URGENT – Norwegian observer expelled from Western Sahara

Photo by Ida Bergstrøm/UIB

Tone Sørfonn Moe, Norwegian observer was expelled today at 12h50 local time from El Aaiun, capital of the non-self governing territory Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities.

Tone is a Norwegian law student, and was an international observer at the Gdeim Izik trial, held at the Court of Appeal in Salé, Morocco 2016/2017, she is accredited by Fundación Sahara Occidental, an organization that monitors Human Rights and the situation of the Saharawi Political prisoners. Tone was supposed to observe a court case against a group of political prisoners in Marrakech on 12 December, that was postponed.

She travelled from Agadir to El Aaiún, the capital of Western Sahara last Sunday, 10 th December.

Ms, Moe texted at 12h50

“I am being transported out of El Aaiun now. According to the police, international observers are not welcome. According to the police, i did not arrive in a legal way. I explained to the civilian agent that I arrived in El Aaiun by taxi from Agadir, and that i am an international observer. I was approached in my hotel by approximately 20-25 police officers wearing civil clothes. 10 of these civilian agents was filming me and taking my pictures.

As I stated, I am an international observer working with political prisoners. I was not given a written decision or more information.

I asked if I could have a meeting with a MINURSO officer first,but I was not Allowed, as I am not welcome. “

Tone wanted to meet human rights activists from Western Sahara. She also intended to meet the families of the Gdeim Izik prisoners, which she did until her expulsion today. The situation of the Gdeim Izik prisoners is disturbing – several of them are on hunger strike and they suffer under torture and inhuman treatment. These human rights defenders have been arbitrarily detained for 7 years.

Ms. Tone is now in a taxi on the way to Agadir She was told that International observers are not welcomed due to “security reasons, She was expelled without an adequate reason, as the Moroccan police officers refused to explain what “security reasons” entailed.

Tone tells us on the phone that:

“The expulsion prevented me from continue meeting with human rights activists, and from investigating whether human rights violations are a part of the everyday life for Saharawi human rights activists.

I find it strange that Morocco, which on several occasions has claimed that the human rights situation in the non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara does not need to be monitored by the UN peacekeeping force MINURSO, as there is no human rights breach in Western Sahara, feel the need to expel international observers. If Morocco’s statement represents reality, they should have nothing to hide.”

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