Against a general background of restrictions on freedom of expression and political organisation, the Moroccan authorities have recently launched an attack on key journalists and activists for their criticism of the abuses committed by Morocco in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. In recent weeks the Moroccan National Security and Intelligence Service has arbitrarily kidnapped and detained many political activists and journalists.
On 25th October, the Moroccan authorities kidnapped Mohamed Kharr, a journalist from the Saharawi Media Team and the blogger Khalid Rauhani alongside four other activists: Nordin Largobi, Hamza El Filali, Ali Saadouni , Asaidi Mrabih. The activists are from a Saharawi NGO whose headquarters are in the capital of Western Sahara. All were kidnapped from the Marwa café on the main Smara Road in the centre of El Aaiún by plain clothes and uniformed police officers travelling in two cars.
“We were in the Marwa café having a drink as normal when suddenly the Moroccan police came in and ordered us all to stay still and remain seated, they grabbed six people and bundled them into two cars – one of which was a police car and one of which was civilian – and they drove off,” explained a witness to members of Adala UK.
Adala UK has documented additional cases of detention of this nature – many of whom have been detained more than four months, as in the case of Mahmoud Lhaisane, a correspondent for the local Saharawi television station, RASD-TV.
These kidnappings and detentions are part of a wider human rights crisis in the occupied territories at the hands of the Moroccan authorities, where the space for freedom of expression, association and assembly is being severely restricted and dissenting political activists and censored with brutal force.
The Moroccan National Intelligence and Security Service have a history of arbitrarily detaining and torturing Saharawi activists with total impunity and this practice must stop. Morocco has ratified the International Treaty on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits the use of torture and kidnapping and it is time for Morocco to demonstrate that its commitment is more than just a signature on a page.