Adala UK condemns Morocco's brutal repression of protests in El Aaiun

London, 23/09/17

The Moroccan occupation authorities have allowed the police and security forces in the Occupied Zones of Western Sahara to use excessive force against Saharawi protesters.

The Royal Moroccan Government must end the violence against Saharawi civilians and when any members of the security forces are found to have violated people's human rights, they must be brought to justice.

The Moroccan occupation authorities and their police security forces and their auxiliaries, some of whom were dressed in plain clothes, launched a violent attack against Saharawi protesters, using excessive violence to disperse peaceful protests. The protests were in solidarity with Saharawi political prisoners and to denounce the clandestine move of the Gdeim Izik group of prisoners to Moroccan prisons. The authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco used excessive, unnecessary, unjustified and disproportionate force against peaceful protesters who did not represent any threat and they acted outside of the law.

Members of Adala UK documented the way in which members of the security forces beat protesters, using batons and throwing stones and driving at protesters in their armoured vehicles. The list of victims includes:

*Aziza Biza, who writes for a Saharawi news website, was badly cut on her head as a result of being hit several times by a member of the security forces.

* Hassna Duhei, a human rights activist, who was hit with a baton all over her body, including her face. Her glasses were smashed on her face which has left her with many cuts.

* a member of Equipe Media was held by the police and hit in the face. They confiscated his camera and the money in his pockets.

Dozens of protesters were taken to the regional hospital in occupied El Aaiun as many were quite severely hurt as a result of the beatings they had received. Those with less severe injuries were treated in the houses of other Saharawi citizens.

The use of violence by the police and occupation forces has provoked increased anger from Saharawi society in social media. The Moroccan authorities have failed to launch and independent and impartial investigation into the conduct of the officers.  The government continues to use a variety of different repressive tactics on Saharawi society including harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and beatings in the street, aimed at those who support self-determination and express their fundamental human rights.

At the same time Saharawi citizens, many of whom are human rights defenders or political activists, feel that the risk they face when expressing their points of view in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara has risen. The aim of this action by the occupation forces is to suppress the freedom of expression and association of peaceful protests.

Despite the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Territories and the flagrant abuses of human rights, democratic countries throughout the world remain silent and refrain from publicly criticising the Kingdom of Morocco. By remaining silent, the international community, including the EU and other influential countries, fuels Morocco's attempts to silence voices in Western Sahara which seek the self determination of the Saharawi people.

According to international law, the citizens of an occupied territory can only be imprisoned within their territory, not in that of the occupying power. Their rights under international laws and treaties must be respected.

The Moroccan government must offer unrestricted freedom to all Saharawi political prisoners, given that no real evidence has been found against them and the trials at which they were sentenced did not meet the minimum international standards of a fair trial.

062/SPS/Adala UK