Concerns are mounting over the safety of seven prominent Saharawi human rights advocates from Western Sahara who were arrested by Moroccan police at Casablanca airport on 8th October. The advocates were arrested when they touched down from after a visit to Saharawi refugee camps in the Algerian desert. They were taken away separately by Moroccan security forces. Neither their location nor the reason for their detention has been disclosed.
In a letter to Mr. Le Loung Minh, President of the Security Council, the President SADR, Mohamed Abdelaziz wrote: “It is obvious that we are facing an escalation in the human rights violation policy at the time in which the Personal Envoy of UN Secretary General, backed by the UN Security Council, is about to make efforts with a view to resume the direct negotiations between the two parties.
The Frente Polisario has also expressed its concern at this action by the Moroccan authorities which not only puts at risk the life and personal safety of the victims but also seriously jeopardises the preservation of the atmosphere of trust and dialogue achieved during the talks held in Durnstein (Austria) and subjects the whole negotiation process to unnecessary tensions…These developments which are a matter of serious concern demonstrate the urgency to expand the mandate of MINURSO to include human rights monitoring in the Territory.
The UN Security Council, as guarantor of the peace process, has been urged to intercede so as to make sure that the Moroccan authorities will immediately release the human rights defenders detained in Casablanca as well as dozens of human defenders imprisoned in different Moroccan prisons and to take all necessary steps to avoid the worsening of the situation on the ground.”
The arrest of the seven comes in the wake of the UN Decolonization Committee Meeting in New York and recent high level international support for the Saharawi right to self-determination. At the UN General Assembly last month, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nambia’s President Pohamba spoke on the issue, and South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, stated that “urgent and concrete steps are needed to resolve the situation in Western Sahara. Yesterday the Nigerian government condemned human rights violations against Saharawis in Western Sahara.
Those arrested have been named as; Brahim Dahane — president of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Serious Violations Committed by Morocco (ASVDH); Ali Salem Tamek — first vice president of the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) and member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH); Ahmad Anasiri — general secretary of the Saharawi Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Smara and president of AMDH Smara Chapter; Dagja Lachgar — member of the executive office of ASVDH; Yahdih Ettarrouzi — member of AMDH Laayounne Chapter; Saleh Lebayhi — president of the Forum for Protection of Sahrawi Children and member of the Laayoune Chapter of CODESA and AMDH; Rachid Sghayar — member of Committee Action against Torture.