The Moroccan Court of Cassation upheld the sentences handed down in 2013 to 19 separatists from Western Sahara, ranging from twenty years to life imprisonment. Saharawi activists are accused of taking part in the violence in the Gdim Izik camp near the border in southern Morocco in 2010. This verdict comes against the background of renewed conflicts between the Saharawis and Moroccans.
For these Sahrawis, the legal battle lasted for 10 years: from November 2010, when they were arrested by the Moroccan police after the murderous dismantling of the Gdim Izik camp, to the convictions confirmed by the Court of Cassation on Wednesday.
During this decade, legal twists and turns have been many. Among them are the independence activists’ lawyers remember it from 2017 very well. “When we appealed that Western Sahara was occupied territory, the President of the Court of Appeal threatened to deport us. But when we appealed for the torture of our clients, we were expelled from the court manu militari and we could never set foot in Morocco again, ”said Maiîre Ingrid Metton.
These trials are part of a broader context in the struggle to organize a referendum on self-determination, which the UN has demanded since 1991. But Morocco denies this possibility and locks the territory.
“The context we see today in Western Sahara is that of a very closed area, in the absence of impartial and independent human rights monitoring mechanisms, says Amna Guellali, Amnesty International’s Director for North Africa.
For the 19 imprisoned activists, it is therefore the end of legal hope. However, according to the wife of one of the convicts, their fight is not over.