Morocco is increasing detentions and maltreatment of children in Western Sahara

On 20th November 2016, the Moroccan police arrested 3 minors in El Aiun, bringing the number of detained minors to 24 in the last 3 months of 2016.
The 3 youngsters Jamal Salami, Hajoub El Mojahid and El Bashir Babait were interrogated in police custody and subjected to maltreatment before being presented to the royal prosecutor who set them free until they had to present themselves at another tribunal on 20th December. During this the period was extended to 25 January.

On 28th November 2016, another minor – Ibrahim Mayara – was called to appear in front of a tribunal at the end of January 2017. Ibrahim had been arbitrarily detained on 26th November near his family home in El Aiun by a Moroccan police patrol. ‘The boy was violently attacked, immobilised and quickly taken away in a Moroccan police car’, an eye witness told Adala UK.

On 8th December, a judge conditionally liberated 15-year-old Aziz Afnido who had been detained in a street where a peaceful demonstration was taking place. Aziz was interrogated for 72 hours and told Adala UK that he was subjected to maltreatment and beatings in police custody.

At 6am, on 30th December 2016, intelligence agents, accompanied by police went to 15-year-old Hassan Atam’s house in order to arrest him for accusations such as ‘participating and organising demonstrations’ and ‘throwing stones at police cars’, accusations which Hassan denies. Fortunately, Hassan was staying at his aunt’s house at the time, but the police visit still caused his family considerable panic and distress when they were banging on the door with big hammers and sticks until they broke down the door.

‘The whole household woke up in a panic. I have two sick children at home and my daughter is still very weak from a similar event a few months ago. She passed out in the middle of the house and the police agents just walked over her. It seems that they don’t care at all about the damage they are causing to Saharawi families.’ Hassan’s mother told members of Adala UK.

See Hasan Atam’s mother’s full testimony here.


These detentions can happen at any time, anywhere, although the majority tend to take place in areas where peaceful demonstrations are taking place. Detentions at private homes usually happen in the middle of the night or very early morning. Detainees are frequently tortured and are often not told the reason for their arrest or where they are being taken. In the case of detainees under 18, their parents are not usually allowed to accompany them or be present during their interrogations. Often detainees are forced to sign confessions which are written in French or another language they do not speak

Since the second intifada in 2005, hundreds of Saharawi children have been arrested, denying them the protection they should be guaranteed according to international human rights treaties. The arrests of young people are part of a campaign of collective punishment to intimidate a whole generation, paralysing them to stop their actively resistance to the Moroccan occupation. The other purpose is recruiting them as informants.

The detention of children clearly violates children’s rights, despite Morocco being a signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

In a previous report, Adala UK documented 360 cases of Saharawi children who had suffered abuse at the hands of the Moroccan authorities. The report was sent to the 28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2016. In response, the Moroccan delegation recognised that children did not represent a threat to them in any way, but they did not accept any responsibility for the cases documented and continue to deny the reality that many Saharawi children face who are being maintained, tortured and threatened for political motives.

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