Intergroup for Western Sahara in EU send urgent letter for protection of Saharawi poulation in the occupied territories

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PUSL.-On 26th of February the Intergroup for Western Sahara in the European Parliament sent an urgent letter voicing their concern regarding the increasing repression in the occupied territory of Western Sahara, the Intergroup for Western Sahara at the European Parliament expresses its solidarity with the Saharawi human rights defenders and political activists under attack and calls for an urgent and robust response from the EU and the Member States.

In the letter the Intergroup higlights the cases of Sultana Khaya and her family, Ghali Bouhalla and Nafaa Botasofra in arbitrary detention, and Mohamed Lamin Haddi political prisoner of the Gdeim Izik Group in hunger strike since 13th January 2021.

The Intergroup also recognizes the efforts of the Saharawi journalists who risk their lives to report on the above-mentioned cases and other breaches of human rights and denounces the worsening situation of Saahrawi human rights defenders and other voices of dissent in occupied Western Sahara, who “face heightened repression since the end of the cease-fire. Since then, human rights violations against the Saharawi people have increased exponentially – which continues until today.”.

The letter calls on the EU, notably the High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell, to take immediate and decisive action towards Morocco in order to ensure an end to the repression of Saharawi human rights defenders and political activists, as well as to support Saharawi civil society in their legitimate demands for the respect of their basic freedoms. It also calls on the ICRC to deploy a humanitarian operation on the ground, in order to provide urgent protection to the Saharawi civilians and to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

Brussels, 26.02.2021

Esteemed Excellences,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Esteemed Sir or Madam,

In view of the increasing repression in the occupied territory of Western Sahara, the Intergroup for Western Sahara at the European Parliament expresses its solidarity with the Saharawi human rights defenders and political activists under attack and calls for an urgent and robust response from the EU and the Member States

Firstly, the Intergroup is concerned about the repeated attacks on the prominent Saharawi woman human rights defender Sultana Khaya and her family. In 2007, Sultana was already attacked during a demonstration and lost one eye. In recent days, she suffered repeated physical assault, leading to serious head injury, by Moroccan agents in her home in Boujdour where she and her family have been held under house arrest since last November. Her sister Ouara Khaya got seriously injured as well.

Secondly, we would also like to highlight the situation of the two Saharawi activists, Ghali Bouhala and Mohamed Nafaa Boutasoufra, who were arrested without warrant in the streets of El Aaiun. They disappeared for 3 days and their homes got damaged.

Both activists are currently in the Ait-Maloul Prison in the Moroccan city of Aghadir while
they await trial. 

Thirdly, the Intergroup expresses its solidarity with the journalist and rights defender Mohamed Lamin Haddi of the Gdeim Izik group. He began an indefinite hunger strike on 13th January to denounce the acts of ill-treatment against him in the Tiflit 2 prison. He demands the respect of basic rights such as medical care, adequate food, light in his cell, as well as the end of the solitary confinement to which he has been subjected for three years. His health deterioration is very worrying.

Finally, the Intergroup wants to recognize the efforts of the Saharawi journalists who risk their lives to report on the above-mentioned cases and other breaches of human rights. Given that the territory remains strictly closed to international observers, including to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and international human rights organizations, their work is all the more essential.

Beyond these individual cases, the Intergroup wishes to denounce the worsening situation of Sahrawi human rights defenders and other voices of dissent in occupied Western Sahara, who face heightened repression since the end of the cease-fire. Since then, human rights violations against the Saharawi people have increased exponentially – which continues until today.

Therefore, in light of this alarming situation and the continuing violation of human rights in Western Sahara, we call on the EU, notably the High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell, to take immediate and decisive action towards Morocco in order to ensure an end to the repression of Saharawi human rights defenders and political activists, as well as to support Saharawi civil society in their legitimate demands for the respect of their basic freedoms. We also join the call on the ICRC to deploy a humanitarian operation on the ground, in order to provide urgent protection to the Saharawi civilians and to ensure respect for international humanitarian law.

Sincerely,
The Members of the Intergroup for Western Sahara