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Families of Prisoners and Disappeared Sahrawi people
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Bureau of Human Rights of the European Coordination of Support for the Sahrawis
CH-1211 Geneva 9
Fax: 022 /320 45 50
23rd European Western Sahara Support Conference
Hérouville Saint-Clair, France 14-16 November 97.
This conference marked a new stage in supporting the Saharawi people. The Human Rights Commission worked for two days, dealing with:
the indispensable role of AFAPREDESA at present and the importance of enabling it to intensify its work through proper financial support;
the international campaign for the liberation of Mohammed Daddach;
the international action to adopt disappeared Saharawi men and women.
to facilitate contact between families of disappeared and the adoptees (as a new objective);
the question of landmines, see the last El Karama, which hinder and endanger the movements of people;
guarantees made to Saharawis of freedom of expression and movement during the referendum period;
El Karama newspaper, now published in French, English, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Arabic and soon German.
To attain these objectives, the commission took the following decisions:
to launch a European campaign to raise funds for AFAPREDESA's new task ( see last page of this bulletin)
to obtain the right for NGOs and independent observers to be present at each stage of the peace process,
to organise visits to Western Sahara for NGOs which defend human rights,
to favour the presence of women members of AFAPREDESA in situ during the referendum period.
Lastly the Commission asked conference to ascertain the presence of the independent jurist Emmanuel Roucounas in the occupied territory, and to call upon the UN to write a codicil agreement into the peace plan guaranteeing that those Saharawi prisoners released after the identification period would be allowed to vote.
Conference sent a message of friendship, hope and solidarity to Mohammed Daddach, and through him to all Saharawi prisoners and disappeared.
Moroccan intimidation jeopardises the referendum process.
Since the referendum process started again, Saharawis in the occupied zones have been more insecure than ever. AFAPREDESA has several times informed public opinion that arbitrary arrests are carried out, and that the victims may be released after several days having been interrogated and tortured. Are we not witnessing the accentuation and acceleration of intimidation which can happen before the end of a conflict? Are not the Moroccan authorities giving a clear message to Saharawi men and women not to start campaigning before time? Former disappeared Saharawi men and women, freed in June 91, are also the target of intimidation.
AFAPREDESA says these people are currently subjected to interrogation about their identity, their function, their relationships and about their activities during the period of their disappearance, being suspected of being POLISARIO sympathisers.
This harassment is an unambiguous message: the referendum identification process still does not mean that you may express your opinions or feelings freely. The population living in the occupied territory are in a trap, and tension is continuing to mount. We should thus continue to report back all these violations of human rights to the UN ( the General secretary in New York and the Human Rights Committee in Geneva).
We consider that realistically, the work of AFAPREDESA and the human rights bureau will increase considerably this year. We need to insist on vigilance at every moment regarding human rights, and to find the means to put across the message to the inhabitants of the occupied zone that a free Sahara means a guarantee that their rights will be respected. This activity needs financial backing.
NEWS IN BRIEF FROM AFAPREDESA
Amnesty Launches Urgent Appeal
On 10 December 1997, day of the Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty launched an urgent appeal for the liberation of Ali Salem Mohamed Salem Mami (Tarek), born in 1974 at Assa and Boussef Abderahman Brahim, born in 1948 at Smara. These two Saharawi citizens were the object of an arbtrary arrest on 2 December 1997 in Dakhla (in the south of Western Sahara). They were interrogated and tortured in several secret detention centres. On 12 December, the two Saharawis were released.
One of these young Saharawis arrested (Tarek) is one of those who sent us the testimony below.
Two Nomads Kidnapped
Two nomads, Abderrahmane Brahim Atman and Mohamed El Yabbassia were abducted near Bir Gandouz on 10 December 1997. Amnesty launched an urgent appeal for their liberation. To our knowledge, these two people have not yet been released.
Two Young Saharawis Arrested
On 5 December 1997, close to the Moroccan/Spanish border, near Ceuta, two young Saharawis were arrested and imprisoned in the military barracks of Tetouan where Moroccan forces of order interrogated and tortured them.
Red Cross Visit
From 14ñ 22 November 1997, the International Red Cross visited 1227 Moroccan prisoners of war in the hands of the Polisario Front. In the course of 1997 the International Red Cross has been able to see all the registered Moroccan prisoners - 1905 people. In its communiquÈ on the subject, the International Red Cross does not mention the 85 prisoners liberated during the visit of James Baker to the camps on 27 April 1997.
Morocco still refuses to repatriate them.
Young Saharawi victims of Moroccan repression
Extracts from their testimony
Mohamed Boushab Jgheghe and Ali Salem Mohamed Mami Tarek sent their testimony to Europe from Assa. They were arrested during demonstrations "which the Moroccan authorities judge contrary to the national spirit" and condemned to prison, one for 5 years and the other for 2 years, "with no legal basis. We were victims of arbitrary power, pure and simple."
"We let you imagine the absurdity of this kind of judgement which takes place in a climate of terror and intimidation and without giving the accused the least chance of defending themselves nor choosing a lawyer to defend them."
"Once the judgement is pronounced, we begin our long journey which would lead us through all the phases of suffering, scorn, denigration and interminable vexations for which we find no name. To give you an idea of this infernal sojourn we will begin with our quarters: a room 8 metres long by 4 metres wide in an old building dating from French colonial days. The capacity of this place should have been limited to 4 or 5 people, whereas we were 130 detainees. All ages and every crime were represented. Each day, new detainees arrived."
The two Saharawis give many details on their prison visits, limited to 5 minutes a week, in disastrous conditions when someone has travelled 310 kilometres to embrace a son, a brother or a husband. The Saharawis eventually say that they don't know whether the visiting day is "synonymous with joy or sorrow ".
These two friends wish to break the wall of silence. That is why they sent their testimony to us. It's up to us to make their voices heard further afield.
(The 5 page testimony is deposited with the Bureau of Human Rights.)
English version translated by WSC, UK, Oxford Chambers, Oxford Place, Leeds LS1 3AX. Tel +44 113 245 4786. E-mail: email@example.com
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