WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 29 - 30 : 17.07.-30.07.2005

original french

  

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

Arrest of Ali Salem Tamek
Arrested on 18 July as he disembarked from a plane coming from the Canary Islands, Ali Salem Tamek is placed in police custody, accused of "direct implication in acts of vandalism" in the occupied territories over recent months. On 20 July his custody is extended by 24 hours, he is imprisoned on 21 in the Black Prison in El Ayoun.

Situation worsens
The day of the arrest of Ali Salem Tamek two demonstrations take place in El Ayoun, one directed against the decision of the governor to compensate, by distributing some electrical husehold goods, the Saharawis whose houses were ransacked by the police forces in May, the other in the evening to demand the release of the political prisoners.
The Moroccan powers organise on the 19th a pseudo-demonstration of Moroccan settlers and paramilitary forces clothed in traditional Saharawi garments.  3-5,000 people demand the release of the Moroccan prisoners of war held by the Polisario Front.
The same day in Assa, Dakhla and El Ayoun the Saharawi population is out on the streets.

Arrests of human rights defenders
On 20 July, six plain clothes agents break into the bedroom of Mohamed Elmoutawakil in Casablanca and arrest him, as well as another Saharawi former prisoner of opinion who is by chance in the house, Mohamed Fadel Gaoudi. It is General Laânigri in person, head of the DGSN (National Security) who proceeds to the first interrogations, then the two former leaders of the Forum for Truth and Justice are transferred to El Ayoun. In parallel three other human rights activists, Noumria Brahim, Larbi Messaoud and Lidri Elhoussein are arrested in El Ayoun. Over several days of interrogation after interrogation, they are subjected to torture in the PC CMI by the team of well-known local specialists. The five activists appear on the 23rd before the Prosecutor, who sets Gaoudi free and extends the period of custody for the four others, who are then imprisoned in the Black Prison.

There are many protests
The Saharawi President twice sends letters to Kofi Annan. Human rights organisations protest (
BIRDHSO Italy solidarity associations take action (CEAS, FANDAS, US-Western Sahara Foundation). In Spain demonstrations take place on the 20.07 in Algeciras, on 24 in Valencia, on 25 in Almeria, on 27 in Madrid, Malaga, Logrono, Valencia, Murcia and in the Balearic Islands. In France, the Association of Friends, AARASD and the AFASPA react. Committees for the release of Saharawi prisoners of opinion are created in France and in the USA. In Italy the national solidarity organisation writesa letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The President of the European parliamentary intergroup, in a declaration, condemns the repression and calls for the intervention of the EU. [
Declaration, 20.07.05] [Déclaration, 20.07.05] [Declaración 20.07.05]
A French senator, Robert Bret, writes in the same vein to his foreign minister [
PDF] and to the Moroccan ambassador [PDF] . The families of the seven abducted HR activists, the committee of former Phosboucraa workers (arabic) m and others to numerous to evoque all of them, launch appeals.

21.07.05, Appeal trial of the six Saharawi activists sentenced in the court of first instance on 23 June. One of them, Abderrahman Bougarfa, sees his sentence of 5 years confirmed, the others will not know their fate until 28 July. In the evening, a false report about the death of a young Saharawi, hurt in the riots and hospitalised in Marrakech is rapidly denied.

24.07.05, A delegation from the Canaries is turned back at El Ayoun airport like the six preceding ones.

25.07.05
Faced with the worsening of the situation by comparison with 28 April, the date on which the European Parliament had last expressed its concern (
french) , Sidati, Saharawi Minister-delegate for Europe, launches a new "urgent appeal" to the president of the European Parliament, to the President of the European Commission and to the high representative for the PESC, Javier Solana.

26.07.05, more appeals
The President of the Mexican Association of Friendship with SADR (AMARASD), the president of the Society of Mexican writers, Victor Hugo Rascon Banda, ask the UN Secretary General to endeavour to organise a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people without delay and to put an end to the repression in the territory. The Legislative Assembly of the region of Emilia Romagna (Italy) asks its president, in a resolution, to organise a mission of observation to Western Sahara, to the central Italian Government to recognise the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and to consider recognising SADR.

