Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights, announced the release of a biannual report that tracks human rights violations in Western Sahara between January and June 2015.
Reports from Western Sahara make clear that Moroccan authorities continue to commit serious human rights violations against the Sahrawi people. During the period covered by the report, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights recorded over 70 reports of serious human rights violations committed by the Moroccan authorities against the Sahrawi people. There were many reported incidences of physical abuse, torture in prison, death in detention, and death due to landmine blasts. Abuses also included many reported violations of the right to be free from arbitrary arrest, restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and right to freedom of movement. Many non-Sahrawi human rights activists also reported that the Moroccan authorities limited their entry rights and freedom of movement.
"The international community has failed to respond adequately to the continuing allegations of egregious human rights violations taking place in Western Sahara. These abuses demand international attention and require serious investigation and remedy," said Kerry Kennedy. "Torture in detention, medical negligence towards ailing prisoners, forcible dispersal of peaceful protests, and constraints on entry and travel within the region cannot be left unaddressed."
In spite of the reports of systematic violations of human rights by Morocco against the Sahrawis, during the time period covered by this report the UN Security Council again refused to expand the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include a human rights reporting mechanism. As a result, MINURSO remains the only UN peacekeeping mission established since 1978 to lack such a mandate, and there is no international mechanism dedicated to tracking human rights in Western Sahara.
"Without an expansion of MINURSO's mandate this year, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must make a high-level visit to the territory and report on the abuses taking place," continued Kerry Kennedy. "And when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the region later this year, the human rights situation in the territory needs to be front and center on his agenda."
In April, staff members from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were trapped for hours in the home of Aminatou Haidar when Moroccan security forces forcibly dispersed a nearby group of peaceful protesters, some of whom sought shelter in Ms. Haidar's home while she was meeting with the UN personnel. Undeterred by the presence UN staff, the security forces attacked the house, injuring a colleague of Ms. Haidar's by throwing a rock through the window.
Yet one of the worst events during the period of the report was the case of Mohamed Lamine Haidala. Mr. Haidala, a young Sahrawi, was attacked and stabbed in the neck by several Moroccans. After the attack, he was detained by police and denied proper medical treatment, eventually succumbing to his injuries more than a week after the attack. When he died, the authorities immediately took the body, against the protests of the family. Since his death, family members were harassed for participating in a demonstration seeking answers. His mother commenced a hunger strike that continued for more than a month, demanding an investigation into the death of her son, which the authorities so far have failed to conduct.