The prisoners were taken from a group of more than 200 activists arrested by Moroccan authorities a year ago. And as Malainin Lakhal reports, Morocco has over 60 Saharawi prisoners of conscience, including eminent human rights defender Naama Asfari.
Twenty-four Saharawi human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, who are to appear before a Moroccan court-martial, are on hunger strike since 31 October, after being one year imprisonment without appearing before a court.
The 24 Saharawi prisoners are demanding their right to a fair trial or to be unconditionally released, and that their rights are respected within the prison. They were arrested since November 2010 because of their participation in a peaceful protest-camp that more than 20,000 Saharawi civilians organsed on 10 October 2010 before the Moroccan army violently dismantled it on 8 November 2010, killing two Saharawis at least, injuring hundreds, and arresting more than 200, before starting to release them and keeping this group of 24.
Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa. It is colonized by Morocco since 1975 after a tripartite agreement Rabat signed with Spain (the former colonial power and Mauritania to divide the country and its people in two parts: the north to be given to Morocco while Mauritania takes the southern zones, and Spain keeps economic privilege in exploiting fishing resources.
The Saharawi liberation movement, POLISARIO, fought a 16-year guerrilla war against Morocco since the first days of the invasion and succeeded to convince the international community to intervene in 1991. The UN and the OAU (now AU) have in fact brokered a peace plan and a cease-fire, that was enforced in September 1991, promising the Saharawi people to vote in a referendum on the self-determination of the territory as it is usually done in cases of decolonization.
The UN doesn’t recognize to Morocco sovereignty over Western Sahara, but it still fails to force the implementation of its own laws because of the French strong support to the Moroccan colonial thesis in the last colony in Africa.
International human rights organisations periodically condemn Moroccan human rights abuses against human rights defenders, protesters, Saharawi students and prisoners, but France refuses to allow any kind of protection by the UN to the Saharawi civilians.
France has in fact opposed UN Security Council attempts to mandate a UN mission on the ground to be in charge of monitoring and protecting human rights. This mission, constituted since 1991 to monitor the cease-fire and prepare for the organization of the referendum, is impotent in the face of the Moroccan police abuses.
Morocco detains 64 Saharawi prisoners of conscience, including eminent human rights defenders such as Naama Asfari, arrested on 7 November 2010 and never brought before a court to date. Naama is among the group that will be brought before the Moroccan martial court sometime in future.
Malainin Lakhal is secretary general of the Saharawi Journalists and Writers Union.