In Focus, World

The Saharawi tragedy under blind eye of the UN

Horror ensues in the Western Sahara of Morocco as human rights defenders witness genocide and torture of the Saharawi people. With the victim count at 4500 and rising, still they wait for intervention from the United Nations and the International Red Cross to attend to the gravely injured.

Erica Buist

“We’ve been hiding for several days in the city of El-Aaiún, but like us thousands of Saharawis are in the same situation or worse, because the Moroccan police and military enter their homes by force, torture them and many victims die from the torture”.

These are the words of human rights defenders Isabel Terraza and Antonio Velázquez, who denounce the “acts of genocide being committed by the Moroccan regime against the Saharawi people” and have called for this to be declared an “international emergency”.

Since early November, Saharawi have been tortured in their hundreds, sent to prison and in many cases murdered on the streets and even in their own homes. Police and militia, under a violent Moroccan regime, have forcibly entered the homes of Saharawi families. After performing unspeakable acts upon them, the Saharawi are expelled, imprisoned, and in many cases, killed.

Human rights defenders Terraza and Velázquez, having communicated via video and daily reports sent to the media, have called on the international community to denounce the violent repression of the Saharawi population, amounting to “genocide”. They have asked for intervention from the United Nations and that the Security Council upholds the human rights of the Saharawi people. They have also called on help from the International Red Cross to enter and care for the 4500 victims of horrific torture. The Red Cross are yet to arrive.

In Spain it has been reported that the Morrocan authorities are sending in militia to “hunt” the Saharawi in order to colonize El-Aaiún. Moreover, they are not letting the press enter to territory in order to “hide the atrocities”.

The human rights defenders, who up until November 18th were hiding out in fear for their lives in El-Aaiún, have reported to The Prisma the case of Ahmed Yeddou Salem Lecura, a Spanish citizen who suffered “gravely” at the hands of the Moroccan militia. On 7th November 2010 he went to visit his family in El-Aaiún, and he describes how at 6am on 8th November 2010 “they stopped me, tied me up and tortured me horribly.”

Along with 72 others, he was “beaten with truncheons and other objects, all over his body”. The torture was extensive and prolonged, another method being to prevent the victims from sleeping. He was held and tortured for 5 agonizing days. He and another 6 of the 72 were released; the rest were judged and imprisoned. The El-Aaiún courts refused to denounce what had happened.

At 10pm on 9th November 2010, family members of the detained Spanish citizen sent a fax to the Spanish consulate in Agadir, explaining what had occurred and requesting protection for him… Protection he never received.

The current situation, as reported on Sunday 14th November by the international observers from their hideout in El-Aaiún, stands at 36 in the El-Aaiún Third Military Hospital morgue, with devastated families refusing burial until they can understand why they were killed, and by whom.

Furthermore, at least 68 Saharawi remain in the city jail, 7 of whom are human rights activists and all brutally tortured by the Moroccan security forces. 10 buses of prisoners have been taken to prisons in other Moroccan cities, leaving the Saharawi population bewildered and devastated by the violent persecution.

So far, only Moroccan publication Demain Magazine – known for its frank reporting style – has accused the authorities of committing genocide; the rest of the Moroccan press has chosen to ignore it.

According to the Ministry of the Occupied Territories, over 400 Saharawi have been tortured, and squadrons of police and military continue to “violently enter the houses of Saharawi families and torture them”, some even to death.

The diminishing Saharawi population are yet to receive help from the UN, the Security Council, the Red Cross and the international community, and hundreds of Saharawi are still reported missing.

Upon their return to Barcelona after weeks of hiding out and observing the horror, human rights defenders Terraza and Velázquez told The Prisma, on Friday 19th, “…despite the dangers of staying in El-Aaiún, we are extremely sorry to have abandoned the Territory, because we know the grave violation of Human Rights of the civil population of the Saharawi continues.”

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