquiescence as an added bonus.
At least partly, Washington's support is because Morocco is Israel's closest partner in the Arab world, even though the King hedges his bets by being chair of the Arab League committee on Jerusalem. The latter position ensures that Arab states perennially concerned about Palestinian refugees and the separation wall are calmly insouciant about the Saharan refugees and the huge sand berm that Morocco has built across the territories it has occupied.
However, there is a solution from the example of the British Commonwealth, which has been endlessly inventive in finding ways to maintain symbolic ties without real authority or responsibility. When the Moroccans referred the issue to the World Court, the ICJ, the judgement found no evidence "of any legal tie of territorial sovereignty" between Western Sahara and Morocco and said that the territory needed an act of self-determination. Neverthless, it did detect "indication of a legal tie of allegiance between the [Moroccan] Sultan and some of the tribes of the territory."So, enter King Hassan of Western Sahara, with all the powers and honours of Queen Elizabeth in her realms of Canada, Australia, Barbados and so on. The security council can then tell the King that he gets his due, while the Western Saharans clearly get what they want: effective independence. Polisario would surely be happy to offer a 21-gun salute and a few garden parties every time the King visited – maybe even build him a royal sand-castle somewhere.
But first, the western members of the security council have to put some truth to the rumours they keep spreading about their attachment to international law, democracy and the rights of small countries not to be bullied and occupied by their neighbours.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

جبهة البوليزاريو ترفض وساطة فان فالسوم في نزاع الصحراء الغربية

عبر الأمين العام لجبهة البوليزاريو، محمد عبد العزيز، عن استنكار الجبهة الشديد للتصريحات الأخيرة للممثل الشخصي للأمين العام الأممي في الصحراء الغربية، الديبلوماسي الهولندي بيتير فان فالسوم التي تقول الجبهة انه أبان فيها عن انحيازه لأطروحة المغرب. وقال عبد العزيز في رسالة وجهها يوم 4 آب (أغسطس) الجاري إلى الامين العام للامم المتحدة، بان كيمون، كشف عن محتواها الجمعة وتلقت 'القدس العربي' نسخة منها، أن جبهة البوليزاريو 'تود التعبير عن استغرابها الشديد واستنكارها التام للتصريحات التي أدلى بها السيد فان فالسوم، أمام مجلس الأمن الأممي في شهر نيسان/أبريل المنصرم، والتي ابتعدت بشكل جذري ومرفوض عن الموقف التقليدي للأمم المتحدة بخصوص قضية تصفية الإستعمار بالصحراء الغربية'.واعتبر أمين عام جبهة البوليزاريو أن تصريحات فالسوم 'تجعل منه وسيطا غير محايد، وغير مؤهل للعب دور المسهل للجولة الخامسة من المفاوضات التي ستجريها الجبهة مع المغرب مستقبلا'.وتقول البوليزاريو ان فالسوم، بتصريحاته الاخيرة، 'ناقض تقارير الأمين العام، بل ناقض فيها نفسه وهو الذي أكد في تقرير سابق في عهدة كوفي عنان أنه لا يمكن للامم المتحدة أن تنظم استفتاءا لتقرير المصير ما لم يتضمن خيار الاستقلال'.وأضافت الرسالة أن دعوة فان فالسوم إلى اعتماد الاقتراح المغربي قاعدة للمفاوضات، هو دعوة للمنتظم الدولي للإعتراف بواقع احتلال مفروض بالقوة ومناقض للشرعية، ودعوة للإعتراف بسيادة المغرب على اقليم الصحراء الغربية، وهو ما لا تعترف به الأمم المتحدة ولا أية دولة أخرى. وكان المغرب قد اقترح حكما ذاتيا موسعا للصحراء الغربية تحت سيادة الرباط. غير ان البوليزاريو والجزائر رفضتا الاقتراح وأعلنتا تمسكهما باستفتاء تقرير المصير.وبهذه الرسالة، التي لم تحمل طلبا رسميا بإقالة فان فالسوم، تكون الجبهة قد عبرت عن رفضها وساطة الدبلوماسي الهولندي، بالرغم من أن عبد العزيز قد أكد كذلك على 'استعداد البوليزاريو التام لمواصلة المشاركة في المفاوضات'، وعن 'إرادتها في التوصل إلى حل يضمن للشعب الصحراوي حقه غير القابل للتصرف في تقرير مصيره بنفسه وفقا للقرارات ذات الصلة ولميثاق الأمم المتحدة'.فان فالسوم، للإشارة، صرح للإعلام الهولندي في عدة مناسبات، ولجريدة 'الباييس' الإسبانية مؤخرا، بأن 'الشرعية الدولية في صف البوليزاريو'، إلا أن مجلس الأمن، دائما حسب الدبلوماسي الهولندي، 'غير راغب في فرض احترام القانون الدولي في الصحراء الغربية'. وانطلاقا من هذا التحليل، يرى فان فالسوم أن على البوليزاريو التوقف عن المطالبة باستقلال الصحراء الغربية، والقبول بحكم ذاتي في إطار المملكة المغربية.وترفض جبهة البوليزاريو بالإطلاق الخوض في مشروع المغرب للحكم الذاتي خارج سياق استفتاء يشمل خيارات ثلاثة تطرح على الشعب الصحراوي هي الاستقلال، الإنضمام للمغرب او الحكم الذاتي، وترى أن تصريحات فالسوم 'تشجيع على انتهاك الشرعية الدولية'.وفي نفس السياق، اكد السيد آيان ويليامز، المحلل السياسي لمجموعة التفكير الأمريكية 'السياسة الدولية تحت المجهر' لإذاعة فرنسا الدولية أن 'نصيحة' ولسوم للبوليزاريو هي 'فضيحة حقيقية'.واعتبر ويليامز أن 'عجز الدبلوماسي الهولندي عن توجيه النقد إلى الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية، وفرنسا، وبريطانيا والأمم المتحدة لعدم جديتها في تطبيق الشرعية الدولية بالصحراء الغربية، هو في الحقيقة ما دفعه إلى توجيه نظره إلى البوليزاريو على اعتبار أنها الحلقة الأضعف في النزاع'، حسب رأيه.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Peter Van Walsum Again!

