Morocco recognizes crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Saharawi people

The Royal Advisory Council for Human Rights (CCHR) of Morocco published in late December 2010, a report on the recommendations of the Committee Equity and Reconciliation (unofficial translation)  which anexe1: “cases of enforced disappearances” it recognized that more than 350 Saharawi have died, including 144 people allegedly during military battles without specifying their identities or the exact circumstances of their death, and whether they were kidnapped or executed (115 persons in various military bases including 14 children aged from 3 months to 15 years, 43 people in the secret detention centers of “Agdez” and of “Kalaat Magouna”, 23 people in El Aaiun, all these cases the report says, died in conditions of extreme suffering due to their treatment an incarceration, 13 people were executed by a martial court, in addition to other who died in different prisons ...). The report acknowledges that the perpetrators of these crimes belong to different Moroccan military corps, especially the army, gendarmerie and auxiliary forces.

This recognition comes from an official institution of a regime that has tried hard to hide the facts about the genocide perpetrated by the Moroccan forces of occupation from the first day of the invasion. The crimes described by the report (which extracts related to the Saharawi cases are attached below) can only be qualified as "CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY" as it is defined in the international law and especially since the norms set after the Nuremberg tribunal until the constitution of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In a first reading of the contents of the report we can see the little space given to each case, as there were:

• Deliberate concealment of the identity of 114 cases that died during military combat, while recognizing having their bodies.

• Incomplete data of identity, place of detention or date of arrest in most cases.

• Concealment of the alleged burial sites, except in the case of 27 Sahrawi who were buried in “Agdez: according to the report, 16 in “Kalaat Magouna” and one case in “Karama” detention center, without specifying whether the remains were exhumed and properly identified. Until now, the dead bodies of these victims were not returned to their families.

• The list of adults included at least 7 children, who were killed because of extreme conditions of detention.

• Concealment of information on the circumstances of abduction of about 640 of Saharawis, who according to the report were victims of forced disappearance.

• Maintenance of total silence on those responsible for torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Sahrawi disappeared during their captivity that lead to the death of hundreds.

• Reluctance to inform the families of the victims, who still have no access to all the truth related to their missing relatives, no details of their sufferings, nor the places of their burial or official recognition of the facts and of the dignity of the victims, no moral reparation and Justice, as required under the international humanitarian law and the United Nations’ conventions on forced disappearances and the right to reparation.

In addition, Morocco only recognizes part of Sahrawi victims of enforced disappearances (Agdez group and Kalaat Maguna and the victims who died in different places, mainly in military bases), and deliberately excluded thousands other victims such as those forcibly displaced and forced to exile, thousands of survivors of arbitrary detention and disappearance and the rest of the still reported missing unaccounted for, (there are many groups of disappeared in El Aaiun, Smara, Dakhla, Bojador, Tan Tan, Zak, Goulimine, Meknes group, nomads, individual cases ...).

During all these 35 years, the Moroccan government has been keping this information secret, and now allegedly says that there has been a death sentence against 13 Saharawi civilians given by a court in 19 October 1976, and has been prolonging anxiety and pain of the relatives of the Saharawi victims of disappearance. In 1999, the Moroccan government was even pretending that those missing were living in the Saharawi refugee camps or other neighboring countries, mainly Spain and Mauritania. (Answer given to the Personal Envoy of Kofi Anan to the Western Sahara, Mr. James Baker, with regards to the list of victims he received from the Saharawis).

Far from healing wounds, this recognition by Morocco reopens the case of the victim of forced disappearance that Morocco so disparately tried to close, keeping the impunity of the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity committed against the Saharawi people.

The revelations of the Moroccan Royal Advisory Council for Human Rights are in fact a proof:

1. That the Moroccan State is responsible for the disappearance of hundreds Saharawi and as a result, it is accountable for violations of the right to life, the right to the respect of physical mental and moral integrity, and the right to personal liberty, the right to the truth and to grief, the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment, all of which are rights protected by all international conventions on human rights and even by Moroccan laws.

2. That the Moroccan State has violated the rights of the victims and their families to a fair trial, in particular the right to a judicial hearing within a reasonable time after detention as is enshrined both in international treaties and in the Moroccan legislation itself.

3. That the Moroccan State has failed to its obligation to ensure and guarantee to the Sahrawi citizens to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms, as is guaranteed in internationally recognised human rights.

4. That the Moroccan State has also violated its obligation as an occupying force, well underlined in the Geneva Conventions, in particular concerning the protection of civilians and humanitarian treatment of prisoners of war.

Accordingly, the Moroccan state should:

1. Fully compensate the survivors and families of the victims of forced disappearance for the grave material and moral damage caused to them. Thus, it is required from the Moroccan government requires to:

i. Perform a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation on the facts related to forced disappearance and other serious violations committed against the Saharawi citizens, and in particular to make known the whereabouts of all missing Saharawis and to identify the accountability of the persons who are involved directly or indirectly in the violations so as they receive the appropriate legal sanctions. This investigation cannot be credible without the participation of human rights organizations both Sahrawi, Moroccan and international.

ii. To report on the circumstances of arbitrary detention and kidnapping of all the victims of disappearance the fate of the victims, and locate their tombs and return their dead bodies to the families to give them proper burials.

iii. To give adequate compensation to repair the material and moral damage suffered by the families of the victims. And to recognize the State’s responsibility in the crimes and to give all needed guarantees of non-repetition of these violations as required in reparation under the international law and humanitarian international law and the principles of the right to compensation.

iv. To allow the self-determination to the Saharawi people through the holding of a referendum on self-determination without more delays, as a way to end the phenomenon of disappearance and serious human rights violations that are continuously committed as a consequence to the continuity of occupation and impunity enjoyed by the persons accountable for crimes against humanity perpetrated in Western Sahara since October 31, 1975, the year of the Moroccan invasion to the territory.

The UN, which is responsible for the respect of international norms in terms of human rights, mainly in Non-Self-Governing territories pending a process of decolonization, is obliged to adopt necessary measures based on the Moroccan official recognition of these crimes, and must urge Morocco to guarantee the rights to the truth, justice and reparation to the victims of forced disappearance and other crimes against humanity perpetrated in Western Sahara.

In front of such serious crimes as revealed in this report as well as the crimes still committed against a civil population “submitted to a collective punishment that is the equivalent of a crime against humanity”, the International Penal Court must investigate on the situation with the aim to determine and identify the responsibility of Moroccan military and civil officials accountable of these crimes and violations of the international law.

Saharawi refugee camps, 18 January 2011.

Abdeslam Omar Lahsen

Presidene of AFAPREDESA

[ARSO HOME]- [Blog Sahara Occidental - Western Sahara]