The Saharawi President writes this time to Tony Blair, who is chairing the European Union, to ask him to intervene immediately to protect Saharawi citizens. In Great Britain, the Western Sahara Campaign ly Day Motion 551 before the British Parliament (see week 27-28) has now got 43 signatures.

27.07.05, Mohamed Jaïm, Saharawi human rights activist, and trades unionist transferred from Bou-Crâa to Ben Guerir, decides to start a new hunger strike to protest about the repression.

28.07.05, Sentences on appeal by 5 demonstrators e
The court of El Ayoun in an appeal hearing reduces considerably the sentences handed down on  23.06.05 for "violence against officials in the exercise of their duties by the use of arms, having brought about premeditated injuries and causing damage to other people's property".

State of siege
The Saharawi districts of El Ayoun, such as Matalla, are still patrolled by police, the gendarmerie, the auxiliary forces and the GUS, who have installed surveillance posts outside houses of Saharawi human rights activists. The streets of the suburb of Zemla and other popular areas are bristling with patrols, preventing more than three people gathering together.
Press conference in Paris with Claude Mangin, who spent a week in the occupied territories. She confirmed the inauguration of a real state of siege in El Ayoun. She considers that "the popular uprising which was sparked off at the end of May has created a pre-insurrectional state of refusal of the Moroccan colonial presence, to which the Makhzen is reacting with brutality and a certain confusion." [
communiqué]

29.07.05, USA
Several members of the American Congress send a letter to the Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, to draw her attention to recent cases of human rights abuses and torture in occupied Western Sahara and to ask her to intervene to make these practices stop. They also point out that the worsening of the situation calls for a rapid solution to the conflict through making the referendum happen.

US Congressman Judge Ted Poe denounces Moroccan human rights violations in Western Sahara.[full text of speach before the US Congress, SPS]

Aminatou Haidar called on US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, 26.07.05 [full text of her letter SPS]

Seriously injured
The
Norwegian delegation expelled from the occupied territories on 05.07.05 paid a visit to Sidi Elfakraoui in Rabat, where he is being treated. Injured from from falling off a roof while being pursued by the police [according to his own statement he was trown off the 5th floor roof of the building by the GUS police] the young man presents serious complications, which could handicap him for life. His family has been ruined by the medical expenses and cannot take on the rehabilitation needed. The president of the Rafto Foundation has launch a collection of funds to help him. (Raftostiftelsens konto 3624.60.06878 or contact M. Arne Lynngård e-mail: arne[at]bts.no [ norwegian article with photo]

For a detailed chronology of these 2 busy weeks, and for direct reports and testimonies see the special page .

NATURAL RESOURCES

28.07.05
Negotiations for a partnership agreement on fishing between Morocco and the European Union came to an end in Brussels by concluding a new agreement, which replaces that of 1999 which was not renewed by Morocco. The new agreement includes Saharawi territorial waters.
Immediate protest by the Polisario Front, who, through the voice of its representative in Spain, calls the agreement "illegal and unjust". [
EU press release] [Acuerdo de pesca UE-Marruecos: se consuma la traición de 1975, Carlos Ruiz Miguel, El Semanal Digital, 28.07.06]

29.07.05, Oil
The SADR government takes note of the announcement by Baraka Petroleum Limited that it "has agreed to conduct a joint study with Roc Oil Company Limited (ROC)" to evaluate the Cap Juby prospect in offshore Morocco.
The SADR government has been assured by the companies involved that the area to be evaluated does not lie in the offshore territory of the SADR. Furthermore, this license does not overlay or impact any of the license areas offered in the SADR Licensing Round announced in May this year.
The SADR government takes the opportunity to remind all foreign companies that any agreement involving Western Sahara that is entered into with the occupying  Moroccan regime is illegal and unethical, will be resisted by the SADR Government and its supporters and will inevitably harm the companies' reputation and shareholders' interests. [
Media release ]

