A Moroccan police patrol arrested 17 year old Souayah Dahi on the Sharif Radi Avenue in the Zemla neighbourhood in the capital of Western Sahara due to his participation in a protest in solidarity with the Saharawi political prisoners held in Moroccan prisons. Dahi has been punished for exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.
A group of plain clothes police officers dragged the young man down the street and then took him away in an armoured vehicle to an unknown location. This was whilst several other cars brutally intervened against a peaceful demonstration, a witness told Adala UK.
“Three of them grabbed him by both arms and dragged him to an armoured car as they beat him. Some neighbours and people on the street were trying to rescue him from the hands of the youngest of the officers, and one man approached one of the officers and asked them to leave the boy alone. The officers refused, and one of them said “we are going to take him somewhere to reeducate him”.
Other witnesses said that Souayah Dahi trembled with fear. “We saw him talk to the officers and tell them that he did not throw stones, but that did not help. The officers dragged him off and got him into an armoured car belonging to the Moroccan police. I do not know if they beat Souayah Dahi in the car or not, I do not know what happened inside because you cannot see anything inside the car.”
According to the testimony of the witness “Souayah Dahi had been beaten at the place of arrest before he was forced by plain clothes and uniformed officers to get into an armoured car.”
Dahi also confirmed that he was subjected to ill-treatment, and physical and verbal abuse whilst in the police car before being taken to the general police headquarters in the occupied city of El Aiuún.
“Inside the police headquarters, they hit me hard on the feet and hands and other parts of my body, and I was interrogated at the same time. An officer slapped me in the face and asked me to give the names of those who were with me and those who were throwing stones” Dahi added.
In this video we can see that Dahi was the victim of physical violence and humiliating and degrading practices, which caused him injuries and bruises all over his body, mainly on his back (see video).
Mohammed Asaid Ohamiad, aged 12, was arrested on 13 April after being chased by a Moroccan police armoured vehicle that carried uniformed and plain clothes officers. Mohammed took refuge in a neighbour’s house but the agents at the door of the house and entered without a warrant. The young man was transferred to the police station in the same neighbourhood. Mohamed Said was subjected to physical and psychological torture. The authorities did not contact any members of his family. Mohamed’s family were I formed by other neighbours of their son’s detention, after which family members gathered in front of the police station. Mohamed was released. The young man was covered in bruises and it was clear he had been subjected to physical maltreatment.
In the month of April, members of Adala UK in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara confirm that the following young people have been arrested by the Moroccan forces:
Hamza 17 years old, Hamza Labhaih 14 years old, Aziz Finido 15 years old and Omar Ambairkat 12 years old. All were subjected to arbitrary detention, physical and mental torture and other maltreatments.
Under international law, any person under the age of 18 is a child, and children suspected of having committed a crime must be treated in accordance with the rules of the juvenile justice system and must be accompanied by a legal representative at all times. Dahi was detained for more than six hours without anyone from his family or a legal representative being notified by the authorities. Dahi was released at 4:00am on 12 April.
Since 2013 Adala UK has collected many testimonies from children who have been victims of violence at the hands of the Moroccan police in the Occupied Territories if Western Sahara. Hundreds of interviews testify to the barbarism of the occupation, the crimes and the ordinary humiliation experienced by Sahrawi children in the occupied cities. In our report submitted to the UN for the Universal Periodic Review of the Kingdom of Morocco, ‘UPR 2017’, we have compiled overwhelming evidence regarding the violence and serious human rights violations to which Sahrawi children are subjected. Persistent suspicions, arbitrary arrests, physical ill-treatment and even being fired at with live ammunition also affect children as in the case of Najem El Garhi. Sahrawi children are repressed by the Moroccan occupation forces, arrested, beaten and tortured. Many Sahrawi children are left traumatised, marked by the horror and terror caused by the Moroccan forces in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara.
Our research has shown that most Sahrawi children are taken to interrogation centres with their hands tied, beaten and deprived of their minimum rights. All of the children detained who were interviewed by Adala UK suffered some type of physical violence between the time of their arrest and interrogation.
Adala UK urges Morocco to take concrete and immediate measures to protect children, in particular by ensuring accountability for all alleged violations of international humanitarian law and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child during arrests and the brutal intervention against the peaceful protests of the Sahrawi population.
The State of Morocco must respect and ensure the proper application of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and International Humanitarian Law in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara.
Adala UK also reiterates its call to the international community and the UN to deploy impartial observers to the Occupied Territories to ensure the protection of the human rights of the people of Western Sahara. It is vital for people living in Western Sahara that this coming April the United Nations Security Council include a human rights monitoring mandate in MINURSO. This would represent a step forward in addressing human rights violations in Western Sahara.