- HUMAN RIGHTS
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At a meeting of the AU executive council in N'Djamena (Chad), the interim president of the Commission Amara Essy, expressed the view that "fresh efforts should be made to get the settlement plan working which provides for the organisation of a free and fair referendum of self-determination of the Saharawi people". For Mr Essy the UN settlement plan operative in Western Sahara is "so far the only way to go for a settlement accepted by both Morocco and the Polisario Front and on the basis of which much work has been accomplished by MINURSO in the course of past years". The President of the Commission also warned that the present status quo jeopardises the credibility of the UN and contains within itself the seeds for a new flare-up in the region. (SPS)
At the 6th congress of the European Community Organisation of Socialist Youth, which took place in Sweden and at which the Saharawi youth organisation UJSARIO took part, a resolution in favour of the right to self-determination in Western Sahara was unanimously adopted.
The report of the Secretary General to the Security Council on Western Sahara is expected for next week. At the present time the responses of the parties to the Baker proposals are not known.
The president of the Algerian National Popular Assembly, Mr Karim Younes, received a parliamentary delegation of Saharawi women led by Mrs Khadidja Hamdi, the wife of the President of the Republic. Mr Karim Younes "reiterated the support of Algeria for the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination in accordance with the decisions of international law and the Houston Agreement." (SPS)
A retired Algerian general and former minister of defence, Khaled Nezzar, interviewed in Paris by the weekly La Gazette du Maroc and the next day by the Algerian daily, La Nouvelle République, made provocative statements on the Western Sahara conflict. He expressed himself "in a personal capacity" in favour of a political solution, advancing that "the best solution would be that of neither winner nor loser", claiming that it was necessary to find "an adequate formula allowing the Saharawis to integrate [into Morocco]", and that "the creation of a Magreb area" would get the problem out of the impasse.
The reverberations in the press were considerable. Applause by Morocco, more or less unanimous disapproval in Algeria. [see publications] The Algerian National Committee of Support for the Saharawi People expressed its indignation and claimed to be "comforted by the official position of Algiers in favour of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people", recalling the declarations of President Bouteflika and his recent letter to the French President, in which, "without ambiguity", he expressed "the attachment of Algeria to self-determination of the Saharawi people", as well as the visit to the Saharawi refugee camps of his Minister of War Veterans on 27 February last.
The Saharawi political prisoner, Ali Salem Tamek [see dossier], sentenced to 2 years' prison last October, is starting a new hunger strike and calls for material aid. Since the beginning of his imprisonment, this human rights activist, adopted by Amnesty International, is fighting for an improvement in his conditions of detention. Following several hunger strikes the mobilisation of human rights activists, he obtained his transfer to the penitentiary complex of Salé, which is more in accordance with legal requirements and the prison authorities made various promises to him. It is because they have not been kept that Tamek is taking up again his action with determination despite his delicate health.
In a statement he denounces the hardships he is subjected to by fellow detainees manipulated by the prison management, the refusal of an inquiry concerning an attack he was victim to on 30 January, the refusal of visits, medical care, etc.
Tamek also launches an appeal for material aid in the form of first aid and medication.
The preparatory Committee for shedding light on the fate of Saharawi disappeared, through its honorary president Mohamed Daddach, published a statement in solidarity with Tamek, in which he asks for his release and the release of all Saharawi political prisoners.
Because of the the deterioration of his health and pulmonary complications (asthma, pneumonia) Tamek has been transfered urgently during the night to the infirmary of the prison and his hospitalisation in a clinic is considered.
See also the Cry of little Thaoura Tamek.
Political prisoners Ahmed Nassiri and Mohamed Mhamed Brahim Nigro, sentenced respectively to 18 months and one year in prison, have been transferred from the black prison of El Ayoun to the new penitentiary of Ait Melloul near Agadir. This move, judged illegal, took place on the eve of the trial of four Saharawis (see below) and while about twenty prisoners in common law were starting an open-ended hunger strike for the improvement of conditions of detention and an inspection of the prison of El Ayoun. (As Sabah)
Salek Bazaid, member of the Forum for Truth and Justice, Sahara branch, Moussamih Baba and Bourhil Mohamed Lamine, arrested on 24.09.02 were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Boughrain Mohamed Lamine was sentenced to one year with a reprieve and a fine.
The trial took place under heavy police surveillance, in the presence of numerous members of the public comprising human rights activists, families of Saharawi political prisoners and two Spanish lawyers. The accused denounced the list of charges which they qualified as false. They declared that they had been pursued because of their convictions in favour of self-determination in Western Sahara and denied any connection with the acts of which they were accused, the burning of a police station. The four defence lawyers were in complete agreement.
This is the most severe penalty handed down to Saharawis since 1999 and an early application of the new Moroccan anti-terrorist law. Already their arrest during a particularly brutal raid, being locked up in secret jails belonging to the PC of Mobile intervention companies in El Ayoun, being confronted by the Superintendant Hariz Elaarbi, a well-known torturer, and their experiencing tortures and death threats had brought back the methods of the 'leaden years'. [see Letter of a Saharawi detained in Laayoune prison, handed to France Libertés - Danielle Mitterrand Foundation - on November 4, 2002 ][see Week 39 /2002 and week 40 / 2002 ]
Those sentenced have a week in which to lodge an appeal.
In reaction to these arbitrary sentences, Saharawi university students in Rabat on 12 March organised a sit-in outside the Ministry of Human Rights and the prison management. In Marrakech Saharawi students did the same thing in the cité universitaire (university residences) and published a statement, in which they denounce the heavy sentences, express their solidarity with Tamek on unlimited hunger strike, protesting about the transfer of Nassiri and Nigro to the Aït Melloul prison, demanding the release of all Saharawi political detainees, asking human rights organisations and in particular Amnesty International and BIRDHSO to support the Saharawi political detainees, and finally denouncing the intimidations to which Saharawi human rights defenders are victim.
Three days of solidarity with Saharawi political detainees and disappeared have now been announced for 19, 20 and 21 March in Rabat. (Programm)
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