See also:
» 03.12.2010 - Little US trust in Moroccan army
» 13.05.2010 - Western Sahara "not part of EFTA-Morocco free trade"
» 11.03.2010 - Niger ex-leader heading for Morocco?
» 11.02.2010 - Morocco-Polisario revive talks
» 29.01.2010 - Ease restrictions on Sahrawi - HRW
» 18.12.2009 - Sahara activist allowed back home
» 11.12.2009 - UN chief intevening in Saharawi activist cause
» 17.11.2009 - Unblock foreign visits to Sahrawi activists, HRW

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Morocco | Western Sahara
Politics | Human rights

Morocco repress Sahrawi population - HRW

afrol News, 22 December - Morocco has been accused of resorting to repressive laws and violence to punish Sahrawis who advocate for full self-determination for the disputed Western Sahara, HUman Rights Watch has said in a report.

The 216-page report said Morocco has continued to violate rights to expression, association and assembly in Western Sahara, revealing sluggish progress in protecting rights of Sahrawis in the annexed land.

Morocco has annexed the former Spanish colony since 1976, leaving around one third of mostly uninhabited Saharawi lands, the interior part bordering Algeria and Mauritania on Polisario's hands.

Human Rights Watch has called on both Morocco and Polisario to take specific steps to improve the human rights situation in the territories and on the United Nations Security Council to ensure regular human rights monitoring in both Western Sahara and Tindouf refugees camp in Algeria.

The report said although Sahrawi demonstrations sometimes involve acts of protester violence that are punishable, a blanket ban on peaceful assembly by Sahrawi in Morocco's annexed land cannot be justified.

"The repression has eased somewhat, and today dissidents are testing the red lines," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. She said the Western Sahara has long been an international problem, saying the world should address the broader human rights challenges in Morocco.

The report also said in Tindouf refugee camps, the Polisario Front allows refugees to criticise its management of daily affairs, but said however, it marginalises those who directly oppose its leadership.

"Residents are able to leave the camps if they wish to, including to resettle in Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. The fact that most take the main road to Mauritania rather than a secret route shows their confidence in being allowed to travel," it said.

The report further said the population of the camps remains vulnerable to abuses due to the camps' isolated location and the lack of regular independent human rights monitoring and reporting.

"The refugees in Tindouf have, for more than 30 years, lived in exile from their homeland, governed by a liberation movement in an environment that is physically harsh and isolated," said Ms Whitson.

She said despite of the current state of affairs, both the Polisario and the host country, Algeria, have responsibilities to ensure that the rights of the vulnerable refugees are protected.

Human Rights Watch has urged Morocco to revise and abolish laws that criminalise speech and political or associative activities deemed affronts to Morocco's territorial integrity and that are used to suppress non-violent advocacy in favor of Sahrawi political rights.

"End impunity for police abuses by ensuring serious investigations into civilian complaints and, where warranted, charges or disciplinary measures against abusive agents," the report urged.

Polisario has waged a low-level guerrilla war in Western Sahara from 1975 until 1991, when United Nations brokered a ceasefire. The territory remains divided and many Sahrawi refugees live in camps in Algeria.

Both Morocco and Polisario are increasingly frustrated about the status quo. Polisario has been promised a referendum over independence since 1991, but Moroccan regime had squashed all hopes of such a solution.

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