On 21 October 2023, the Moroccan occupying forces prevented the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) from holding its first Congress in the house of the Saharawi political prisoner and human rights defender Ali Salem Tamek in occupied El Aaiun.
This ban, which is contrary to International Humanitarian Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, came after the various intelligence services of the Moroccan occupying forces completely besieged the house and all the alleys and streets surrounding the neighbourhood of El Mostacbal in the centre of the occupied city of El Aaiun.
The repressive practices of the Moroccan occupying force have led to the attack and detention of dozens of Saharawi human rights defenders and digital journalists, including supporters and members of the organisation’s administrative committee and executive office. A group of members of the organisation and other Sahrawi activists have also been physically attacked and assaulted.
Among those affected were Ali Salem Tamek, Atico Bray, Yamila El Muyahid, Said Haddad (with functional diversity) and Fatima Ez-Zahra Bucarfa, who received razor cuts on their hands.
The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) had planned to hold its first National Congress, in honour of the abducted Saharawi student and martyr Hassan Tamek, and under the slogan “Together to implement International Humanitarian Law in Western Sahara and guarantee the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over their natural resources” after the Preparatory Committee completed its work in preparing its reports for the Congress.
Accordingly, the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara (CODESA) declares:
+ Our perseverance in the exercise of all its just and legitimate rights of expression, assembly and organisation and the need for renewal of its structures on the basis of article 09 of the founding rules of the Organisation.
+ As well as, we recall the previous ban on the holding of this same Congress on 7 October 2007 in occupied El Ayoun.
+ We consider this prohibition as one of the manifestations of the situation of the occupation and the insistence of the Moroccan occupying force in imposing the military, media and human rights siege imposed on Western Sahara since 31 October 1975.
CODESA declares the following:
+ We express our absolute and unconditional solidarity with all Saharawi activists, human rights defenders and media professionals who have been prevented and repressed.
+ We condemn the continued prohibition by the Moroccan occupying forces of the right to organise, assembly and freedom of expression, as well as denounce the various forms of harassment.
+ We deeply deplore the detentions and the banning of the right to organise the Congress for the second time.
+ We declare the Collective’s commitment to all its basic rights in the exercise of its human rights defence work and its militant activities, also to give organisational continuity as an organisation defending the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty over its natural wealth in Western Sahara.
+ We call on the international community and all international human rights organisations and bodies to support the organisation and to take a stand against the prohibition and restriction to which we are constantly subjected under the situation of occupation.
In occupied El Aaiún, 21 September 2023
Executive Office of the Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara