“A prison is normally filled with constant noise from all the prisoners. But not Ait Melloul. In Ait Melloul the silence is terrorizing you and only broken by the screams of prisoners getting tortured.” Our new report tells the story of a group of prisoners that the UN asks to be released.
Check out our webinar this afternoon,10 June at 5pm, with this brilliant panel:
* Mads Andenæs, Professor and former President Rapporteur of the United Nations working group on Arbitrary Detention;
* Mohammed Rguibi, one of the members of the Student Group, released from prison in 2019;
* Tone Sørfonn Moe. acting as international legal representative on behalf of the imprisoned students;
* Stian Skarheim Magelssen, International Officer, National Union of Students in Norway.
Today, the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara publishes a report regarding the Saharawi imprisoned students in partnership with the National Union of Students in Norway.
In the report, four young men explain vividly, with their own words their life stories. They take us back to the time they started engaging in the Saharawi struggle as children and teenagers, until the day that their student campaigns at universities in Morocco led them to detention, torture, forced confessions and year-long sentences under horrible prison conditions.
The stories form the background to a recent decision rendered by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which calls for the release of the students. That decision holds that the arrest and detention of these Saharawi student activists was and is arbitrary. The UN body concluded that their basic human rights have been breached, and refered to the students' activism and their advocacy in favour of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. This constitutes racial discrimination, the UN expert body holds.
The 143-page long report can be downloaded here (5,1 Mb).
"The officer looked at me and said, ‘I will write whatever my mind tells me to write, and you will be forced to sign it’, before he continued writing. However, the report was still in French. They could have written that I was a terrorist, I still wouldn’t have known what I was accused of."
Brahim Mouyssaih, page 62.
The group of student activists consist of some of the leaders of the Saharawi student organisations in the Moroccan cities of Agadir and Marrakech. They are known as the ‘Student Group’ or "Group of El Wali». As of today, five students are still in jail, sentenced to up to 12 years. Some of the students were released from jail in 2019, after having spent sentences of three years in prison. The story now told, belong to the students released last year.
«Student democracy is a legal right in Norway. In Norway, it is almost impossible to imagine being punished for engaging in politics or just for voicing an opinion. Every student in the world deserve this right», says Stian Skarheim Magelssen, International Officer of the National Union of Students in Norway.
«Suppression of student activism is a sign of a weak democratic society. We stand behind students internationally – and the Saharawi students – who fight a legitimate struggle for their rights», Mr. Magelssen explains.
The case of the Student Group is advocated by Tone Sørfonn Moe, a Norwegian legal scholar and member of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, acting as the international representative of the student activists. Ms. Moe is also the author of the present report, having conducted the interviews with the released students with invaluable help from local human right activist Laila Fakhouri acting as translator.
“The officers forced my head down to the floor and started to insult me, my family and my parents. They started to try to strip my pants off, threatening to make me sit on a sharp object. They would drag my face up and slap me in the face. They would beat me with a long metal stick on my thighs. I can’t count how many times I was slapped and beaten.”
Aomar Ajna, law student, page 88.
We have talked to human rights activist Mahfouda, who recently was sentenced to six months in a Moroccan prison for reprimanding a judge.
Morocco must stop targeting human rights defenders and journalists standing up for human rights in Western Sahara, and allow them to work without reprisals, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said today.
In an early morning raid today, masked agents terrorized and assaulted the home of the Saharawi human rights defender Sultana Khaya, stole belongings and took three activists to an undisclosed location.
On 7 June 2019, videos began to circulate showing Moroccan police brutally beating up a Saharawi journalist in occupied Western Sahara. Today, a UN opinion calling for his release from prison was made public.