REFERENDUM

On 26 July, Kofi Annan designates the Dutch ambassador, Peter van Walsum to the post of personal envoy for Western Sahara, «to help assess the situation and to explore with the parties, neighboring states and other stakeholders how best to overcome the present political impasse.»
Mohamed Sidati considers this appointment as "very positive", he hopes that the first task of the new personal envoy will be to ask Morocco to stop the repression and to implement the resolutions of the UN. The Moroccan ambassador at the UN declares that this appointment will enable them to get out of the present blockage and progress towards a lasting, mutually acceptable political solution, within Moroccan sovereignty.
The Spanish government and the Popular Party (opposition) welcome the appointment of van Walsum in a positive way, as well as France and Algeria.
mbassador van Walsum is 71, he has represented his country, the Netherlands, at the United Nations for many years and chaired the Iraq Sanctions Committee for two years after the invasion of Kuwait.

26.07.0, Italian Parliament
Responding to a parliamentary question on the human rights situation in the occupied territories and its position on the question of Western Sahara, the government expresses itself in favour of a "negotiated solution referring to the principles and resolutions approved by the UN." It commits itself to favour such a solution and to continue its humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugees. It affirms it is following closely the development of the situation in the occupied zones.[
Parlamento italiano: Interrogazione a risposta in Commissione 5-04543 presentata da LAURA CIMA nella seduta n.647] - RIPOSTA (27.07.05) - PDF]

MOROCCO

Declaration
Invited by the royal palace to associate themselves with the campaign to defend "the territorial integrity" of Western Sahara, the movement Annahj Addimoucrati writes an open letter on 17 July to decline, adding that "it is imperative that any solution must be a democratic one", and considering not to have "seen any sign proving the existence of a political will to search for a really democratic solution to this question". In an interview with the "
Journal hebdo", the secretary general of the movement, Abdellah Elharrif makes his position clear.

The Moroccan authorities withdraw accreditation from Al Jazeera's correspondent, claiming he mentioned the troubles in El Ayoun and the arrest of Ali Salem Tamek and the other Saharawis.

The royal palace pursues its campaign of seeking support for its policy, shamelessly offering all sorts of economic advantages. Five Moroccan ministers are going all over the world to "enlighten international opinion on the situation in the 'southern provinces'": Yazghi is visiting Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil, Benabdallah, Angola, Swaziland, Malawi and Sierra Leone, Benaïssa Saudi Arabia and Taieb Fassi Fihri, Vietnam. Mohamed Cheikh Biadillah "in several African countries", Laenser is in Paraguay.

SPAIN

25.07.05
The parliament postpones until September the planned visit to Western Sahara, arguing that freedom of movement on the ground is not assured.

ALGERIA

19.07.05
The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Moratinos meets his counterpart in Algiers and reiterates Madrid's commitment in favour of a solution to the Sahara conflict "within the UN framework".

HUMAN RIGHTS

57th session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, (Geneva, 25 July - 12 August 2005)

A Saharawi delegation, led by Ambassador Mohamed Yeslem Beissat, is attending the session. Eight NGOs present at the session sign an "Appeal for the release of Aminatou Haidar, Ali Salem Tamek and all the Saharawi political prisoners".
27.07.05: Interventions on the present situation in the occupied territories, under the heading of point 02: Question of abuse of human rights and fundamental liberties by the International youth and student movement for the United Nations, ISMUN, Interfaith International and the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP).
28.07.05, Intervention under the heading of point 03: Administration of Justice, state of law and democracy in the name of the International youth and student movement for the United Nations ISMUN. [
more]

COMING UP...

The Swiss Committee of Support for the Saharawi People invites anyone to join the PICKET OF SOLIDARITY, Saturday 06 August 2005 from 10.00-20.00 hours, Esplanade du Mont-Blanc in Geneva (south of Cornavin station).

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