الشرعية الى جانب البوليساريو لكن الاستقلال غير واقعي

GMT 16:30:00 2008 الجمعة 8 أغسطس

أ. ف. ب.

مدريد: اعلن مبعوث الامم المتحدة الى الصحراء الغربية بيتر فان فالسوم في حديث نشرته الجمعة صحيفة الباييس الاسبانية ان الشرعية "الى جانب" الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير الساقية الحمراء ووادي الذهب (بوليساريو)، لكن استقلال الصحراء الغربية "هدف لا يمكن تحقيقه". وقال الدبلوماسي الهولندي ان "الشرعية الدولية الى جانب" جبهة البوليساريو التي تطالب باستفتاء لتقرير مصير سكان هذه المستعمرة الاسبانية سابقا.

واضاف الموفد الاممي للصحراء الغربية "لكن مجلس الامن الدولي ليس مستعدا لممارسة نفوذه وفرض ذلك الحل". واوضح فان فالسوم ان على مجلس الامن ان "يحترم الشرعية الدولية لكن يجب عليه ايضا ان ياخذ في الاعتبار الواقع الميداني" بينما "لم تثمر ثلاثون سنة من حجج البوليساريو الشرعية الساطعة، عن اي نتيجة".

واعتبر انه في هذه الظروف فان "استقلال الصحراء الغربية ليس هدفا يمكن تحقيقه". واعلنت جبهة البوليساريو في 29 تموز/يوليو في الجزائر انها لا تريد مشاركة بيتر فان فالسون في المفاوضات وطلبت من الامم المتحدة تعيين موفد خاص جديد للصحراء واخذت عليه انه "منحاز للمغرب". وكان فان فالسوم اكد في وثيقة تعكس نظرته الشخصية ونشر في نيسان/ابريل ان استقلال الصحراء الغربية ليس هدفا واقعيا وان على البوليساريو ان تعدل عنه.

ويجري المغرب وجبهة البوليساريو منذ حزيران/يونيو 2007 مفاوضات مباشرة برعاية الامم المتحدة في ضاحية مانهاست بنيويورك تهدف الى تحديد مستقبل المستعمرة الاسبانية سابقا. وانتهت اخر جولة من المفاوضات في 18 اذار/مارس دون نتيجة واتفق الطرفان على عقد لقاء اخر في موعد لم يحدد.

