Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA)
TRIUMPH FOR HUMAN RIGHTS PROTESTERS IN WESTERN SAHARA
The Australia-Western Sahara Association welcomes the release from Moroccan prisons of Ali Salem Tamek and 11 other Saharawi political prisoners. The announcement was made on the eve of a hunger strike due to begin on 7 January by prisoners in El Ayoun's infamous Black Prison to protest about inhuman conditions. The Moroccan authorities have been forced to respond to growing international concern about human rights abuses in Morocco and occupied Western Sahara.
We further welcome the release of six Moroccan journalists including Ali Lmrabet on hunger strike since 30 November. His offences of insulting the monarchy and endangering "territorial integrity" included publishing material in favour of the Saharawi people's right to self-determination over Western Sahara. He won an award from Reporters without Borders for his fearless journalism. Morocco will remain a pariah state until it allows these journalists to practise their profession with complete freedom of expression.
We congratulate the human rights organisations both within Western Sahara and outside for their determined struggle for justice for these prisoners of conscience. And most particularly we praise the courage of the prisoners themselves and their families who have protested no matter what. The fact that all this work in many countries has finally produced results gives a message of hope for those whose struggle remains as yet unrewarded.
We call upon Morocco to account for the 526 Saharawi disappeared, the 150 prisoners of war, and to return the remains of those who have died under torture and in custody in Moroccan prisons to the families, and that those responsible for their mistreatment should be brought to justice. We ask for compensation for those who have been imprisoned for many years as a result of unfair trials and simply for the expression of their political views.
We join Amnesty International in urging "...the Moroccan government to ensure that its ongoing revision of existing legislation culminates in changes in domestic law which guarantee compliance with the country's obligations under international human rights treaties. In particular, all provisions that permit prison sentences for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression must be removed and further safeguards for fair trials introduced."
We ask Morocco to remove the state of siege in occupied Western Sahara and to allow free travel to and within these territories for both Saharawis themselves and visitors from abroad.
Finally we ask Morocco to respect the most basic human right of the Saharawi people, namely that of self-determination and to agree to a free and fair referendum on the future of Western Sahara held as soon as possible in accordance with the UN peace plan.
Sydney 12 January 2004
Contact: Paul Reid &endash; AWSA President