Western Sahara Campaign UK

24 NOV'99



Last night, the Polisario Front announced that they released one hundred and ninety-one Moroccan prisoners of war, captured during 16 years of fighting over the independence of Western Sahara.

Until now, Morocco has refused to accept the return of its prisoners because, analysts believe, this would be a tantamount to a recognition of the war. However, the prisoners were immediately handed to the International Committee of the Red Cross who have taken five back to Morocco.

In an unprecedented move, Le Journal, a Moroccan newspaper recently called up the Moroccan Governement to accept the return of the prisoners of war.

Polisario have previously released hundred of old and sick prisoners in 1989 and April 1997 but despite the intervention of UN Special Envoy James A. Baker, Morocco refused to accept their return.

In 1997, Robert Fisk, writing for the Independent newspaper, reported that the Saharawi refugees appeared to give the prisoners better rations and accomodations than they themselves received.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK remembers that 165 000 Saharawi refugees have also endured 25 years of exile following the occupation of their country in 1975. They are equal victims of Moroccan colonisation.

Announcing the release as an important humanitarian gesture, timed to coincid with the beginning of Ramadan, the Polisario Front appealed to the Moroccan Government to immediately release Saharawi political prisoners, the disappeared, and to end its campaign of arrest and repression in occupied Western Sahara.

In releasing prisoners, the Polisario Front wished to help build a climate which would further the implementation of the UN Peace Plan for a fair and free referendum in Western Sahara in accordance with the Houston agreements.


Western Sahara Campaign UK
Oxford Chambers
Leeds LS13AX
tel: ++44 113 245 4786 / 250 8353

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