Collectif des Défenseurs Sahraouis des droits de l'homme
El Aaiun / Sahara Occidental

El Aaiún/Western Sahara: 10/08/2007
Secretariat of the Collective of the Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA)

“Black Jail” of El Aaiún/Western Sahara

“A grave for alive people”

Testimony of Saharawi Human Rights Activist and Former Political Prisoner “Tarruzi Yehdih”, after his release on July the 14th, 2007 form the “Black Jail” in El Aaiún, Western Sahara.

[original arabic ]

My name is Tarruzi Yehdih and I am an ex-Political Prisoner and Member of the Collective of the Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). On the 13th of April 2006 I was arrested by Moroccan police agents in the city of Tan Tan, Southern Morocco. The agents arrested me in humiliating and repressive conditions and took me to the Judiciary Police Headquarters in El Aaiún, Western Sahara. At the Headquarters, I was interrogated and tortured by a group of Moroccan Security services who accused me of committing crimes I did not commit and enclosed me in the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún. In this jail I experienced ten months imprisonment in the most degrading and difficult conditions as a result to a sentence inflicted to me by the Second Penal Court after appealing the one-year prison verdict made by the First Court of El Aaiún, Western Sahara.

As a Former Political Prisoner, I have suffered, along with a group of Saharawi political prisoners, the lack of the simplest human living conditions and the worst mistreatment and abuses. The prison doesn’t even guarantee the conditions contained in the Law 23/98 with all its goods and wrong. Along with all the suffering of the prisoners provoked by the malnutrition, the lack of drinkable water, the deficiency of medical assistance, the non-existence of ventilation or hygienic conditions as well as the over-grouping of prisoners in one cell, the prisoners, mainly the political prisoners, endure everyday the oppression of the authorities.

Despite the attempts of the Saharawi Political Prisoners to challenge the daily violations of their Human Rights and their effort to be treated as Political Prisoners, the prison administration continuously reply to their claims with tortures and wild oppression. All these savage practices exercised against the Saharawi Political Prisoners is made in coordination with Moroccan Security Services, who should normally have nothing to do with the Administration of the prisons.

The situation continued as it is until January the 19th, 2006, when the Saharawi Political Prisoners were suddenly surprised by the aggressive and violent intervention of more than forty of the special prison guards known as “Les Paras” while sleeping inside their cell. This group of guards came to the jail with the main purpose of forcing the Saharawi political Prisoners to give up their opinions expressed during the demonstrations that claim for the respect of their legal demands. The repressive intervention of “Les Paras” was lead by Abd-Lilah Az-zunfri, The Director of the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún, in Western Sahara.

The aggression of this group was not only limited to the inside of the cells but thereafter we all were taken to the visit room and tied to the chairs for about twelve hours. During all this time we were subjected to beating on all the parts of our bodies and all kind of humiliating tortures as a punishment for our political ideas.

The torturers were always enjoying our pain and torture calling us “traitors” and “enemies of the country”, “enemies of the king” and so many other obscene classification. All these repressive behaviours are encouraged by the jail administration which has made of these agents its tool to torture, abuse, kill and execute innocent people.

Then, as a punishment, we were divided into separate cells and deprived from communicating with each other. Our possessions were stolen and all the area of the prison’s recreation was extremely watched. The authorities imposed an emergency alert to the jail and suspended our right to health treatment, appropriate food, information, etc.

As a result of this situation and with the objective to defend our dignity, we decided to carry on a “Hunger Strike” as a warning step and then an “Open Hunger Strike” to protest against the hard conditions and the tortures all the Saharawi Political Prisoners were suffering inside the jail. Our “Open Hunger Strike” lasted more than thirty three (33) days without any positive reply from the jail administration to our demands nor the medical assistance to our deteriorating health situation. Finally, the Moroccan justice listened to our complaints which were made by our families.

Despite our agony, the jail administration continued its repressive practices, submitting our cells to constant searching. And as if all these tortures were not enough, the authorities decided to punish two of our comrades; Lehbib Al-kasimi and Al-hafed Toubali, taking them to isolated cells (known as “Al-kashu”). The Moroccan police agents use to show aggression to the Saharawi political Prisoners in their way back and forth from the jail to the court rooms or to the hospital as we witnessed with the cases of Lehbib Al-kasimi and Al-hafed Toubali, Ah’meidat Mohamed Salem, and Abd-salam Lubadi.

On July the 11th, 2007, just three days before my release, we suffered again the aggressions of a group of the jail guards who beated us and took away all our belongings. The Director of the jail ordered them to take us to the visit room, where I, along with Lehbib Al-kasimi and Al-hafed Toubali, Luali Ameidan, Dida Abd-aslalm, Bachri bin Taleb, Lubadi Abd-salam and Mahamud Al-keinnan experienced many types of tortures without mercy from torturers who work at the jail administration, the same ones who did it before under the consent of the Director of the jail.

Taking into consideration the tortures exercised against us because of our beliefs, we also consider that the suffering of our families is increasing as they also suffer the aggressions of the penitentiary authorities during their visits. Our families are treated in a repressive way that at times reaches the rape and the use of force from the Moroccan police, which also used to deprive former political prisoners and Human Rights activists visiting us or notice our miserable circumstances at this horrifying jail.

While the oppressive practices continue and just two days before my release, I was provoked and intimidated by the so called Director of the jail Abd-Lilah Az-zunfri, who said that he will open a new procedure to arrest me again. I was really scared, after being out and seeing two police cars in front of the jail gate surrounded by the main torturers; the “Police Director” Abu Hassan Ichi and the “Officer of the Police” Abd Al-hag Rabih. Despite my fears I was also happy to see some members of my family and friends from the CODESA (Al-arbi Mas’ud and Brahim Al-Ismaili) expecting my release in an environment dominated by the extreme security siege made by a several security agents who accompanied me to “Matal-la” District which was extremely guarded by security forces. 

