International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)


ICJ Australian Section calls for an end to human rights abuses in Western Sahara by Morocco

Sydney Friday, July 1, 2005

President of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) Justice John Dowd (ret) QC AO has said in a statement from Sydney today that The International Commission of Jurists (Australian Section), expresses its deep concern for the situation in Western Sahara which has been illegally occupied by Morocco for the last thirty years.

"The tortures, arbitrary arrests and show trials must end and the UN supervised referendum must take place."

Western Sahara is known as the last colony in Africa and has many striking similarities to East Timor.

Justice Dowd who has visited the Saharawi refugee camps in Western Algeria has said that an independent Western Sahara can play an important role in that region.

"I know from my visits to the camps and meetings with President Abdel Aziz that the leadership would make every effort to normalise relations, with Morocco after free and fair elections"

Western Sahara is one of the few remaining countries on the UN list of non-self-governing territories.

"It is of note that in May and June this year the Moroccan army and police have brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrations in the territory and that hundreds of innocent Saharawis have been imprisoned, tortured and kidnapped; we ask that the Moroccan authorities desist from these cruel practices and go ahead with the referendum, Justice Dowd said.

"The Saharawis are demanding their right to self-determination and independence, and the show trials of those who participated in the demonstrations the Moroccan authorities have sentenced Saharawis to up to 25 years imprisonment are unhelpful and will only hinder progress"

Amnesty International and the UN have called for the end of the human rights abuses in Western Sahara and the speedy organisation of a free and fair referendum in the territory.

The ICJ therefore:

Media Enquiries: John Dowd QC AO + 61 2  9266 0950  +61 [0]439 625 077

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