Press releases - North Africa - Morocco - Western Sahara - Colonisation - Human rights
Western Sahara: Campaigners call for of release of hunger strikers after 1 month without food
Western Sahara peace activist who appeared on BBC documentary ’in critical condition’ after month of hunger strike
A human rights campaigner from Western Sahara who spoke out against the Moroccan occupation of his country on BBC documentary is among six hunger strikers in a critical condition after a month without food. The six promininent human rights defenders have been held in a Moroccan prison for over 6 months and could face the death penalty if found guilty of trumped-up charges against them. Amnesty International have adopted them as prisoners of conscience and today human rights groups called for their immediate release.
Rachid Sghir, a member of the Committee Action against Torture, appeared in a BBC documentary, Tropic of Cancer, broadcast in March 2010. He was arrested and beaten immediately after a secret interview in which he condemed the unlawful 35 year occupation of Western Sahara and the resulting human rights abuses suffered by Saharawi people. On October 8th 2009 he was charged with treason along with six other key human rights defenders following a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. The seven are awaiting a military tribunal on the charge of treason. If found guilty Sghir and his colleagues could face the death penalty.
On 18th March, after over five months in prison, they launched a hunger strike and after one month surviving on just sugared water, there are serious concerns for their well-being. Their hunger strike has highlighted the need for international human rights monitoring in the disputed territory and added strength to the growing international demand for the UN to implement such monitoring. On 30 April the UN will pass a new resolution on Western Sahara which will provide an opportunity to extend the mandate of the UN peace-keeping force in Western Sahara to include human rights monitoring.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara said today: “It is now month since the hunger strikers began their and I am very afraid for their safety. They are being persecuted for exercising their right to express their political opinion and for engaging in legitimate activities. The treatment they are suffering is however common in a territory where human rights defenders are regular victims of arbitrary arrest, sexual violence, torture and "disappearance". I call on Morocco to release the hunger strikers immediately and without condition. I also call on the United Nations to take this month’s opportunity to fulfill its responsibility under article 73 of its Charter and to begin human rights monitoring in Western Sahara."
Simon Reeve, who made the BBC documentary said today: "This is a deeply worrying and tragic situation. I can only hope Rachid receives the proper medical help and legal representation that he deserves. The rest of the world really needs to get more involved in this lingering tragedy, because at the moment there’s little sign of a resolution to the wider issues surrounding Western Sahara. The international community must help the two sides come to some sort of agreement, so the Saharawi people can leave their desert refugee camps and return to their home in Western Sahara."
At 9pm on Thursday 15th April there will be a candle-lit vigil at Camden Lock for the hunger strikers. Gather at 250 Camden High Street. 8.45pm Contact press office: 07799650791 For more information visit Free Western Sahara Network
NOTES: Tropic of Cancer was broadcast on 14th March 2010 To see the BBC interview visit - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00n8vtk To see the BBC news story visit - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8575448.stm
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