Hearing of Petitioners on Western Sahara by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, (Fourth Committee), United Nations, New York
October 10, 2005
Chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
First of all, I would like to thank you for letting me address you here today on behalf of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara. For us, the respect for international legality and Human Rights is fundamental for the successful resolution of any international conflict.
As an example of our work, I will mention that we sent a delegation of Human Rights observers to the occupied capital of Western Sahara, El Aaiun to attend the trial on 5. July of 16 Saharawis who had been arrested for demonstrating against Moroccan oppression and the occupation of their homeland. However, only a few hours after our arrival the following took place: one of our Saharawi contacts, Mr. Latif Allal, was arrested and tortured by the Moroccan police because of his contact with the foreign delegation, his car was confiscated without justification and our delegation was detained, threatened and thrown out of Western Sahara by a force of some 250 Moroccan police, many of whom were armed. Since we were evicted, most of those Saharawis we met there have either been arrested or suffered harassment and intimidation by the Moroccan police. One of them, Mr. Brahim Noumria, has even been severely tortured in Moroccan jails, where he remains to this day despite the lack of any legal proceedings convicting him of any crime.
I address this prestigious forum today not only as a representative of the global solidarity movement for the Saharawi people. I also carry a statement from some of the most courageous and respected representatives of the Saharawi people, namely Aminatou Haidar, Brahim Noumria, Ali Salem Tamek, Lidri Elhoucine and thirty-three other Saharawi political prisoners in the infamous "Black Prison" in El Aaiun. Along with hundreds of other Saharawis from all walks of life, they were arrested by the Moroccan security forces after a series of largely peaceful demonstrations in Western Sahara in May, June and July of this year. As has been documented and denounced by Saharawi, Moroccan and international Human Rights organizations, most of them have since their arrest been subjected to prolonged interrogation and some or all of the following Human Rights violations: beatings, torture or other degrading treatment, threats of rape or murder, forced feeding or injections when on hunger strike, isolation and deportation to Moroccan jails.
In a message smuggled out of the Black Prison yesterday specifically for this event, the Saharawi political prisoners make an appeal to the United Nations and the governments represented here. I quote from the statement:
"The judicial police proceedings and accusations that we are subjected to totally lack any legal foundation and semblance of fairness. The trials are mere mock trials, orchestrated for overtly political reasons. In addition, Moroccan political parties and mass media, both official and private, carry out a ferocious smear campaign against the activists and any Saharawi calling for their right to self-determination, thus compounding the grief and numerous problems of our families and sympathizers. The Moroccan medical staff in Western Sahara are no exception; hospitals and clinics have often refused to receive and treat the many Saharawi victims of police brutality. When admitted to hospital, Saharawis are routinely denied proper medical certificates that prove what they were subjected to. In spite of appeals by international Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the Moroccan authorities continue to violate human rights in Western Sahara. Thus, we, as political prisoners in the Black Prison, El Ayun, Western Sahara appeal to you to:
The full text of the statement is available as an attachment to this document at the back of the room.
It is important that the participants of this forum understand that the fate of these Saharawi human rights defenders- now political prisoners- is crucial to the success of the efforts of the United Nations in Western Sahara. I will mention four reasons for that:
There should be no doubt that most Saharawis, both under occupation and in exile, are determined to continue struggling for their right to self-determination. In this situation, Morocco has two options: either to continue to brutally suppress any hint of dissent and protest in Western Sahara through arrests, torture, killing and "disappearances" - or to start going down the path of respect for Human Rights, democracy and international legality. Until today, Morocco has obstinately followed the path of oppression and further continued violation of international law.
It is therefore high time that the international community, represented by the United Nations, tells Morocco that enough is enough! Continued Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara not only threatens the peace and stability of the entire Maghreb region but it also undermines the ability and credibility of the United Nations as an arbiter in international conflicts.
