Human Rights and Occupied Territories

WORKSHOP HUMAN RIGHTS

EUCOCO 2021

The workshop on human rights expressed their deep concern over the continued systematic and widespread human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, and particularly the crackdown following the end of the ceasefire of 13 November 2020.

With a view to holding Morocco accountable and ensuring the protection of Saharawis living under occupation, it was during the workshop particularly emphasized:

  • Prisoners: The situation of the Gdeim Izik prisoners was emphasized, with their arbitrary detention having lasted for over 11 years. The case involves both persecution for their participation in the Gdeim Izik camp and violation of the right to freedom of expression/ assembly, torture and arbitrary detention. The situation is concerning both in light of the escalation of the conflict and COVID-19, leaving the prisoners to not have met their families for two years. In the case of the Gdeim Izik prisoners, the Kingdom of Morocco similarly fails to implement the decisions of the United Nations, including a decision by the UN torture committee and a communication by the UN Special Procedures.

  • Campaigns: In France, ACAT has launched a campaign for Mohammed Lamin Haddi, urging his release from arbitrary detention and a campaign was also launched for the release for all Saharawi political prisoners (“Ecrire pour les libérer”). The Geneva Support Group has similarly launched a campaign for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists and the prisoners. In Italy, a campaign for the release of the prisoners has also been launched. A campaign was also launched in Belgium concerning Saharawi political prisoners. The need for building on the already established initiatives was emphasized.

  • Information sharing: The need for ensuring the sharing of information within the solidarity movement was emphasized by many. There exists documentation of human rights violations and there exists numerous decisions, but the solidarity in full lacks the information and it is thus not used in order to pressure stakeholders to act.

  • Cooperation: In view of the alarming case of Sultana and Luara Khaya and the weaponization of sexual violence, the need for cooperation with international human rights organizations on the topic of violence against women was highlighted. Further, it was emphasized that the movement should collaborate more with women rights organizations, in order to place the case of Saharawi women into the broader context.

  • Impact: The need for ensuring concrete actions that actually is able to help the victims, including the prisoners and their families and not only on visibility. In order to ensure concrete outcomes, we need to work with both recognized human rights organizations and submit complaints to the UN Special Procedures to obtain documentation.

  • Persecution of human rights defenders abroad: It was emphasized that Saharawi human rights defenders living abroad in Europe also increasingly finds themselves being targeted, both with intimidations and threats but also through surveillance. The case of Hussein Bachir Brahim, deported from Spain in 2019 and later sentenced to 12 years in prison was highlighted, with the participants finding it alarming that Spain has once again, with the deportation of Faisal, violated their international obligations under the Refugee Convention. There is a need to focus on the protection of human rights defenders living in occupied territories in addition to those living in Europe.

  • Advocacy: it was highlighted that there is a lack of coordination on the part of the solidarity movement, with actions taken not being shared in the local networks. There thus exists a need for information sharing and a more united movement.

  • Humanitarian law: The need for the application of humanitarian law was emphasized by many, and especially in the context of ICRC assuming their responsibility but also with a view of ensuring the protection of Saharawi civilians. The use of drones in the occupied territories and young Saharawis being recruited by the Moroccan military was raised as concerns.

  • Urgent actions: Among the participants, the level of crackdown and violence was underscored, with there being a need for initiating urgent campaigns when victims find themselves in extreme danger, emphasizing that the UN mechanisms and other institutions are very slow.

  • Cultural war/Moroccanization: The Moroccan annexation of Western Sahara was emphasized in the context of Morocco changing the demographics of the territory, including also the criminalization and persecution of Saharawis.

Proposals for 2022:

  1. The establishment of an online platform where sources of information can be shared with the international solidarity in full, under the coordination of the Geneva Support Group including permanent coordination between associations under the leadership of the Geneva Support Group and CONASADH, including also ensuring support for verification of information and translations of reports/documentation and the sharing of strategy and production of information.

  2. Ensure concrete results by documentation of human rights violations by sending complaints to the UN human rights mechanisms /Special Procedures, especially for: forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture, war crimes and violations of International Humanitarian Law, repression of peaceful demonstrations, freedom of movement and ensure increased cooperation with international human rights organizations to ensure heightened visibility on human rights violations.

  3. Build on the campaign initiated by the Italian collaborative and that of France and expand its efforts to call for the release of all Saharawi political prisoners and especially the Gdeim Izik prisoners.

  4. Build a campaign focusing on Saharawi women and female human rights defenders; in the context of violence against women and the weaponization of sexual violence in addition to initiating an urgent action for Sultana and Luara Khaya by launching a campaign on social media.

  5. Build a letter campaign for the request for intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross in addition to the Red Cross of each country urging the ICRC to cooperate with both parties of the conflict on an equal and impartial basis, underscoring that the failure of ICRC to assume its responsibilities under the law of occupation leaves Saharawis living under occupation without the protection of the Convention.

The workshop decided to immediately launch a campaign on social media for the protection of Sultana and Luara Khaya. The campaign will consist of pictures on social media holding a piece of paper where it is written “We are all Sultana and Luara”.

The workshop constituted the following coordination committee:

  • The coordination is to be led by CONASADH (Abba Al Hussain) in close cooperation with the Geneva Support Group

  • Other participants: Gianfranco Fattorini, Omaima Abdelslam, Claude Mangin, Tone Moe, Abu Abdelkader

 


In the case of Western Sahara, it is evident that the effective application of the principles and norms of international law and the effective safeguarding of the human rights of the Saharawi population (in the refugee population camps and in the occupied territories) have always been subject to geopolitical interests.

It is also evident that the Spanish state must exercise its responsibility as the administering power of Western Sahara – a responsibility recognized as a sacred duty in the United Nations Charter – to put an end to the process of decolonization of the Saharawi People on the basis of their inalienable right to self-determination.

The Spanish State continues to be legally and politically responsible for this tragedy. As long as the Saharawi people cannot freely decide their future, Spain will continue to be morally and legally responsible for the suffering and permanent violation of human rights in Western Sahara.

What measures could be adopted to push the Spanish State to assume and apply a foreign policy action consistent with said responsibility?

What measures could be adopted to push the Spanish State to lead within the EU a policy aimed at ending the occupation, a policy aimed at a just resolution of the conflict?

What measures could be adopted to ensure that Spanish foreign policy goes beyond mere declarations, innocuous diplomacy and welfare?

How could we achieve that in the policy of the Spanish administration (at its different levels) the inalienable, permanent and unconditional right of the Saharawi People to self-determination and their right to permanent sovereignty over their wealth and natural resources is effectively considered ?

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