Monday, 16 November 2009

STATEMENT: Morocco expels Saharawi "Gandhi" from Western Sahara

UK charity Sandblast condemns Morocco’s most recent act of human rights violations against the Saharawi people following the arrest and detention of leading human rights activist Aminatou Haidar on Friday, Nov 13, at the El Aaiun Airport in Western Sahara. Ms. Haidar was returning from a visit to the United States where she received the Civil Courage Prize from the Train Foundation in recognition of her peaceful advocacy for human rights of the Saharawi people. The Moroccan authorities subsequently expelled her to Lanzarote 24 hours later.
Since October 6, fifteen well-known human rights defenders from Western Sahara have been arrested, detained and interrogated. Seven of them, known as the Casablanca 7 are being tried in a military court for acts of treason after visiting their relatives in the Saharawi refugee camps in SW Algeria. These Saharawis have been targeted for speaking out against the repression of the Moroccan occupation in their homeland and advocating their self-determination rights as recognized by the UN charter and over a 100 UN resolutions. In August, the Moroccan authorities prevented six Saharawi youths from traveling to the UK to participate in the Oxford-based programme Talk Together, which promote dialogue between youth in areas of conflict.

Sandblast founder, Danielle Smith, who advocates the human rights of the Saharawi people through arts and culture, is calling upon the British government and civil society to take concrete actions to put pressure on the Kingdom of Morocco to end the violations it is committing against the Sahrawi people.
“It is no longer tolerable and hasn’t been for a long time for the international community to stand by silently while Morocco systematically violates the fundamental human rights of the Saharawi people to freedom of expression, association and movement”, Ms. Smith stresses.

She affirms that her charity is “seriously worried about the lack of any provisions to protect human rights by the UN peacekeeping forces in Western Sahara”. Ms Smith believes the abuses against the Saharawi civilians will escalate and become more violent following the speech of King Mohamed VI on November 6, which commemorated the 34th anniversary of the Green March. In it the king unambiguously stated that anyone who does not declare their loyalty to the Moroccan kingdom will be considered a threat to national sovereignty and integrity and will be treated as a traitor.

Sandblast calls “upon the Moroccan government to end its violence against the Saharawi people and allow the conflict in Western Sahara to be resolved peacefully and justly in conformance with international law.”

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