Corona: Release Saharawi political prisoners

26 Saharawi associations ask for an immediate release of all Saharawi political prisoners, in view of the corona crisis that is hitting Moroccan jails. The appeal includes 230 pages of UN statements on the currently imprisoned activists.

Published 24 April 2020

Above: June last year, the news service Smara News in the occupied territories published a shocking video showing one of their own journalists, Walid El Batal, had been dragged out of a car and beaten by Moroccan police. This is one of the many cases where the UN has issuied strong statements. 

68 prisoners in the Moroccan jail of Ouarzazate have tested positive for corona virus. This has been stated by Moroccan authorities, according to the New York Times. The number can be substantially higher, and also inlude other prisons.

An appeal was today issued by 26 leading Saharawi associations in the occupied terrtories and the refugee camps. The document stresses that all arbitrarily detained Saharawis suffer from different forms of health issues; after having been subjected to torture and/or ill treatment, living under inhumane conditions in prison, and after having conducted multiple hunger strikes whilst deprived of medical care, placing them in acute danger.

Find the appeal here (in English). 

The text is authored by the League for the Protection of Saharawi Political Prisoners within Moroccan jails in partnership with the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.

The appeal refers to a total of 39 Saharawi activists held arbitrarily detained within Moroccan jails, with the Gdeim Izik prisoners being the clearest example of them all. The appeal reiterates all decisions rendered by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and holds that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has in their jurisprudence established a legal precedence for the arbitrary detainment of Saharawi activists openly advocating in favour of the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. 

In other words, the different decisions made by the UN Working Group referring to arbitrary detention of over 20 Saharawi activists thus have relevance for the interpretation of the situation for all other imprisoned Saharawi activists. It is further underscored that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has established that the detainment of these Saharawi activists constitutes racial discrimination, breaching the equality of human rights. 

The appeal further refers to communications launched by the United Nations Special Procedures, and notes, in particular, the communication launched in connection with the arbitrary detainment of the so-called Gdeim Izik prisoners (AL MAR 3/2017). It is further referred to, amongst other, the country report of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention wherein the Working Group visited the Gdeim Izik prisoners in prison. 

The 230 pages of UN opinions rendered, communications launched and relevant country reports serve as appendices to the appeal, supporting the arguments raised. 

The arbitrarily detained Saharawi activists are currently being held in the Moroccan prisons of Ait Melloul, Tifelt, Kenitra, El Arjat, Bouzarkarn, Asafi, Oudaya in Morocco and in El Aaiún in Western Sahara.

The League informs that several of the prisoners are protesting the lack of hygiene articles, and have documented that Saharawi political prisoners are not given access to adequate facilitates to take preventing measures. In response to the non-response of the Moroccan authorities and the continued racial discrimination, the lack of hygiene measures and intentional medical neglect, one Saharawi political prisoner has commenced on a warning hunger strike to raise awareness to their alarming situation. Several of the Saharawi political prisoners have also submitted complaints in relation to the non-action of the authorities, but without any response. 

In response to Covid19, the Kingdom of Morocco pardoned 5,654 prisoners on 5 April. None of the prisoners pardoned and released from prison were political prisoners. All prisoners, simply detained for having expressed an dissenting view, remain arbitrarily detained within Moroccan jails under alarming conditions. "These peaceful individuals should never have been imprisoned in the first place”,  Amnesty Internationals MENA regional director Heba Morayef stated. 

A summary of the report is also published in French, Spanish and Arabic.

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