San Sebastián — The Basque forensic team has released the findings of its extensive research on a case of human remains of Saharawi persons in Fadret Leguiaa in the region of Samra, near Amgala and Meheris, Western Sahara, who had been executed by Moroccan armed forces on February 1976.
The eight Saharawi persons are six adults - Salma Daf Sidi Salec, Sidahmed Segri Yumani, Salama Mohamed-Ali Sidahmed Elkarcha, Salma Mohamed Sidahmed, Mohamed Abdalahe Ramdan and Mohamed Mulud Mohamed Lamin - and two children - Bachir Salma Daf and Sidi Salec Salma.
These findings have been released as a report under the title "Meheris: a possibility of hope; mass graves and the first Sahrawi disappeared who have been identified" by Carlos Martín Beristain and Francisco Etxeberria Gabilondo.
It is the result of extensive research that began with the completion of a study on the general problem of human rights violations in Western Sahara, published in 2012 by the Hegoa Institute of the University of the Basque Country, titled "The Oasis of Memory: Historical Memory and Human Rights violations in the Western Sahara", which has had its continuity in the research on certain cases of people who were arrested and then made to disappear during that period.
On 8th, 9th and 10th June 2013, a professional team from the University of the Basque Country, the Aranzadi Foundation and the Hegoa University Institute, accompanied by several relatives and AFAPREDESA members visited a place in the Fadret Leguiaa area, in the Samra region, in the desert, 400 km from the refugee camps in Tindouf, in order to respond to their request for a team of the highest professional qualification and experience to help them identify and recognize a place where mass graves were said to exist and in which some people -considered up to the present as "disappeared"- were reportedly buried, according to the report.
In April 2013, a forensic research team from the University of the Basque Country received a petition from AFAPREDESA, the Association of Families of Saharawi Prisoners and Disappeared, to conduct research in an area of the Western Sahara in which there were suspected human remains of Sahrawi victims.
This report is a summary and reflects the conclusions of the aforementioned research that included a compilation of testimonies from witnesses and family members, the process of carrying out the exhumation, a photographic study and a video documentary that accounts for the entire process, in addition to the conducting of DNA analyses by the genetic laboratory of the BIOMICs Consolidated Group of the University of the Basque Country UPV/ EHU.
The report indicated that the direct relatives of the persons identified in this case are both in the Saharawi refugee camps and Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.
Forced disappearances in the Western Sahara
"There are currently over 400 Sahrawi victims of forced disappearances. Many other Sahrawis are also missing as a result of the bombings at Dreiga Um, Gueltam or Tifariti by the Moroccan Air Force in 1976. About 80% of these disappearances occurred during the early years of the military occupation of the territory, especially between 1975 and 1977, and constituted the main modus operandi in the Moroccan repression," noted the Basque team.
With respect to the fate and whereabouts of 207 of these victims, the report found that Morocco has provided fragmented, limited and partial information in the report issued by the Human Rights Advisory Council (HRAC) published online in December 2010, which, in most cases, states that they had "died due to the prevailing conditions" or "under custody" without any further details or information about their final fate.
It also recognized another 144 cases of Saharawi persons who had been made to disappear without providing any data for their identification.
In the afternoon of 12 February 1976, several Bedouins were arrested by Moroccan military forces deployed in the area of Amgala. Several family members were present at the scene to witness this collective arrest.
To document the case, 15 relatives were interviewed, all of whom were related to the eight disappeared people, some of whom witnessed the arrests. Some were also arrested and were later released or managed to escape.