وتطالب جبهة البوليساريو باستفتاء لتقرير المصير يطرح فيه الاستقلال كخيار من ثلاثة على ان يكون الخيار الثاني الانضمام الى المغرب والثالث الحكم الذاتي. ويكتفي المغرب باقتراح واحد هو حكم ذاتي تحت سيادة مغربية تدعمه فرنسا والولايات المتحدة واسبانيا بتكتم.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Another Poem from The Occupied Territory: My Hero!

استتشهد لانه بطل

للانه ما ارادالاستعمار

وكان يحمل فكر وافكار

نعم اغتيل عزيز الدار

واصبح الان في قائمة شهدائنا الابرار

اطفئ نوره لكن بقيت انوار

وعدت بان تكمل المشوار

وتصبر صبر كباار

بان تغسل الذل والعار
وعدت بان تتماسك وان لا تنهار

فقط من اجلك اايها البطل االمغوار

ومن ااجل انصارنا الثوار

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Amnesty International Report's on Western Sahara Summer 2008


amnesty international
Morocco/Western Sahara
Morocco/Western Sahara: Investigate Allegations of Torture and Grant Detainees a Fair Trial

July 2008

AI Index: MDE 29/013/2008

Eighteen students of the Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University, aged between 21 and 29 and members of the National Union of Moroccan Students, were arrested on 14 and 15 May 2008 following confrontations between law enforcement officers and members of the student body. The students attempted to organize a march from the Faculty of Law to the office of the Rector of the University located in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to demand better social and economic conditions, the reintegration of expelled students and the dismissal of the Dean of the Faculty of Law. On 9 June, seven students, namely: Nasser Ahsain, Younes Al-Salami, Mohamed Al-Idrissi, Hisham Al-Idrissi, Hafiz Al-Hafezi, Radawan Al-Ribiri and Mansour Aghdir were found guilty of a number of criminal offenses including "participation in an armed gathering" and "contempt of and attacks on" public officials on duty. Eleven students, namely: Zohra Boudkhour, the only female detainee, Galal Al-Qitbi, Abdelallah Al-Rashidi, Alaa Al-Dirbali, Mohamed Gamili, Youssef Mashdoufi, Mohamed Al-Arabi Gadi, Youssef Al-Alawi, Khaled Mouftah, Mourad Al-Chouni and Ousman Al-Chouni remain in custody while the judicial investigation continues. In light of testimonies collected, Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the students' cases have been marred with reports of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. [1]

Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to ensure that the 18 members of the National Union of Moroccan Students detained in the Civil Prison of Marrakesh are granted fair trials in accordance with international standards and that they do not face the death penalty. The organization also urges the Moroccan authorities to open a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into their allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and to guarantee that the detainees are protected from torture and other forms of ill-treatment and have adequate access to medical treatment, their lawyers and families. Amnesty International is concerned that the 18 students might be detained on account of their political activism in demanding a number of reforms in the Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University and participating in student demonstrations, and therefore might be political prisoners. Reports suggest that 13 of the 18 detained students have affiliations with the leftist movement Democratic Path (Voie Democratique).

The circumstances surrounding the Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University incidents of 14 and 15 May, which resulted in the 18 students' arrest, remain highly disputed. While university authorities maintain that some students initiated and used violence against law enforcement officers and destroyed public property; a number of students, political movements and human rights organizations assert that law enforcement officers used excessive force to prevent the planned march, raided the university campus and committed a number of violations including arbitrary arrests and detentions, the unauthorized confiscation of personal belongings and physical attacks on students. An unconfirmed number of injuries was reported in the aftermath of the demonstrations. To Amnesty International's knowledge, no full, independent, impartial investigation into the events has been conducted to date.

Student protests against the Cadi Ayyad Marrakesh University administration escalated in the months leading up to the confrontations on 14 and 15 May. On 25 April, law enforcement officers prevented a student march which resulted in confrontations between students and law enforcement officers and the detention of a number of students. The march was intended as a show of solidarity with approximately 20 students hospitalized at the Ibn Toufail hospital suffering from food poisoning, allegedly as a result of a university campus cafeteria meal.

