Morocco: Six Gdeim Izik prisoners filed complaints before the Committee Against Torture

Jalal Morchidi / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu Agency via AFP

El Aaiún, Paris & Naples, November 8, 2022. 12 years after the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik Camp, the quest for justice for the acts of torture of Sahrawi prisoners continues. The coalition of lawyers and NGOs committed to the fight against impunity for these crimes is filing six new complaints in November 2022 against Morocco before the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva. Their first demand remains the release of all prisoners convicted on the basis of confessions obtained under torture.

Maîtres Francesca Doria, Brigitte Jeannot, Ingrid Metton, France Weyl and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), with the support of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (AIJD) and the League for the Protection of Sahrawi Political Prisoners in Moroccan Prisons (LPPS), six new complaints were filed before the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) in Geneva for six Sahrawi human rights defenders who are members of the Gdeim Izik Group of political prisoners.

The six applicants, Mohamed Boutenguiza, Abdellahi Lakhfaouni, Sidi Ahmed Lemjiyed, Ahmed Sbai, Adbelahi Toubali and El Houssein Zaoui, asked the Committee to investigate the abuse suffered following their arrests but also during their long detention. Detained in inhuman and degrading conditions for 12 years, the group was injustly sentenced by the Court of Appeal of Rabat in 2017 on the basis of confessions obtained under torture to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment.
The conditions of detention were submitted to the Committee given that the applicants are being subjected to acts of torture, as well as inhuman and degrading treatment on a daily basis. They experience physical and psychological violence, placement in solitary confinement, lack of meeting their family, refusal of access to care, refusal of the right to be transferred closer to their families in Western Sahara

Morocco must respect the decisions of the Committee against Torture and release the prisoners of Gdeim Izik

Morocco, which has been condemned on several occasions by the Committee against Torture, systematically refuses to comply with the decisions of the Committee. Despite the threats and reprisals against them and against their families, despite the intimidation of their supporters - associations and lawyers who are surveilled using the Pegasus software - the applicants, relying on International Institutions, continue to denounce to the United Nations their inhuman situations. Morocco must respect the decisions of the Committee against Torture. Adherence to international conventions for the protection of human rights cannot simply be a platform for Morocco to whitewash its image internationally; it must be followed in actions.
All prisoners convicted on the basis of confessions obtained under torture and arbitrarily detained must be released and Morocco must ensure their right to reparation.

More than 12 years of torture and imprisonment following a peaceful gathering

In October 2010, more than 20,000 Sahrawi civilians, men, women and children met spontaneously and peacefully near El Aaiún, capital of the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara, to denounce Moroccan social, economic and political oppression. The so-called “Liberty and Dignity of Gdeim Izik” Camp was set up for a month.
On November 8, 2010, Moroccan security forces violently dismantled the camp and arrested hundreds of peaceful demonstrators.
In March 2013, twenty-five Sahrawi political activists and human rights defenders were tried and injustly condemned by the Military Court of the Royal Armed Forces to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment on the basis of confessions obtained under torture. To date, nineteen of them are still arbitrarily detained.
In November 2016, the CAT had condemned Morocco for having tortured Mr. Naâma Asfari,
spokesperson for the Camp. His wife, the human rights defender, Claude Mangin and himself are still victims of reprisals, which has been documented each year in the Report of the Secretary General of the United Nations, the last one recently published in October 2022.
In 2022, the CAT again condemned Morocco for acts of torture committed against two other members of the same Gdeim Izik Group.
For the record, in June 2022, four complaints were filed with the CAT by Sahrawi applicants, three members of the Gdeim Izik group and a member of El Ouali group.

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