While the international community is procrastinating and debating the issue, the Saharawis are paying with their freedom, blood and tears to attain their basic but inalienable rights as a nation. We therefore appeal to all governments and organizations represented here today to put real, tangible pressure on Morocco to immediately halt the repression of the Saharawis, to respect Human Rights, to put an end to the physical blockade of the Western Sahara and ultimately, to end the occupation of Western Sahara.
Thank you for your attention.
[Presented and distributed as an annex to Ronny Hansen's statement to the Fourth Committee, 10. October 2005]
political prisoners in
The Black Prison, El Ayun,
Western Sahara .
Statement to the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, (Fourth Committee), United Nations, New York
October 10, 2005
Contributing to inform you of the latest developments in the Western Sahara issue that witnesses a new turning-point after the peaceful sit-ins and protest demonstrations since May 21, 2005, calling for the respect of the international legitimacy that stresses the Saharawi people's right to self- determination, according to the General Assembly and the Security Council resolutions. As for all the peoples of the world, the international charters guarantee the Saharawi people's right to expression. However, the Moroccan state, as usual, confiscates this right through savage repressive campaigns against the Sahrawi citizens in the Western Sahara, southern Morocco and the Moroccan universities, as it has been broadcast by international media. But the international delegations and neutral mass media were prohibited from entering the Western Sahara.
Since May 21, 2005, hundreds of defenseless Saharawis have been subjected to barbarous torture in public streets; dozens of houses were broken into and their furniture destroyed or stolen; more than 300 Saharawi citizens were abducted for periods ranging from 3 hours to 5 days; and dozens were arrested. 37 of them are still in Moroccan prisons.
The strong presence of the Saharawi activists has unveiled the flagrant violations of human rights perpetrated by the Moroccan state in Western Sahara, which led to their prohibition of being organized in associations, being sacked from work, forcibly deported to Morocco, and their passports confiscated. The Moroccan state exploited its new repressive campaign to take revenge on the Saharawi activists, harassing and torturing them in public ( e.g. Aminatou Haidar, Lidri Elhoucine, Fatma Ayache on June 17, 2005 in Smara street, Hmad Hammad in front of Belmehdi hospital on the same day at night, Bazaid Salek in Boukraa street etc, al of them in El Ayun) and abducting some other activists with no legal reason (Ali Salem Tamek, Aminatou Haidar, El Arbi Massoud, Lidri Elhoucine, Noumria Brahim, Hmad Hamad, Bougarfa Abderrahman and others)
Two of these activists, Noumria Brahim and Elhoucine Lidri, were subjected to severe torture in the secret jail, the PC CMI, by well-known Moroccan torturers in El Ayun. On August 01, 2005, five of the activists were abducted and forcibly deported to Ait Melloul prison, Agadir, Morocco (Ali Salem Tamek) and Oukasha prison, Casablanca, Morocco (Mohamed Elmoutaoikil, Brahim Noumria, Elhoucine Lidri and El Arbi Massoud). They went on a 51 days hunger strike that the Moroccans tried their best to lessen its credibility, and which stopped in response to the families' desire and international organizations' appeals.
On October 07, 2005, the deportees were brought back to the Black Prison in El Ayun, Western Sahara.
Despite the numerous complaints put in El Ayun court concerning the flagrant violations of human rights that the Sahrawi citizens and activists were subjected to, the Moroccan authorities have not yet reacted towards them. The judicial police proceedings and accusations that we are subjected to totally lack any legal foundation and semblance of fairness. The trials are mere mock trials, orchestrated for overtly political reasons. In addition, Moroccan political parties and mass media, both official and non-official, carry out a ferocious smear campaign against the activists and any Saharawi calling for their right to self-determination, thus compounding the grief and numerous problems of our families and sympathizers. The Moroccan medical staff in Western Sahara is no exception; hospitals and clinics have often refused to receive and treat the many Saharawi victims of police brutality. When admitted to hospital, Saharawis are routinely denied proper medical certificates that prove what they were subjected to. In spite of appeals by international Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International and World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), the Moroccan authorities continue to violate human rights in Western Sahara. Thus, we, as political prisoners in the Black Prison, El Ayun, Western Sahara appeal to you to: