Morocco/Western Sahara: Sahrawi human rights defender Hassanna Abba attacked by police

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(Geneva, Paris) 12 May 2021 – On 8 May 2021, Hassanna Abba, a member of the executive board of the League for the Protection of Sahrawi Prisonners in Moroccan Prisons (LPPS) was assaulted by Moroccan police officers. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), ACAT-France, and International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) denounce this attack and call upon the Moroccan authorities to carry out an investigation and immediately cease all acts of harassment against Mr Abba and all Sahrawi human rights defenders.

On 8 May 2021 around 4:40 a.m., Hassanna Abba was attacked in Laayoune while on his way to his brother’s house. A police car with four plainclothes officers pulled him over. One of the officers asked him where he was going and began to insult him and his family, before removing him from his car and physically attacking him. The three other officers also struck Mr Abba, then all four officers got back in their vehicle and quickly left the area. Mr Abba’s foot and hand were injured and his face was bruised. He did not go to the hospital for fear of being arrested by the police.

Hassanna Abba has been involved for many years in the defence of the rights of the Saharawi people. He is a member of the executive board and treasurer of the LPPS, Deputy Secretary General in charge of external relations at the Sahrawi Society for the Monitoring of Wealth and the Protection of the Environment, a member of the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Serious Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH) and a member of the executive board of the Sahrawi Coordination Centre for the Unemployed. In this capacity, Mr Abba has been attacked, kidnapped, placed under surveillance and subjected to ill-treatment by the Moroccan authorities on several occasions since 2009.

The Observatory, ACAT-France and ISHR underline that this aggression takes place in the context of the resumption of clashes between Morocco and the Polisario Front (Sahrawi independence movement) since the breakdown of the ceasefire on 13 November 2020, which has been accompanied by an intensification of the repression of Moroccan authorities against Sahrawi human rights defenders.

The Observatory, ACAT-France and ISHR strongly condemn the violent aggression against Hassanna Abba and the constant harassment to which he has been subjected for many years because of his peaceful commitment to the defence of the human rights of the Saharawi people. The three organisations call on the Moroccan authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against him and all other Sahrawi human rights defenders, and to carry out a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation in order to identify those responsible for the attack on Mr Abba, and to sanction them in accordance with the law.

The Observatory, a partnership between FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), aims to protect human rights defenders who are victims of violations and to provide them with the most concrete assistance possible. OMCT and FIDH are members of, the European Union mechanism for human rights defenders implemented by international civil society.

ACAT-France is a human rights NGO which aims to combat cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, torture, judicial or extra-judicial executions, disappearances, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide throughout the world.

ISHR is an international NGO working for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.

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