Activists, demonstrators and journalists have been detained without arrest warrants following peaceful demonstrations which have been taking place since Thursday 12th November 2020. Many more are at risk of arbitrary detention.
The day after the demonstrations, the Moroccan authorities launched a campaign of arbitrary detentions towards Saharawis who had participated, in the neighbourhoods of Maatala, Batimat and Shara Smara in Laayoune. Many people have already been detained whilst others are at risk of detention and prosecution in the coming days. Detainees include journalists trying to report on the situation on the ground.
Witnesses have confirmed with Adala UK that some detainees are being held at unknown locations, are being prevented from making contact with the outside world and have been denied access to lawyers.
The Moroccan authorities instructed local and national media channels not to cover the events or interview people who might criticise the government or the political situation in Western Sahara more broadly.
Please act by writing, e-mailing or calling members of the UNSC to express your views on the need for international support for the Saharawi people at this difficult time. Particularly contact your own country, and the ambassador for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as they hold the presidency of the Council in November. Contact details can be found here.
Use your own words in what you write if you can, it will have a greater impact.
The key points are that the Security Council should:
- Find ways to ensure that Saharawis are protected whilst practicing their right to freedom of expression when meeting peacefully to protest and do not risk detention based on their political beliefs;
- Urge Morocco to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners who have not been accused of an internationally recognised crime;
- Ensure that all detainees have immediate access to a solicitor, are brought before an independent civil court that can determine the legality of their detention and are allowed to see their families and receive medical attention if they need it.
- Ensure that a list of all detainees is published immediately, including the location of their detention;
- Bring to an end the military siege on numerous majority-Saharawi neighbourhoods of cities in Occupied Western Sahara;
- Do everything in its power to ensure that the ceasefire which held for nearly three decades can continue once more;
- Focus on implementing a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people, promised in 1990, by setting a date.
The Moroccan authorities violated the ceasefire between Morroco and Western Sahara at dawn on Friday 13th November 2020 by sending a group of Moroccan troops dressed as civilians to forcibly drive away the Sahrawi civilians who were peacefully protesting in front of the illegal Guerguerat breach. According to the Polisario Front, the Moroccan army broke through the wall that separates the Liberated Zone of Western Sahara from the Occupied Territories in an attempt to cordon off the area.
The announcement from the Polisario Front that the ceasefire had been violated and they would bring an armed response in retaliation came after the Moroccan army launched its unlawful operation in the Guerguerat pass, a United Nations–patrolled buffer zone, which had been blocked for three weeks by peaceful Saharawi demonstrators. The peaceful demonstrations taking place in all occupied cities of Western Sahara are in response to the end of the ceasefire.
In 1991, the UN-brokered a ceasefire between Moroccans and Sahrawis and established a peacekeeping mission that would help set a referendum on the territory’s future. This referendum has never taken place.
The UN and the European Union are calling for both parties to respect the long-held ceasefire in order to prevent the resumption of the conflict that has been frozen for decades.