At the same time, the jail administration in El Aaiún used to obligatorily transfer all the political and opinion prisoners who show their solidarity with the struggle of the Saharawi Political Prisoners, after assigning to them false accusations, they are transferred to the regional prison of “Ait Meloul”. Among the transferred prisoners were; Ahmed Daudi, Zubeir Algarhi, Mohamed Salem Al-kasimi, Agdafna Minah as well as the Political Prisoners Alamin Badi and Larosi Shubeida. The last one was taken by force to the regional jail of Tizinit. We can’t either forget the case of the Saharawi lady Mariam Ar-gueibi who was transferred to the regional jail of Ait Meloul. The Moroccan justice is still thinking about reopening on October the 1st, 2007, the cases of Saharawi Political Prisoners Brahim Sabbar, Ahmed S’bahi, Al-hafed Toubali, Lehbib Al-kasimi, Ahmeidan Mohamed Salem and Abd-salam Lumadi because they chanted slogans inside the jail and in the Court Room demanding the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

As long as the two police agents, responsible of the murder of the Saharawi martyr Hamdi Lembarki, are still spending their ten-years of prison sentences inside one of the jail offices, enjoying the 24hrs visits of their relatives and having access to telephone contact and satellite T.V. This policy proves the discrimination exercised against the Saharawi Political Prisoners, who are deprived from their most elemental rights as opinion prisoners.

After revealing a part of the sufferings I experienced together with the Saharawi Political Prisoners inside the jail, I would like to praise the efforts of the international observers who came from afar to attend our political trial. I also value the great role played by the Saharawi lawyers who defended us as well as the international and Moroccan Human Rights organizations and associations like; Amnesty International and its sections around the world, the Moroccan Human Rights Association, the International Commission Against Torture in Switzerland, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Italian section of the International Committee for the Respect of Human Rights in Western Sahara, the Association of the Families of the Saharawi Disappeards and prisoners, the Saharawi Jurists Union, the Spanish General Council of Lawyers as well as all the humanitarian organizations, the Human Rights activists, the judges, lawyers, intellectuals, artists, writers, poets, politicians, trade-unionists and simple people who follow from very closely the critical Human Rights situation in Western Sahara. I would also like to hail the support of the Saharawi people and the Saharawi Human rights activists who depict in their reports the daily battles of our struggle. This struggle that we are carrying on along with our families and all the Saharawi people, who became our angel guard in our fight for the respect of the Human Rights in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

I wouldn’t like to miss the opportunity to record, with pride, the experience of the group of the Saharawi Political Prisoners who passed by this jail and who are known by the “Group of the 37”. Thanks to their struggle, we could finally reveal a part of the atrocities committed inside this horrible detention centre. They have also succeeded in starting the phenomenon of the political imprisonments showing to the world that the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún is “a grave for alive people”. This fact of the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún was evidenced by the pictures of the political prisoners spread through the internet during their 52 days of Hunger Strike.

Finally I would like to make an urgent appeal to the peaceloving people in the world to work for:
•    Imposing the respect of the international legality and guarantee to the Saharawi people their right to self-determination.
•    Saving the Saharawi Political Prisoners from the horrifying “Black Jail” of El Aaiún and put pressure on Morocco to release all the Saharawi Political Prisoners from the Moroccan prisons as well as starting an international campaign to close the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún.
•    To open an international investigation on the brutal violations of the Human Rights committed by the Moroccan authorities against innocent people who were only expressing their opinions and protesting for respect of their rights.
•    Put the light on the allegations of torture presented by the victims and bring the persons accountable for these practices before the justice no matter how high are their positions in the prison administration or at the Ministry of Justice.
•    Widen the mission of the MINURSO to include the observation of the Human Rights in the occupied territories.
•    Publishing the Report of the mission of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which visited the region on May the 17th and 18th, 2006 and implementing its recommendations.
List of the torturers and the main outstanding “lords” of the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún:
1- Abd-Lilah Az-zunfri: Director of the jail.
2- Mohamed Al-mansuri: President of the etention centre.
3- Mohamed Al-buhzizi: Vice-president of the detention centre.
4- Abd Al-ali Al-buhnani: Vice-president of the detention centre.
5- Abdelkader Ait Sus: Responsible for general works.
6- Abderrahim Al-harruchi: Responsible for construction and general work in the jail.
7- Abderrazag Mugtasam: Responsible for the visits and the searching of possessions.
8- Jamal Beiruk: President of the Section or the centre.
9-Abdelhag Wahbi: Searching.
10- Ahmed Alharrag: President od the judiciary office of the jail(director of the third level).
11- Yusef Al-manur: President of the judiciary office(director of the third level).
12- Ismail Bachari: President of a sector.
13- Idris Butib: Nurse.
14- Mustafa Al-azizi: Nurse.
15- Yusef Butiglidin: Nurse.
16- Abdelhag Fartamis: He was transferred to “Ramani Jail”.
17- Abdelhakim: He was transferred to the central prison of Al-kinetra.

A technical presentation on the jail:

•    Director of the jail: Abd-Lilah Az-zunfri.
•    His office number: 24/35.
•    Director of the third level.
He is a former director at the central prison of Al-kenitra. He came to the “Black Jail” of El Aaiún on January the 14th, 2007. He is well known for his black record on torturing and humiliating the prisoners.
•    Number of guards: 62 guards. 13 of them are women.
•    Number of prisoners at the jail: 280.
•    Section of common delinquency (Minors): 39.
•    Section of women: 20.
•    Political Prisoners: 27.