Morocco denies legal action against Saharawi political prisoners

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The General Delegation of the Prison Administration and Reintegration (GDPAR) of the Kingdom of Morocco reacted to a letter sent by foreign lawyers to the French Prime Minister on the situation of the political prisoners of the group of Gdeim Izik reported yesterday in

In an article published on Thursday, in response to the letter / denunciation of a group of lawyers from 5 countries addressed to the French prime minister visiting Morocco, the General Delegation of the Prison Administration and Reintegration (GDPAR) denies the allegations and states that the detainees enjoy all their rights, in the same way as other prisoners, and do not suffer damage to their dignity or mistreatment,

According to GDPAR  “the lack of positive interaction between some of those detainees and their obstinacy in making hunger strike warnings despite the institution’s willingness to facilitate their detention conditions and preserve their health, the administration had to apply the regulation appropriate against them “. Not specifying what  the “appropriate regulation against them” is.

It is surprising to note that a hunger strike, according to the GDPAR  is an act of indiscipline which requires disciplinary correction and that there is an “appropriate regulation”, which probably are  the ones that can be read in the letter of the lawyers.

The hunger strike is a form of legitimate and internationally recognized nonviolent protest, in a recent statement Mr. Michael Lynk, UN special envoy for the humanitarian situation in Palestine, said “Prisoners everywhere have the right to carry out hunger strikes to protest against their living conditions and should not be punished for it. “

The GDPAR also says that it denies all references to food conditions and that it ensures that the food requested by the detainees was provided “within a reasonable time, at market prices and in sanitary conditions”, emphasizing that meals presented by the prison are “complete, sufficient and distributed in compliance with hygiene conditions “.

This is contrary to numerous reports published by international non-governmental organizations that point to the meals of Moroccan prisons as clearly insufficient to cover basic needs. On the website of the Government of the United Kingdom there is a  “Information pack  for British prisoners in Morocco” which is directed to the relatives of detainees of United Kingdom nationals with various information and recommendations on conditions in Moroccan prisons and where you can read on page 13:

“Food and Diet

A typical prison meal is soup and bread, sometimes with vegetables boiled to a pulp. “Eat it at your own risk” one ex-prisoner commented. You will need extra food and vitamins to maintain basic health.

Moroccans have cooked food brought in by relatives and some foreigners make informal arrangements to buy their extra food. Others form „food groups‟ to share food costs and cooking. This is a good way to get variety in your diet. The prison cantinesstock tinned and dry goods, soft drinks and bottled water. In Salé you can order fresh fruit, bread, milk and eggs. In Rabat and Tangier, consular staff make arrangements with local grocers to deliver fresh food and a range of other goods. Your family can send money to the Embassy to be held in an account to pay for it (see below). You may need to purchase your own one ring electric cooker and cooking pots and utensils. “

The GDPAR continued to deny all allegations of ill-treatment and alleged practices of “degradation and attempt on human dignity” against prisoners.

“The detainees in question have never been subjected to aggression, torture or violence by prison staff, in the institutions where they are currently or in those they have been through,” says the GDPAR.

The torture suffered by these detainees is widely known and mentioned in several reports, in addition to decision CAT / C / 59 / D / 606/2014   published in December 2016 of the UN Committee against Torture.

The practice of humiliation, ill-treatment and torture against Saharawi detainees is a constant as evidenced by the obvious wounds and scars of all former political prisoners.

Regarding the state of health of Sahrawi prisoners, the DGAPR indicates that some of them do not suffer from any chronic illness, while others have pre-existing diseases prior to incarceration, in most cases, adding that necessary care is provided to all detainees .

In this sense, they state that the medical staff of the penitentiary institutions provide the necessary care, adding that each detainee has a medical file that contains all information about medical interventions and examinations, all specialties combined, treatments and the analyzes carried out in dispensaries of these institutions or in public hospitals,as well as prescribed medication.

The lack of adequate medical attention is also widely documented over the 7 years of detention of this group, the results of analyzes and other means of diagnosis are never transmitted either to the detainee or to relatives or lawyers. During the medical examinations conducted during the trial earlier in the year the test results were first seen by the authorities present at the hospital only after their approval were delivered to the doctors as was reported by the prisoners at the time.

The GDPAR further states that “Prison visits are regularly organized by judicial authorities at all levels, provincial prison control commissions and the National Human Rights Council, as well as the self-supervision provided by the competent services within the prison. , which undertakes to carry out the necessary investigations in the event of allegations or claims, whatever the source. “

The detainees of Gdeim Izik and their family and lawyers have regularly sent official complaints to all the competent authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco during the 7 years of detention without receiving a reply. The only authorized visit of foreign organizations was held in 2014 by the United Nations Arbitrary Detention Group which issued serious concerns and recommendations on the detainees of Gdeim Izik. During this visit, political prisoner Abdel Jalil Laaroussi was separated from the group in order to avoid that the UN Mission saw the obvious marks of torture and heard the testimony of this detainee who was subjected to extreme physical and psychological torture methods during consecutive months.

According to World Prison Brief  figures, the number of prisoners in Morocco increased 37% from 2000 to 2014 The increase in the repression and arbitrary arrests of participants in any kind of protest against the Monarchy, the Government or any critics  has been a constant in recent years. In the case of Western Sahara, the punishments go so fares to  administrate sanctions by the mere fact of saying “Western Sahara” rather than “southern provinces” a terminology invented by the Moroccan apparatus to camouflage the occupation of the territory.

French lawyers for the Gdeim Izik group’s defense team reiterate that they will take all possible steps at all levels and institutions to ensure respect for the basic rights of their clients and their release.