Amnesty International urges the Moroccan authorities to conduct an independent, full and impartial investigation into allegations of the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers during the confrontations between law enforcement officers and members of the student body on 14 and 15 May and to bring those responsible to justice.

Lack of investigation into allegations of torture and other ill-treatment
Amnesty International is gravely concerned by reports that all 18 students arrested on 14 and 15 May during or in the aftermath of demonstrations at Marrakesh University have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during their arrest and their transportation in police vehicles from the university campus to Gamaa Al-Fanaa Police Station and in particular in the course of their garde à vue (pre-arraignment) detention at the Gammaa Al-Fanaa Police station, which was extended by an additional 24 hours by the judicial authorities .[2]

Reports suggest that the two groups of students brought in front of the Crown Prosecutor on May 17 and 18, respectively, bore visible injuries and requested investigations into their torture and medical examinations. The students' request was reiterated by their lawyers during the first hearing in front of the Court of First Instance of Marrakesh on 19 May in the case of the group of seven students detained on 14 May, and at a number of hearings in front of the Investigative Judge in the case of the group of 11 students detained on 15 May. Article 134 of the Moroccan Criminal Procedure Code requires the Investigative Judge to order a medical examination if requested by the detainees or their lawyers or if there are visible signs of ill-treatment to prompt an examination. Reports suggest that the 18 students were only seen by medical professionals several weeks after their garde à vue. The examining doctors are reported to have failed to conduct a thorough physical and psychological examination and told the detainees verbally that they were in good medical condition. No medical examination reports were shared with the students or their lawyers. The detainees' lawyers are not aware whether or not medical reports have been produced. While reports indicate that the Public Prosecutor arranged for the questioning of a number of students following their allegations of torture, to Amnesty International's knowledge a full, impartial and independent investigation, meeting Morocco's obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and in line with the Principles on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, was not conducted and no one found responsible has, to date, been brought to justice.

Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to immediately conduct a full, impartial and independent investigation into allegations that the 18 students were tortured or otherwise ill-treated, to bring those responsible to justice and to ensure that the students promptly obtain any medical attention they may require.

Flouted Legal Proceeding
On 9 June, the Court of First Instance in Marrakesh found Nasser Ahsain, Younes Al-Salami, Mohamed Al-Idrissi, Hisham Al-Idrissi, Hafiz Al-Hafezi, Radawan Al-Ribiri and Mansour Aghdir guilty of a number of offences including "participating in an armed gathering", "contempt of and attacks on" public officials on duty and destroying public property and sentenced them to one year prison terms and fines of 1,500 dirhams (approximately 208 US dollars). Amnesty International is concerned that they were convicted on the basis of police statements they signed as a result of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, without being allowed to read them, in breach of Article 293 of the Moroccan Criminal Procedure Code, which stipulates that no confession can be relied upon in court if it is obtained "through violence or duress" and of Article 15 of the Convention against Torture which states that "any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings". The defence appealed the ruling. The next hearing is scheduled to take place on 4 August.

Eleven students, namely: Zohra Boudkhour, Galal Al-Qitbi, Abdelallah Al-Rashidi, Alaa Al-Dirbali, Mohamed Gamili, Youssef Mashdoufi, Mohamed Al-Arabi Gadi, Youssef Al-Alawi, Khaled Mouftah, Mourad Al-Chouni and Ousman Al-Chouni were charged by the Crown Prosecutor on 18 May with a number of offences including "participating in an armed gathering", "contempt of and attacks on public officials on duty", "destroying public property", "voluntarily setting fire" on residential places and "attempting to murder another individual". They have not been brought in front of a court to date and remain in custody at the Civil Prison in Marrakesh, while the judicial investigation continues. The charges of "voluntarily setting a fire" on residential places and "attempting to murder another individual" incur the death penalty.

Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to ensure that the detainees are granted fair trials in accordance with international standards and that they do not face the death penalty. Amnesty International also urges the Moroccan authorities to guarantee that information obtained as a result of torture or other forms of ill-treatment is not adduced as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

Prison Conditions
The 18 students have been on a hunger strike since 11 June in protest over their incarceration and their prison conditions. Their demands include being grouped in the same cell in prison, access to educational materials, medical examination reports, adequate medical care, guarantees of a fair trial and protection from torture and other ill-treatment during their incarceration. According to information received by Amnesty International, the 18 students are held in harsh and unhygienic conditions with no access to adequate medical care. Reports suggest that many are in critical medical condition exacerbated by the injuries sustained as a result of beatings they received during the period of garde à vue detention and as a result of their hunger strike. Amnesty International is also concerned by reports that the 18 detainees are routinely verbally abused by prison guards and that in at least one instance one of the detainees, Alaa Al-Dirbili, was placed in solitary confinement for a number of hours and beaten by guards on 27 May for attempting to communicate with another detainee.

Amnesty International calls on the Moroccan authorities to guarantee that the 18 detainees are held in conditions that do not violate Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 16 of the Convention against Torture, and which also conform to the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment adopted by the General Assembly on December 1988 and that prompt, independent, thorough and impartial investigations are conducted into all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

Allegations of Harassment of Supporters of the Detainees
Amnesty International is also concerned by reports that a number of peaceful solidarity sit-ins organized by the National Committee of Solidarity with the Detainees in Marrakesh and other Political Detainees and by family members of the detained students have been dispersed by law enforcement officers with excessive use of force. For example, during a peaceful sit-in on 28 June in front of the Parliament in Rabat organized by the Committee and attended by a number of human rights defenders, law enforcement officers used excessive force to disperse the sit-in without giving prior warning as stipulated in the Moroccan Code of Public Liberties. It has been reported that security officers beat protestors with batons and that as a result a number of protesters including at least 4 members of the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, a well-known human rights organization in Morocco, sustained injuries including an eyebrow wound and a dislocated arm. On another occasion, during the dispersal of a peaceful protest by family members on 10 June in front of the Appeals Court in Marrakesh, it has been reported that a law enforcement officer stepped on Mariam Banna, mother of detainee Alaa Al-Dirbili, who fell on the ground while trying to prevent security officers from arresting her other son, Ahmed Al-Dirbili. Mariam Banna's leg was broken as a result and she had to be admitted to hospital. Amnesty International is concerned that law enforcement officers may have used excessive force and may have failed to act in conformity with international standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials, in particular Article 3 of the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, which states that: "Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty."

Amnesty International urges the Moroccan authorities to investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers during the peaceful protests organised in solidarity with the detained students and to bring those responsible to justice.

In light of the above Amnesty calls on the Moroccan authorities to:

- Guarantee that the 18 students detained at the Marrakesh Civil Prison are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are granted adequate access to medical treatment, their lawyers and family members;
- Immediately investigate the allegations that the 18 students were tortured or otherwise ill-treated and ensure they obtain promptly any medical attention they may require;
- Ensure that any officials found to have committed, ordered or authorized torture are identified and promptly brought to justice;
- Guarantee the right to a fair trial, including by ensuring that no statements made under torture or other ill-treatment will be used to obtain convictions;
- Introduce an immediate moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty and commute all death sentences in line with the UN General Assembly resolution in favour of a worldwide moratorium (Resolution 62/149).
- Investigate allegations of the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers during the confrontations between law enforcement officers and members of the student body on 14 and 15 May and during the peaceful protests organised in solidarity with the detained students and to bring those responsible to justice.
- Implement the recommendation of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission (Instance Equite Reconcilitation, IER) to reform the security sector, particularly with regard to the means of intervention during operations for those organs which have the power to resort to public force
-Implement the recommendation of the IER, to adopt and implement an integrated strategy to combat impunity.

See Also
-Morocco/Western Sahara: Allow Reporting on Human Rights, 11 July 2008,
-Morocco / Western Sahara: Allegations of torture of Sahrawi human rights defender must be investigated, 25 April 2008,
-Morocco: Submission to the UN Universal Period Review: First Session of the UPR Working Group, 7-11 April 2008, 20 November 2007,
-Morocco/Western Sahara: Amnesty International calls for release prisoners of conscience sentenced for "undermining the monarchy", 16 July 2007,
-Morocco/Western Sahara: Torture in the "anti-terrorism" campaign - the case of Témara detention centre, 24 July 2004,