Saharawi Human Rights Defenders

>> memorandum complet (français)

Open letter to the 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva

Since 1975 and in relation to the politico-military conflict which knows the region, the Western Sahara have seen a particular situation characterized mainly of the practice &endash; carried out by the Moroccan state - of an atrocious repression against the Sahrawi population. The essential goal of this repression is to instill terror in Sahrawis claiming their right to self-determination.

Thus, the Moroccan state perpetrated an act of collective genocide against the Sahrawis. Hundreds of those sent to prisons - the secret Moroccan dungeons, where the cruelest methods of body and psychological torture are exerted, &endash; are still unaccounted for. Their absence accentuates the suffering of their families. The campaigns of mass displacement, arrests, dissapearances, and abductions targeted all generations of Sahrawis by perpetrating or ordering atrocities on a large scale. Tens of Sahrawis were sentenced by the Moroccan courts in unfair trials. Others were buried alive in mass graves. To camouflage all these crimes, the Moroccan state deployed the army and its security apparatus to keep Western Sahara under a severe and elongated military siege.

At the beginning of the conflict, and to save their lives, thousands of Sahrawis chose to flee the territory of Western Sahara under Moroccan control and to live thereafter either in refugee camps in Algerian territory or in the diaspora. This is how the Sahrawi people was torn apart.

Since the UN brokered cease-fire, Saharawi human rights defenders never ceased of unveiling and condemning the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Moroccan government against the Saharawi population. Faced with these actions, and in defiance to the media siege in the territory under control Morrocan, the Morrocan authorities stepped up their ongoing campaign of intimidation against these Sahrawi human rights activists. The Moroccan press &endash; including that representing the Moroccan political parties - conducted a wide campaign against these activists. These political parties went as far as to demanded the activists' arrest.

In spite of the barbarian repression practised by the Moroccan authorities, Sahrawis never resorted to terrorist actions as means to reivindicate their legitimate rights. Sahrawis, always preferred to count on the support of the international community in spite of its " indifference" towards this people's sufferings. A people that chose to fight CLEAN . A people carrying a message of PEACE.

Only a complete peace in the region can put an end to the continuos violations of human rights in Western Sahara. This peace can be carried out only by the organization - under the aegis of the United nations - of a referendum of self-determination, allowing Sahrawis to freely decide on the final political status of Western Sahara.

But, before the organization of the self-determination referendum the international community is in the moral obligation to exert pressure on the Morocco to respect human rights in Western Sahara and in accordance with the principles of international law. This respect is tributary to the engagement of the Moroccan government to:

- establish the truth on the fate of Sahrawi disappeared and the release of those who are still alive as well as the restitution of mortal remains of those deceased under torture in the Moroccan secret dungeons;

- unconditional release of all the Sahrawi political prisoners currently in Moroccan prisons;

- material and moral compensation, according to the international standards, to all victims of humans rights abuses in Western Sahara;

- bring the perpetrators to trial;

- respect International Conventions on the protection of humans rights defenders;

- respect Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War;

- open an investigation into the mass graves;

- protect Sahrawis against anti-personnel mines and to compensate those who fell victims of them;

- lift the military siege and allow access to the media in Western Sahara;

There is a great political and moral obligation for the Member States of the Commission of Human Rights, and the NGO's taking part in the 58th session of this commission, to work for the adoption of a resolution concerning the respect of human rights in Western Sahara and to call, in particular, for the constitution of an international commission to establish the truth surrounding human rights violations perpetrated - since 1975 - by Morocco against the Sahrawi population.

Despite MINURSO's presence in Western Sahara, the Moroccan authorities still continue to exert their repression against the Saharawi people. To thwart this repression and to protect these people it is , therefore, of great urgency that the UN Commission for Human Rights carries out the nomination of a special rapporteur on the question of human rights in Western Sahara.

We count on your support .

El Aaiun, 25 march 2002

translation from French by WSOnline


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Human Rights in Western Sahara