- 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.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.