International law has establishedtheright of allpeople to live free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. States have a duty to condemn such acts within their internal laws and in the actions of all those who work for the state. In addition, states have an obligation to immediately investigate any such acts and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
SokainaYaia, a 51 yearoldSaharawi,toldushermostrecentharrowing tale of violence (whichisone of many) whichstartedseveralyearsagowhenshebegan to peaceablydemandtheeconomic, social and politicalrights of theSaharawipeople, including,aboveall,theright to selfdetermination as recognisedbythe UN underResolution 1514.
Sheexplainedherstory: “I satwithmyfriends in thesquare and weraisedourhands and began to chant slogans whichdemandtheright to selfdetermination. Therewere 19 of us, allwomen, and suddenlytheMoroccanpolice, bothuniformed and in plainclothes, brutallyattackeduswithtruncheons, kickingus at thesame time. Wewereeachgrabbedbythreeorfourpolicemen and shovedintothestreet. Wewerebeaten and humiliated, includingthe use of sexual harrassment:theyputtheirhands and truncheonsallovermybody. The police do this so you’ll stop demonstrating and stay at home,cooking and cleaning, tellingyouthat’sallyoushould be doing.
“Theythrew me intothestreet and I couldn’tmove at all. Cars stopped to try to take me to hospital butthepolicetoldthemnot to and itwas 45 minutes untilanambulancearrivedwhichtook me and fourothervictims to the hospital buttherewasonlyonebed in theambulance so thejourneytherewasverydifficult. Itwasanother 30 minutes until I received medical attention. Mysistertold me all of thisbecause I hadpassedout.
“The doctors at Ben Lmahdi hospital (El Aiún) told me I was fine and couldgo home.
“Butthere’sblood in myurine and mybodyachesallover. I can’tsitdown and italsohurts to lie downbecause of thebruisingfrombeingkicked. Butmy case isjustone of thousands of Saharawiswho are constantvictims of thesystemicviolationswhichtheSaharawipopulationfaceon a dailybasishere in theoccupiedterritories of Western Sahara.
“WhenI’mfeelingbetterI’mgoing to go to a tribunal to denouncethoseresponsible. I’vebeen to fourtribunalslikethisbefore; onvariousocasionsthiswasagainstone of theMoroccanpolicechiefswhen I wasvictim of policeviolence. The onlythingthattheMoroccangovernmentdidwasoffertheperson in questionthe chance to move to anothercity and takeon more responsibility. I knowthatgoingagainnowwill be a waste of time: butI’mgoing to go no matterwhat.
“I wantthe UN and otherinternationalNGOs to come and seewhatis happening to us; to seethe human rightsviolations, the blocks ontheinternationalpresswhichhavebeenput in place bytheMoroccangovernment. The Saharawipeopleneedanindependent and impartialmechanismformonitoring human rights.
The human rightsviolationscommittedbytheMoroccanstate in theoccupiedterritories of Western Sahara havebeen a cause forconcernforAdalaUK and manyotherinternationalNGOsforsome time. Wecontinue to fightagainsttheexcessive use of forceagainstdemonstrators, the use of torture ondetainees and therestrictions of freedom of expression and associationthroughouttheoccupiedterritories of Western Sahara.
Takingall of thisintoconsidertation, AdalaUK has continued to askthat MINURSO takeona human rightsmonitoring mandate. Thismechanismwouldofferindependent and impartialevidenceabouttheeverydaysituation of human rights in theregion. MINURSO mustplay a clear role in thedocumentation of any human rightsviolations. Withoutsuch a mechanism, suchviolationswouldremainundocumentedwhichpreventschargesfrombeingbrought.
AdalaUKbelievesthe Security Council havemissedanopportunitywiththedecision in Aprilthisyear to notadd a human rightsmonitoring mandate to MINURSO and we urge theinternationalcommunity to reconsiderthisstance as soon as possible.