Adala UK President, Sidahmed Mesca, has spent the last five months in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara. With violent interventions against peaceful demonstrations continuing, he has observed and investigated many cases of human rights violations during this time.
In the last three months, AdalaUK was present at 13 peaceful demonstrations, most recently on 26 June 2014. On all of these occasions, we found that:
- Dozens of Saharawis who participated in peaceful protests were beaten, including those who did not show any resistance to the Moroccan military and did not represent a threat to them or other people;
- In some cases, when demonstrations had moved to a different area of town after a violent intervention by the Moroccan military, demonstrators were attacked by Moroccan residents and shops, businesses and houses belonging to Saharawis were vandalised;
- Dozens of Saharawis were detained during demonstrations and many of these are still awaiting trial;
- Those who are imprisoned suffer torture and abuse at the hands of prison staff
AdalaUK conducted several interviews with detainees. They explained that they had been beaten and tortured when they were detained as well as during their time in custody. The majority had visible injuries and scars. In some cases, prisoners stated that they had been forced to sign declarations which they were not allowed to read. Cases of alleged torture are not usually investigated and perpetrators are not held to account. Prisoners tend to be tried in unfair trials which do not meet international standards.
Saharawi civil society organisations continue to be prevented from obtaining legal registration. AdalaUK interviewed the two prominent human rights activists Brahim Dahan and Aminatu Haidar, both of whom confirmed that registration is denied to the Saharawi human rights organisations ASVDH (Saharawi Association for Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations) and CODESA (The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders), despite the fact that in 2006, a tribunal had declared illegal the decision to reject ASVDH’s application to register, according to Brahim Dahan.
Journalists, and others who criticise the violence committed by the Moroccan authorities to suppress demonstrations, face harsh reprisals. Mahmoud Lhaisan, journalist and correspondent for local TV station RASDTV, was detained by Moroccan police on 5 July 2014 because he had reported on a peaceful demonstration three days earlier. According to his family members, whom AdalaUK has spoken to, he now faces charges of insulting and attacking civil servants, incitement of violence and disseminating false information.
The main conclusion from this field visit is the urgent need to conduct an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into human rights violations which have occurred and continue to occur on a regular basis.
AdalaUK continues to closely follow the human rights situation in Western Sahara and to lobby the Moroccan state to stop violent interventions in peaceful demonstrations, torture in police custody, and to guarantee fair trials for detainees.