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By Peter Kenworthy, Communications and Project Officer
“The crimes of Morocco still continue”, says the representative of the Polisario Front in Denmark, Abba Malainin. “Foreign Media and international observers, including European MPs, have been denied access to the occupied territories. Even so, there is plenty of evidence that the Moroccan Security Apparatus in the besieged city continues its use of repression, violence, unfair trials, and other abuse against the Saharawis who have been part of the protest camp. According to some reports the latest toll of this raid is more than 19 deaths, 4500 people injured, and 2000 unaccounted for.”
Abba Malainin is talking to Danish organisation, Africa Contact, about the after-effects and ongoing human rights violations of Morocco that are happening in the wake of Morocco’s brutal crack-down on the peaceful Agdaim Izik protest camp in occupied Western Sahara. The objective of the camp, says Abba Malainin, was “to protest through peaceful and civilized means their dissatisfaction with their living conditions and the denial of their economic, social and political rights making them second-class citizens in their own country, while Morocco plunders their natural resources.”
Their peaceful protests were met with violence, and Abba believes that Morocco’s recent clamp-down on the Saharawi population is actually akin to ethnic cleansing. “The Moroccan forces destroy the houses of the Saharawis looking for activists. They have burnt down Saharawi houses, shops, vehicles, and destroyed many of their belongings. They have also used Moroccan settlers to help do this. In fact it is ethnic cleansing.”
At the same time he claims that Morocco is trying to make the Polisario Front responsible for any breakdowns in the new round of peace talks that ironically started on the day of the raid. “The irony of the matter is that Morocco commits this massacre in Western Sahara against innocent people while at the same time calling for the ‘negotiations, negotiations, negotiations’, as the Moroccan Foreign Minister did after the latest round of talks between Polisario and Morocco in Manhasset. They also try to push Polisario and show us to be the ones obstructing the peace process. But this latest Moroccan massacre is now known throughout the world”.
And even though Morocco is trying to both cover up its crimes by removing any traces of its human rights violations before any independent human rights organisations arrive and discredit the protesters as a ‘band of criminals’, the Saharawis are far from alone in condemning the actions of the Moroccan forces. Morocco has even imposed a news blackout in the territory, but information of events from within the camp have come from several independent sources, including from Spanish activist Isabel Terraza, who has reported to the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, from inside the protest camp and who was there at the time of the raid. As Abba Malainin, she speaks of “genocide being committed by the Moroccan regime on Saharawi civilians”, but also of torture, brutal murders and mutilated bodies lying in the streets.
“All this clearly shows, yet again, the urgent need for a human rights monitoring component. We in the Polisario Front join the call of Amnesty International and the Robert F. Kennedy Centre for Justice and Human Rights and many other organisations and political parties around the world in demanding an immediate international investigation into this massacre, and in bringing those responsible for these crimes to justice”, says Abba Malainin.
In Denmark, former Danish Foreign Minister and present MP, Mogens Lykketoft, has demanded a reply from the present Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen to what Lykketoft referred to as “the killing of at least 16, the wounding of 700, and the disappearance of more than 150 civilians” in Western Sahara. He is still to receive an answer.
The brutal raid on the Agdaim Izik protest camp and the continuing repression in its wake has seen an increase in calls for war by young Saharawis in the refugee camps in Algeria. “Young Sahrawis have demonstrated in the camps, asking for the resumption of war”, says Abba Malainin. “The situation is therefore very dangerous. We therefore demand the UN Security Council, who is meeting tomorrow on the issue of Western Sahara, to intervene before Morocco exterminates all the Saharawis in the occupied territories.”