British Parliament tables motion in support of Aminatou Haidar

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A cross-party group of British MP’s today tabled a Motion in Parliament expressing “dismay” at the expulsion of Nobel Peace Prize nominee Amainatou Haidar from Western Sahara. The Motion signed by parliamentarians from all three main political parties states that “this House condemns the escalating wave of human rights violations against Saharawi human rights activists..[and] is dismayed over the expulsion of prominent Saharawi human rights activist and winner of the 2009 Civil Courage Award Aminatou Haidar from Western Sahara.”

Known has the “African Gandhi”, Haidar had her passport confiscated by Moroccan authorities on her return from a trip abroad on 14th November. She was deported in unlawfully to the Canary Island of Lanzarote where she has been on hunger strike in the airport terminal for over two weeks.

Her deportation has been condemned by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as her friends and supporters around the world including Nobel Laureates Jose Saramago and President Ramos-Horta, film director Pedro Almodovar and actor Javier Bardem. On 27th November the US State Department issued a statement: “The United States remains concerned about the health and well-being of Saharawi activist Aminatou Haidar, recipient of the 2008 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the Train Foundation’s 2009 Civil Courage Prize. We urge a speedy determination of her legal status and full respect for due process and human rights.”

Haidar, a life long human rights activist for the Saharawi people, was expelled from Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara because she put “Western Sahara” instead of “Morocco” on her landing card. The Morrocan authorities said she had thereby waived her Morrocan citizenship, confiscatd her passport, and then forced her onto a flight without any papers to Lanzarote against her will. Stefan Simanowitz of the global campaigning group, the Free Western Sahara Network, points out that Haider’s expulsion from Morocco and entry into Spain was a breach of international law. “Aminatou Haidar should not have been permitted to travel without a passport and should not have been allowed into Spanish Territory. Her deportation is in breach of Article 12 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which states “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.”

Today, campaigners announced their intention of sending a high level delegation to visit Ms Haidar in Lanzarote, and in an open letter, celebrities including film director Ken Loach and former Monty Python, Terry Jones called on the Moroccan government “to return Aminatou Haidar’s passport immediately and allow her to travel home to her country and to her two young children before it is too late.”

“Aminatou Haidar is an inspirational figure who has devoted over two decades of her life fighting for a peaceful end to Morocco’s 34 year unlawful occupation of Western Sahara,” said Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Jeremy Corbyn MP. “We hope she will live to continue her struggle for many years to come.”

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