AWSA calls for intervention of UN for release of Sahrawi political prisoners

Sydney, 11 April 2020 (SPS) -   the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) has sought the intervention of the United Nations with the Moroccan authorities for the release of Saharawi political prisoners, recalling they are being one of the groups most at risk of infection with Covid19, in a message to United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Antonio Guterres.

The full text of the letter is below:

“Attention: Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary General

Dear Mr. Secretary General

SAHARAWI PRISONERS AND CORONAVIRUS

On behalf of the Australia Western Sahara Association I am seeking your intervention with the Moroccan authorities for the release of Saharawi political prisoners.

Prison populations are recognised globally as being one of the groups most at risk of infection with Covid19.  This has been acknowledged by the Moroccan authorities in their recent decision to release 5000 prisoners in the face of the coronavirus threat.

This did not include any Saharawi prisoners.

It is well known that the indigenous Saharawi population in the Occupied Territories receives scant and deficient medical attention by the occupying administration. In the case of Saharawi held in Moroccan prisons the situation is much worse. They live without minimum hygiene conditions and are poorly fed. They already suffer diseases and illnesses, in many cases resulting from the torture they have endured and lack of medical attention. They are prime candidates for the spread of the coronavirus.

You are likely aware that observers and international organizations have denounced the lack of evidence and unfair trials by which Saharawi political prisoners were sentenced. Now they are exposed to the danger of the coronavirus, making their release more urgent.

Accordingly, the Australia Western Sahara Association calls for the intervention of the United Nations Secretary General to ask the Moroccan authorities to release all Saharawi political prisoners before a disaster occurs, particularly those known as Gdeim Izik political detainees.

AWSA has also written to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Red Cross, who have responsibilities to monitor the conditions under which Saharawi political prisoners are detained. AWSA asks that they also act before it is too late.

I would like to register an additional concern that AWSA has at this time. That is the appointment of Ambassador Omar Hilale, Morocco's permanent representative in New York, as co-facilitator for the process of strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty bodies. In the light of the abuses of human rights committed against the Saharawi population in occupied Western Sahara, Ambassador Hilale's new role in relation to human rights is singularly inappropriate. It is a further indication of the little value the United Nations places on the rights of the people of Western Sahara. The greatest demonstration of this being the 44 year delay in the holding of the referendum of self-determination.

I look forward to your response to AWSA's concerns.

Yours sincerely

Lesley Osborne

Secretary

Australia Western Sahara Association” (SPS)

062/SPS