Political prisoners Gdeim Izik: the excuse of sovereignty to justify torture

PUSL.- One year after the confirmation of their sentences Saharawi political prisoners are still tortured in Moroccan jails, pending a new decision of the Moroccan Supreme Court.

Waiting for this decision gives hope to prisoners, families and their support. Indeed, in 2016, the Moroccan political agenda led to the annulment of the judgment of the Military Tribunal considered unfair, unjust and illegal by several NGOs and institutions. In reality, this annulment enabled the Kingdom of Morocco to argue that the prisoners had not exhausted domestic remedies and thus to prevent the application of UN decisions, such as that of the Committee against Torture and the opinion of the Working Group against Arbitrary Detention. Similarly, the separation of powers allows the Kingdom not to release these innocent prisoners in the absence of a judicial decision to that effect.

Only a well-informed reader knows that the Court of Cassation can only be seized of questions of law; it can not go back on the facts. Moreover, in 2016, it referred the case to the Rabat Court of Appeal without concluding that the prisoners were immediately released, while noting that there was no evidence of their guilt other than confessions written by the police and the Royal Gendarmerie. This means that eight years after the first acts of torture to which the prisoners were subjected, no investigation was opened even though that would have led to the conclusion that the minutes were invalid. And so, lead to the release of prisoners.

Today, no one knows when the Court of Cassation will make this decision. What is nevertheless certain is that no investigation of the facts of torture will be required by the Court.

Worse still, the process is likely to continue in the event of a referral to a Court of Appeal. We must still see a new attempt by the Moroccan authorities to buy time; as if the current situation was perfectly legal. However, it violates the most basic principles of prisoners’ rights. In the absence of a final judgment, these prisoners remain in pre-trial detention for 8 years despite their innocence. However, a democratic state would not keep men imprisoned for eight years without a final judgment, by refraining from investigating the facts of torture.

This lack of investigation and the grave and daily violations of the fundamental rights of prisoners do not pose a problem for the Kingdom of Morocco, which merely recalls the sovereignty it enjoys for, on the one hand, to sit down purely and simply on the formal prohibition of torture and, on the other hand, violating UN calls.

The prisoners are all in a worrying state of health: irreversible damage to their health is already existing. Most of them were deprived of light, locked in cells for 22 hours or even the whole day, without any medical help. In addition to physical degradations, they suffer from severe depression and have no hope.

These inhuman treatments aim to kill what remains of these innocent men. There will still be time for the Kingdom to find excuses to free the weak and let them die in indifference like the political prisoner of this group Mohamed AYOUB who died last February following the torture suffered.

It is therefore more than necessary that the international institutions remind the Kingdom of its obligation of cooperation to give meaning to public international law. The ratification of international instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol is, in fact, insufficient at this stage, as Morocco refuses to implement any recommendation or decision concerning Saharawi political prisoners. The systematic resumption of torture of prisoners for a year is finally another open provocation and can not be justified by the alleged new referral to the Court of Cassation.

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