Western Sahara [4/5]: families of missing activists and prisoners demand justice

Audio 02:21

Abdeslam Omar Lahcen, President of Afapradesa, the Association of Families of Saharawi Prisoners and Disappeared.

© RFI / François Mazet

By: François Mazet Follow

3 min

Continuation of our series in the territories administered by the SADR, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Among the demands made by Sahrawi activists: the truth about the people who disappeared during the Moroccan territorial conquest, the release of independence activists and the improvement of human rights in the territories described as “occupied” by Morocco.

Meeting in the refugee camps with some of these activists.


From our special envoy to Rabouni,

It is as a mother and a grandmother that Nuha Abidim receives us in the living room of her house in the Boujdour camp, for the immutable tea ceremony.

But in 1976, it was as a little girl of seven that she fled the advance of Moroccan troops in the Saharawi territory that the Spaniards had just left.

Moroccan air force bombs the oasis of Oum Breyda.

The family gets on a truck, without their father, Abidin Buzeid Allal, whom they will never see again.

After affirming that he was living in a refugee camp without providing proof, Morocco assured him that he had died in prison in 1980. But for lack of proof, of bodies, and because of contradictory testimonies, Nuha Abidim can't believe the official version.

Never !

I am not convinced.

There are a lot of contradictions.

They said they didn't have him, then told me he died in prison.

It's still confusing.

We do not know if he is dead: if so, where did he die?

I want to go there.

I have no grudge against the Moroccan people who are a brother people.

But the government killed my father, tore my childish smile from me.

Against him, I am very angry.

► See also: The forgotten conflict in Western Sahara

The “black hole” in human rights

In 2010, after years of international pressure, the Moroccan Commission for Human Rights recognized 638 forced disappearances of Sahrawi activists, 351 of whom were executed or died in detention.

The Association of Families of Saharawi Prisoners and Disappeared, for its part, lists 444 deaths, but deplores the fact that Western Sahara has fallen back into a "black hole" in terms of human rights.

This is the word used by Abdeslam Omar Lahcen, president of Afapredesa: " 

To create a climate of terror, in addition to the arbitrary detentions which continue, economic pressure by expelling a good number of activists from work by sending them to the even inside Morocco ... It is the only way to be able to maintain its hold on the population and on natural resources.

This is the stake of this whole story.


► Also to listen: Western Sahara, Ghalia Djimi denounces human rights violations

A military tribunal "spiraling out of control"

Arrested in Laayoune, sentenced by a military court in 2015, Salah Lebsir spent four years in detention, before being released and moving to refugee camps in Algeria. He explains that “

the Moroccan authorities are watching the Saharawi militants. If we see you with a flag, claiming independence, participating in a demonstration, we follow you and catch you. We go to the military tribunal which escapes all control. I spent four years in a cell, without a lawyer or a doctor, suffering ill-treatment. They try to crack us psychologically, but it doesn't work, our demand for self-determination is legitimate.

In search of a figure to publicize their fight, the Sahrawi militants put forward Sultana Khaya, active in Boujdour against the exploitation of natural resources by Morocco.

The Moroccan press qualifies her as a " 

mercenary in the pay of the Algerian military regime



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  • Morocco

  • Algeria

  • Western Sahara

  • Human rights