Sign a petition demanding their release in the absence of a fair and transparent trial.
22 Saharawi prisoners have been held without charge for almost 2 years in Salé prison, Morocco, accused of acts of violence towards the Moroccan authorities whilst the latter razed to the ground the Saharawi Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Detention without charge for over 12 months is illegal according to Moroccan law. Although they are civilians, the prisoners have been called to stand before a military tribunal in Rabat on 24 October 2012. The trial, originally scheduled for 13 January 2012, was previously delayed in uncertain circumstances. Several human rights organisations have made statements alleging that this delay was due to Moroccan fears that their corrupt regime would come under an international spotlight when several international observers and media representatives arrived in Rabat to attend the trial.
Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975, when a 300,000-strong Moroccan civilian march invaded the territory, accompanied by the Moroccan army which bombed the terrified Saharawi population with napalm and phosphorus. Since then, half of the Saharawi population has lived in refugee camps in the Algerian desert whilst the remainder live in their homeland under a brutal Moroccan occupation, fenced in behind the largest active military wall in the world.
Saharawis await the self-determination referendum promised to them in 1991 by the UN, which has continuously been blocked by the Moroccan regime. Peaceful protests are met with heavy-handed responses and detention without trial is common. Prisoners are regularly subjected to torture, including sexual violence, cigarette burns, electrocutions, beatings and attacks from savage dogs.
On 24 September 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Méndez, commented on the “overwhelming” number of cases presented to him during his recent short visit to Western Sahara, reported evidence of torture in the prisons and detention centres of the territory. He also commented that “torture tends to be much more cruel, harsh and systematic” in cases of “national security" (calls for Saharawi independence are perceived by the Moroccan regime as a threat to the territorial integrity of Morocco).
The Gdeim Izik camp was set up by thousands of Saharawis in 2010 on the outskirts of Western Sahara's capital city, El Aaiun. The camp inhabitants called for an improvement in their living conditions and demanded their long-overdue, UN-backed right to a referendum on independence. The Moroccan authorities destroyed the camp, resulting in dozens of deaths, imprisonments, injuries and forced disappearances.
Despite the overwhelming reports of human rights abuses in Western Sahara, MINURSO, the UN Mission to the region, does not include the monitoring of human rights in its mandate.
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