Western Sahara Campaign UK
PRESS RELEASE 27th JULY 2005
Who will be the first to break the wall of silence on the Western Sahara?
The Western Sahara Campaign UK condemns the recent arrests of Saharawi activists and human right campaigners by Moroccan security forces, including Ali Salem Tamek, one of the most prominent and well-known campaigners for the cause of Saharawi self-determination, who was arrested on 20 July. Arrests continue daily. The arrests follow weeks of demonstrations by Saharawis against the continuing Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara: a non-violent Saharawi "intifada".
Trials of those arrested have been characterised by lack of due process, resignations of defence lawyers, trumped-up charges (such as membership of a criminal gang, or even damaging Moroccan flags) and grotesque sentences of up to 20 years imprisonment. Morocco has used the demonstrations as an opportunity to crack down on the Saharawi non-violent civil rights movement, which has grown since the late 1990's.
There have been credible reports of torture and mistreatment of Saharawis arrested by the Moroccan forces, including of the female activist Aminatou Haidar. Despite these shocking reports and continuing turmoil in the territory, there has no been no press reporting in the UK of these events and no diplomatic or other activity to hold Morocco to account for its actions.
Morocco has effectively cut Western Sahara off from the outside world, with observers from Spain and Norway being either deported from or refused permission to land at airports in the territory. Latif Allal, a Saharawi who accompanied the Norwegian delegation during their curtailed stay in the territory, was afterwards tortured in Moroccan police custody. A journalist with Al Jazeera, Abdessalam Razzak, has had his work permit revoked by the Moroccan government after covering the events.
These recent events highlight the lack of progress in finding a diplomatic solution to the Western Sahara dispute. In 2003, the UK joined the rest of the UN Security Council in endorsing the so-called Baker Plan to resolve the dispute. Since then, the Polisario Front has accepted this plan but Morocco has ignored it. The Western Sahara Campaign calls on the UK government and the UN to pressure Morocco to accept its international obligations and allow a fair referendum on the Western Sahara's future status.
Notes for Editors
Early Day Motion 515 has been signed by scores of MPs calling for the UK to look into and act upon these recent disturbances and, in particular, to propose in the UN Security Council a deadline on Morocco to accept the Baker Plan. For further information please call Tom Marchbanks on 07949556718 or Carne Ross on 07944 864335.