Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA)
Press Release 1 February 2013: Time to set them free
For immediate release
In an open letter to the Moroccan Minister for Justice, the Australia Western Sahara Association called for the release of 25 Saharawi prisoners who have been held illegally for over 2 years without trial.
Today, 1 February 2013, their trial is due to be held in Rabat (local time). However, this trial has twice been scheduled and postponed.
Instead of going through the charade once again, AWSA says it is time simply to release these men. Indeed, by now, they could be claiming compensation for unlawful detention.
The prisoners were arrested over a period of some weeks between 7 November – 25 December 2010, following a mass protest camp at Gdeim Izik near El Aaiun, the capital of Western Sahara. Saharawis were calling for respect of their fundamental rights, better housing, more jobs and an end to the illegal exploitation of their natural resources by Morocco.
Last week Freedom House classed Morocco as the worst of the worst: “The two worst-rated territories in the survey are Tibet—under Chinese jurisdiction—and Western Sahara, which is controlled by Morocco.”
Freedom in the World 2013:
Meanwhile today, Human Rights Watch launched its World Report 2013:
“The authorities severely restrict the rights of those who advocate self-determination for Western Sahara, which has been under de facto Moroccan rule since 1975. Morocco refuses to allow pro-independence demonstrations in Western Sahara or to permit the legal recognition of associations whose leaders are known to favor independence. This policy is underpinned by legislation that prohibits “harming” Islam, the monarchy, and Morocco’s “territorial integrity.” The last phrase is understood to mean Morocco’s claim to, and annexation of, Western Sahara. Abolishing such laws should be a priority as Morocco sets about harmonizing its legislation with the 2011 constitution, Human Rights Watch said.”
We believe the Moroccan government cannot afford to keep holding these prisoners in violation of their own law.
Here is the text of AWSA’s letter.
Mr Mustafa Ramid
Moroccan Minister for Justice
You have scheduled the trial today, 1 February 2013, of 25 Saharawi prisoners arrested around the time of the dismantling of the protest camp at Gdeim Izik in November 2010.
The Australia Western Sahara Association asks that these men should be released unconditionally
• Firstly because they are civilians and should not be tried in a military court.
• Secondly the trial is being held in Morocco, not in Western Sahara where the actions they are accused of took place.
• Thirdly, the delay in bringing them to court exceeds the time allowed in Moroccan law where nobody can be held without trial for longer than one year.
In the eyes of the international community, Morocco will not improve its standing on human rights unless the law is applied equally and fairly to all.
Please cancel their trial and set these men free:
Babait Mohamed Juna
El Ayoubi Mohamed
El Bachir Khadda
El Houssin Ezzaoui
Mohamed El Bachir Boutinguiza
Mohamed Embarek Lefkir
Mohamed Lamin Haddi
Sidi Abdallah Bahah
Sidi Abderahmane Zayou
El Ayoubi Mohamed
As one of many organisations internationally working for justice for the Saharawi people, AWSA urges you release these political prisoners today.
Australia Western Sahara Association
For further information: