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Amnesty International annual report presents grim picture of human rights situation in occupied Western Sahara territories

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Amnesty International annual report presents grim picture of human rights situation in occupied Western Sahara territories

London, 25 April 2024 (SPS) - An Amnesty International report has revealed a grim picture of the human rights situation and widespread violations of international law in the occupied Western Sahara territories, where Moroccan forces continue to impose restrictions on Sahrawi civilians and activists to silence opposition and deter them from demanding their right to self-determination and independence.

The annual report by the international organization on the state of human rights in the world, published on the organization's website, stated that Moroccan authorities have repeatedly restricted and silenced the voices of opposition, denying them their right to peaceful assembly. In this context, the report mentioned the Sahrawi human rights activist, Mahfouda Lafkir.

The report stated that Moroccan forces have placed the house of the Sahrawi activist in the occupied city of El-Aaiún in Western Sahara under surveillance after her visit to the city of Dakhla in southern Western Sahara in solidarity with activists there.

The report mentioned that what it called law enforcement officers "tracked every step of the Sahrawi activist when she left her house. They also arrested all Sahrawi activists who visited her house and assaulted them in front of the house, hurling insults at her and her family."

Even foreigners have not been spared from the repression of the Moroccan occupation authorities, who target them in order to cover up the reality of human rights in the occupied Sahrawi territories.

The report highlighted the expulsion by Moroccan authorities on May 14th of Italian citizen Roberto Cantoni, a researcher investigating the use of renewable energy in Morocco and occupied Western Sahara.

On September 4th, law enforcement officers forcefully dispersed a peaceful protest in the occupied city of El-Aaiún, which coincided with the first day of the visit by the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Staffan de Mistura. The report highlighted that the officers physically and verbally assaulted at least 23 Sahrawi protesters, including two women, Salha Boutanguiza and Mahfouda Lafkir, who were dragged to the ground, beaten, and threatened.

On September 7th, law enforcement officers arbitrarily arrested at least four Sahrawi activists in the city of Dakhla, including Hassan Zroual and Rachid Saghir, and held them at the police station for seven hours, preventing them from meeting with de Mistura.

The Amnesty International report also added that Moroccan security authorities prevented the gathering of Sahrawi human rights defenders, a Sahrawi human rights organization, from holding its first national conference in the occupied city of El-Aaiún on October 21st, and informed Amnesty International that Moroccan security forces used physical violence against them.

Furthermore, the occupying authorities maintained the effective closure imposed in 2022 on the headquarters of the Sahrawi Association for Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations by the Moroccan state.