The last two weeks, Sahrawi students at colleges and universities across Morocco and Western Sahara have been subjected to serious human rights violations. Today, 43 Norwegian organisations signed a letter to the Moroccan government, demanding that the attacks on Sahrawi students are stopped, and that their rights are respected.
His Excellency, Minister of the Interior M. Chakib Benmoussa Rabat, Morocco Fax: +212 37 76 20 56
Oslo, Norway, May 23, 2007
Open letter to the Moroccan government
Stop the attacks on the Sahrawi students!
We, the undersigned organisations would like to express our most profound concern over the human rights situation in Morocco and the occupied territories of Western Sahara , particularly for the Sahrawi youth and students.
Sahrawi students at universities and campuses all over Morocco and Western Sahara have since May 2nd this year been attacked in unprecedented ways by Moroccan police and armed mobs. According to leading Western Sahara human rights organisations, Moroccan and international press, witnesses on the scene and the victims themselves, dozens of Sahrawi students have been detained and arrested, while many more have been injured. It is also reported that some of the attacks involve severe beatings and sexual abuse, as well as harassment of hospitalised victims. Sahrawi students' living quarters have been ransacked and thrashed by the police and the mobs. The Moroccan police have on several occasions, while carrying out the violent aggressions, pronounced discriminating statements towards the Sahrawis, referring to their political aspirations for an independent Western Sahara.
The worst incident so far was the case of the student Sultana Khaya, who on May 9th peacefully called for the release of some of her fellow students. She was, however, brutally beaten up by the police, leading to the loss of her right eye and severe bruising of her body. See some of the photos here: https://www.vest-sahara.no/index.php?cat=1&art=459. It is also regrettable that this aggression towards the Sahrawi students occurs at the moment when they are in the final preparations for their exams, scheduled for the beginning of June.
In our assessment, the Sahrawi students are now victims of a form of unprecedented double aggression. Not only is their physical security seriously threatened by these attacks, but their very future is also threatened by this very abrupt disruption of their studies.
We would like to stress that all students, be they Moroccan or Sahrawi, have a legitimate right to freedom of expression, movement, association and assembly and that the Moroccan government has a duty to respect and protect those rights.
Reports from human rights organizations and the media strongly indicate that the Moroccan authorities have not shown due respect for those rights and have discriminated against Sahrawi students by the use of brute force, arrests and politically motivated charges.
Since the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara in 1975, the Moroccan state has systematically violated international law, the resolutions of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions by refusing the Sahrawi people their right to self-determination, by importing several hundred thousand Moroccan settlers into the occupied territory and by crushing opposition to the occupation through imprisonment of thousands, and the forced "disappearance" of some 520 Sahrawis.
As the protest of the Sahrawi students have been centred on the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and freedom from occupation, it is important to remember that this right has been established through numerous United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as in the accords signed between Morocco and Front Polisario. According to the 1991 peace plan, the Sahrawis were to choose between independence and integration in a free, fair and transparent referendum. 16 years later, the agreement has still not been implemented. The Moroccan government today openly rejects these previous agreements, thus undermining the UN's efforts and continuing to violate international law.
The growing and quite understandable frustration and despair witnessed among Sahrawi youth and students today, and the brutality with which the Moroccan police chooses to respond to it, risk causing further conflict, violent confrontations and disruption in both Morocco and Western Sahara. We therefore strongly urge the Moroccan authorities to do its outmost to protect the rights of all students enrolled at Moroccan universities, particularly the Sahrawi minority, by:
- guaranteeing their physical security - protecting and promoting their freedom of expression, movement, association and assembly - prosecuting all those deemed to be responsible for these attacks and take appropri- ate action to prevent it from recurring - ensuring the immediate and unconditional release of those students who have already been arrested for political reasons, as well as of all those who have been temporarily detained, and are currently awaiting trials, in the cities of Agadir, Marrakech, Rabat and Casablanca.
Finally, we urge the Moroccan government to address the underlying legitimate grievances of the Sahrawi students by respecting Human Rights in occupied Western Sahara and allowing for a free, fair and transparent referendum on independence in the occupied territory.
Sir, please be assured of our highest consideration and sincere greetings.
Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara (Støttekomiteen for Vest-Sahara) The Rafto Foundation (Raftostiftelsen) Norwegian Refugee Council (Flyktninghjelpen) Norwegian Council for Africa (Fellesrådet for Afrika) Amnesty International Norway Norwegian Church Aid (Kirkens Nødhjelp) Norwegian People's Aid (Norsk Folkehjelp) Norwegian P.E.N. (Norsk PEN) Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (Studentenes og Akademikernes Internasjonale Hjelpefond, SAIH) Human Rights House Foundation The Norwegian Helsinki Committee (Den norske Helsingforskomité) International Society for Health and Human Rights The Norwegian Peace Association (Norges Fredslag) Future in Our Hands (Framtiden i våre hender) Involve Yourself Norwegian Tibet Committee (Den norske Tibet-komité) Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Internasjonal Kvinneliga for Fred og Frihet) Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) Norwegian Labour Youth (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, AUF) Young Liberals of Norway (Unge Venstre) Red Youth Norway (Rød Ungdom) Norwegian Center Youth (Senterungdommen) Progress Party Youth (Fremskrittspartiets Ungdom, FpU) Norwegian Young Conservatives (Unge Høyres Landsforbund) Socialist Youth (Sosialistisk Ungdom) Christian Democrat Youth (Kristelig Folkeparti Ungdom) Trade Union for Industry and Energy (Fagforbundet for Industri og Energi) Union of Education Norway (Utdanningsforbundet) The student union of Union of Education Norway (Pedagogstudentene i Utdannings- forbundet) The National Union of Students in Norway (Norsk Studentunion, NSU) Norwegian Association of Students (Studentenes Landsforbund, StL) School Student Union of Norway (Elevorganisasjonen i Norge) Student Parliament at the University of Oslo Student Parliament at the Lillehammer University College Student Parliament at the Nord-Trøndelag University College Student Democracy at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Studentdemokratiet ved Universitetet for Miljø- og Biovitenskap) Palestine Committee of Norway (Palestinakomiteen i Norge) Student Organisation at the University of Stavanger (Studentorganisasjonen ved Uni- versitetet i Stavanger) Attac Norway (Attac Norge) War Resisters International (Folkereisning mot Krig) Bamble International Association (Bamble Internasjonale Forening) Tvibit Youth House, Tromsø Young Artists' Society (Unge Kunstneres Samfund)
Copy sent to: The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Benaissa The Moroccan Minister of Justice, Mohamed Bouzoubaa Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco, Oslo
The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Rabat, Morocco The Norwegian Delegation to the United Nations, New York The Norwegian Delegation to the United Nations, Geneva
Moroccan and International press Human Rights organisations: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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