Sunday, September 13, 2009

Morocco: Government Uses Torture to Silence Sahrawi Activists Morocco: Government Uses Torture to Silence Sahrawi Activists

This article, although a bit lengthy, will literally amaze you as you never hear about this on the news or anywhere for that matter! But, we are going to publish to this blog, some interesting facts about the ongoing human rights conflict between the Sahrawi's and the government of Morocco. These are horrendous violations of "under the radar" human rights miss-happenings to say the very least!

According to very reliable source published in "At 9:00 pm on Thursday 27 August, 19 year-old Nguia El Haouassi, a Sahrawi woman, a student and a human rights activist, was abducted while walking through Maatallah District in Laayoune. Laayoune is a large town in the northern Saguia al-Hamra region of the Moroccan occupied territory of Western Sahara." Furthermore:Nguia's testimony is that two police officers, Khalid Barakt and Aziz Anouch, blind-folded and subjected her to physical and psychological torture. These two police officers were then joined by additional Moroccan security agents who began interrogating her and removed her clothes. They asked what her political affiliations and views regarding the Morocco-Western Sahara conflict, and questioned her reasons for wanting to participate in a youth conflict resolution programme being run in Oxford, England earlier in August. Nguia's ordeal was videotaped with the threat that she would be exposed naked on the internet if she revealed her ordeal and did not cease her human rights activities. Nguia states that she was also threatened with rape if she did not answer questions, and one of the high-ranking officers, part of the Moroccan DIAG secret service, threatened to kill her next time they caught her. She was then abandoned at around 2:00 am in the dark and left naked on the outskirts of Laayoune. She was able to find refuge with another Sahrawi family who clothed her and helped her reach her family."

The article goes on to explain what appears to be the reason for her ordeal:
"Just three weeks earlier, she was one of the 'Oxford Six', a group of Sahrawi students who had received invitations and visas from the British Consulate to come to Oxford, England to participate in a two-week 'peace camp', a youth conflict resolution programme, run by Talk Together, with numerous international academic and peacekeeping experts volunteering their time to participate. On the point of departure on 5 August, the six students were arrested at the Agadir's Al Massira airport and refused permission to travel, their mobile phones confiscated to prevent them for communicating with the outside world. They were then reportedly assaulted at three different locations - outside the airport, at a border police station, and again at the home of one of them. Amnesty International issued a full investigation and public statement. Talk Together's website also provides detailed chronological information on the full story, the statement issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Amnesty International's statements."

Apparently, the government of Morocco did not appreciate her work as an activist and her trip to England. This type of human rights abuse in Morocco is nothing new. I did some further research and according to the US State Department:
"Reports of torture, arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, and other abuses by police and security forces continued during the year, along with impunity, substandard prison conditions, and lack of a fully independent judiciary. The government restricted freedoms of speech, religion, and the press; and corruption, trafficking in persons, and child labor remained problematic." This was reported in May of 2009. So, what is being done about all of this??? This is the real good question that must be asked.

Well this same report by the US State Department says that: "The U.S. Government engages the government and civil society at all levels to encourage continued progress in the areas of human rights and democratic reform. Through the annual Human Rights Dialogue, launched in 2007, U.S. officials engage their counterparts in constructive and open discussions on human rights issues, especially on issues of arbitrary detention, physical abuse, impunity, and limits on freedom of expression. U.S. officials meet with government officials and leaders of religious communities to promote religious freedom and tolerance. Through its programmatic efforts, the United States seeks to strengthen local governance by fostering the expansion of citizens' rights, including freedom of expression."

This is a good start correct? In 2007?? We really have not been "on this" for to long but a start is better than not at all! Where is the mention of the conflict with the Sahrawi people? Interesting that they never come up. I am unsure about why however. You will see why I say that after you read the article from Lets hope that the international human rights community need not overlook this marginalized group, and remember that Global Human Rights Are For Everyone!