British campaigners have joined other campaigners around the world in condemnation of the sentencing of 24 Saharawi activists by a military tribunal in Morocco. The defendants received sentences of between 20 years and life imprisonment after being charged in connection with clashes which followed the dismantling of Gdeim Izik peace camp in Western Sahara in 2010.
John Gurr, Coordinator of Western Sahara Campaign UK said:
“We not only condemn these sentences, we reject the entire legal process under which they have been brought. Amnesty International has described this military trial as “flawed from the outset”, in violation of international standards for a fair trial. The defendants insist that they are political prisoners. Whilst in detention the defendants claim to have suffered torture and to have been coerced into signing confessions. Gdeim Izik is widely regarded as having sparked the Arab Spring and many of the defendants are well respected human rights activists. Any trial should have been in a civilian court not under military tribunal. Their trial should not have been delayed by over two years. Their trial should have been open to international legal observers, jurists and journalists and allegations of torture should have been fully and independently investigated. This appears to have been a politically motivated show trial and we call on the international community to join us in speaking out against these sentences and supporting our calls for independent human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.”
After more than a week of hearings, the military court in Rabat sentenced 8 of the defendants, including Sidahmed Lemjiyed, the President of the Saharawi Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources to life imprisonment. 14 others were convicted to sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years. Two were sentenced to two years.
European observers who witnessed the trial, noted many anomalies including the delay of detention without trial beyond the legal limit of 12 months, trial of civilians in a military court, confessions allegedly obtained under torture and signed with a thumb print.
Western Sahara Campaign