Sahara Press Service (El Aaiun)

19 February 2013

Morocco: 'The Trial of Civilians Before a Military Court Does Not Meet Internationally Recognized Standards for a Fair Trial' Boukhari Ahmed Writes to President of SC

The Member of the National secretariat of the Polisario Front and its representative to the United Nations Mr.Boukhari Ahmed stressed that "The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial" in a message sent to the current president of the United Nations Security Council Mr. Kim Sook.

"On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, I am writing to draw your urgent attention to the latest developments in the military trial by Morocco of the 25 Saharawi civilians and human rights defenders imprisoned in Salé following the brutal dismantling by Moroccan forces of the Saharawi protest camp at Gdem Izik on 8 November 2010."

"As was expected in the context of a politically motivated trial, the Moroccan military court issued, on February 16, an appallingly severe and unacceptable set of judgments against the Saharawi prisoners. Nine Saharawi were sentenced to life imprisonment; four to 30 years imprisonment; seven to 25 years; three to 20 and two to 2-and-a-half years imprisonment." reads the letter

"This new demonstration of Morocco's policy of systematic repression against the Saharawi population highlights the urgent need for the UN to move immediately to institute a human rights monitoring capacity within MINURSO."

Here is the full text of the letter which a copy reached SPS

On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, I am writing to draw your urgent attention to the latest developments in the military trial by Morocco of the 25 Saharawi civilians and human rights defenders imprisoned in Salé following the brutal dismantling by Moroccan forces of the Saharawi protest camp at Gdem Izik on 8 November 2010.

As was expected in the context of a politically motivated trial, the Moroccan military court issued, on February 16, an appallingly severe and unacceptable set of judgments against the Saharawi prisoners. Nine Saharawi were sentenced to life imprisonment; four to 30 years imprisonment; seven to 25 years; three to 20 and two to 2-and-a-half years imprisonment.

The defendants reported on a number of occasions during their two-year pre-trial detention that they were regularly submitted to torture, including sexual abuse, in order to coerce "confessions". The Court refused to investigate such claims. Moreover, the apparent lack of evidence to support the charges against the political detainees, and the claims of torture, were seen by many international observers and independent human rights organizations as indicative of a judicial process well short of international standards, and a violation by Morocco of its international human rights law obligations.

On 1 February, Amnesty International's Director for Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther, said:

"The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. Allegations of the torture of detainees must be investigated and any evidence obtained under torture must be dismissed by the court. The authorities must also launch an independent and impartial investigation into the events of Gdeim Izik, which is already two years too late."

It is also worth recalling that Moroccan authorities deliberately ignored the recommendation of the UN Committee against Torture in December 2011 that it "should put in place stronger measures for ensuring prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into the violence and deaths that occurred during the dismantlement of the Gdeim Izik camp".

This new demonstration of Morocco's policy of systematic repression against the Saharawi population highlights the urgent need for the UN to move immediately to institute a human rights monitoring capacity within MINURSO. This is the only way to ensure quick responses to emerging situations on the ground, and to facilitate direct and accurate reporting to the UN membership consistent with the UN's obligation under the UN Charter and successive Security Council resolutions to establish the conditions for a referendum of the people of Western Sahara. Freedoms of speech, political association and assembly, all of which were violated at Gdeim Izik, lie at the heart of any process of self-determination that constitutes the free and genuine expression of the people's political will, and must therefore be respected and protected in Western Sahara.

As the Frente POLISARIO has reiterated to the Security Council, it remains a significant stain on the credibility of the UN system that MINURSO continues to be the only UN peacekeeping operation, established since 1978, to operate without an integrated human rights monitoring and reporting capacity. This is all the more unjustifiable in the context of a Non-Self-Governing Territory owed a "sacred trust" by the UN system, and within a policy framework, as reflected in the UN's own 'Peacekeeping Operations: Principles and Guidelines', requiring all of the UN's operations to be "conducted in full respect of human rights and should seek to advance human rights through the implementation of their mandates."

Mr. President

A lasting and just resolution of the conflict of Western Sahara is long overdue. Morocco continues to occupy parts of Territory against the will of the Saharawi people, and in violation of the most basic principles of the Charter and dozens of UN resolutions. The Security Council has recognised that "consolidation of the status quo is unacceptable." In this connection, the African Union Executive Council adopted a decision on 25 January 2013 requesting the AU Commission "to take all the necessary measures for the organization of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in compliance with the relevant OAU Decisions and UN Resolutions." (AU Doc. EX CL Dec 726-766)

The Frente POLISARIO urges the Security Council to intervene immediately to seek the reversal of the arbitrary rulings by the Moroccan military court, and the release of all the Sahrawi political detainees in Moroccan jails. In doing so, we urge the Security Council to ensure that the UN does its utmost to guarantee respect for human rights in Western Sahara, including through the institution of in situ monitoring and reporting, and that it moves quickly to fulfil the long-standing promise of a referendum on self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.

I would be grateful to Your Excellency if you would bring this letter to the attention of the members of the Security Council.

I avail myself of this opportunity to express to Your Excellency the assurances of my highest considerations.

Ahmed Boukhari

Representative of the Frente POLISARIO"

SPS

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