UN concerned over situation for young Saharawi prisoner

On 21 July 2020, a joint communication was issued by five UN mandate holders into the case of the 21-year-old Saharawi activist Khatri Dadda, currently serving a 20-year sentence in a Moroccan jail. 

Published 27 October 2020

On 21 July 2020, a joint communication was issued by five UN mandate holders into the case of the 21-year-old Saharawi activist Khatri Dadda, currently serving a 20-year sentence in a Moroccan jail. 

The United Nations Special Rapporteurs expressed their deep concern over several aspects of how he has been treated by Moroccan authorities, such as 

  • initial arrest of Khatri Dadda without a legal basis, during which time Khatri had been forced to sign confessions
  • the subsequent criminal proceedings held; wherein Khatri had not been presented with the criminal evidence (a video) being used against him
  • deprivation of his right to defence and to a fair trial
  • the alarming prison conditions he is facing
  • his ‘disappearance ‘for 22 days in June 2020 without his family knowing his location.

The communication was signed by the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the situation human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on minorities. The joint communication (Al Mar 3/2020) can be found here. 

The Special Rapporteurs asked the Moroccan government to initiate an investigation on the basis of the information provided. They underlined that the Moroccan government is under an obligation to ensure compliance with international human rights law, including the right of due process, whilst noting the young age of the applicant, now having been sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison. 

Khatri is currently held in Ait Melloul prison and continues to suffer under systematic racial discrimination and continued isolation. Due to Covid-19, family visits are banned, and Khatri is at the same time only allowed limited time on the phone. The family informs that Khatri continues to be very afraid. 

Khatri Dadda is 21-year-old activist belonging to Salwan Media, a group of Saharawi media activists located in the city of Smara, in occupied Western Sahara. On 24 December 2019, Khatri was arrested due to his activism as a Saharawi activist and photographer in Smara, Western Sahara. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

The arrest of Khatri Dadda is directly linked to his work as a Saharawi photographer and Saharawi human rights defender, advocating in favour of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. In fact, it has been reported by anonymous sources that the reason why Khatri was arrested by the Moroccan police and later sentenced to 20 years, is because the police believes that it was Khatri who filmed the violent arrest of journalist Walid Salek El Batal in June 2019. See the brutal video of Batal’s arrest on websites of Washington PostHuman Rights WatchFront Line Defenders and the Organization Mondiale Contre la Torture

The excessive police violence and torture upon Batal’s arrest, was treated in a recent Urgent Appeal launched by the United Nations Special Procedures (Al Mar 5/2019). The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has on several occasions documented the systematic persecution and political prosecution of Saharawi journalist and human rights defenders in response to their support for the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. 

For comments and questions, please contact:
Ms Tone Sørfonn Moe, tone@vest-sahara.no, jurist and international representative on behalf of Khatri Dadda, Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
Mr. Ahmed Ettanji, ettanji.ahmed@gmail.com, Equipe Media.

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