On Feb. 1, the trial of group of defendants prosecuted in connection with the dismantling of events in the Gdim Izik camp opens at the military court in Rabat.

Twenty-four people were arrested as a result of their involvement in the events that date back to November 2010. The defendants will respond to acts related to the formation of gangs and the death of police officers and mutilation of the dead bodies.

This trial is tinged with controversy over whether it should be conducted before the military court, and allegations that some defendants have faced torture and degrading treatment during their detention. Judicial source said that the accused are to appear before a military court, because the Moroccan penal code clearly stipulates that civilians accused of killing law enforcement agents should be tried before a military tribunal.

Legal procedures and national legislation guarantees the accused and their defense the right to request a medical examination in case of alleged torture and degrading treatment. On October 10, 2010, residents of Laayoune drew at Gdim Izik a tent camp to defend legitimate social demands, mainly related to housing and employment. Moroccan authorities initiated a dialogue and then presented a series of steps to respond to these demands gradually. Unfortunately, the dialogue did not result in ending the situation on the ground. Moroccan authorities then decided to peacefully dismantle the camp.

The latter was under total control of criminals and traffickers who held part of the population against their will. They started to present a real threat to the public order.

This intervention immediately led to violent attacks by small groups against the police. Those gangs were armed with weapons, cocktails Molotov and gas canisters. Subsequently, clashes broke out in the city of Laayoune where infrastructure and public property were burned and private property was looted. Those attacks caused 11 deaths among security forces and seriously injured 70. Those events have also caused extensive damage to public buildings and property and private property. Parliament had set up a fact-finding commission, while several Moroccan NGOs and international human rights organizations had gone to the scene to conduct their investigations.

Those events had led to criminal investigations and 225 people were accused of formation of gangs, physical assault, arson and use of weapons. All of those defendants received bail. For some, their cases are being investigated, while others were either acquitted or sentenced to six months. Many benefited from the Royal Pardon. Now those accused of murder of security members have to respond before a military court.

Postponed twice, the trial finally opened today with a certain voltage at the gate of the court where concentrated separately, relatives and friends of the Saharawi prisoners and the families of murdered police agents. The first denounced “torture” to which prisoners were subjected, while the latter loudly demanded “justice.”

The ongoing controversial debate of whether those convicted of crimes against security members should be presented to the military court or not is in fact totally misleading. Criminals have to respond to their crimes in a fair and transparent trial, far from any politicized and false debate that aims to influence negatively both national and international public opinion.