The director of Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa Philip Luther made a shocking statement following the trial of 24 accused of killing 11 Moroccan security personnel. He said, “the accused must be brought up before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death.”

It is worth noting that those individuals are accused of killing and desecrating the corpses of the 11 security agents. The sequence of events during the Gdeim Izig incident and the way the Polisario has been using the concept of self-determination suggest that the fact of the matter may be elsewhere.

The Moroccan military court case against 24 allegedly Sahrawi activists, which was to be held on February 1, 2013, was postponed to February 8.  The 24 Saharawis have been in custody since Moroccan security forces dismantled the Gdeim Izik camp, which was set up to express socio-economic grievances, in November 2010.

Philip Luther, The director of Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa.

Philip Luther, The director of Amnesty International for the Middle East and North Africa.

Following a non-armed military intervention led by Moroccan authorities, the official death toll stood at 13 dead including 11 belonging to security forces. According to the Moroccan Code of Military Justice: “are…amenable to the military court…all persons…authors of an act, considered as a crime, committed to the detriment of members of the royal armed forces and personnel treated as such.”

 

In fact, the security of the individual is a basic human right, and the protection of individuals is, accordingly, a fundamental obligation of the government. Therefore, states have an obligation to ensure the human rights of their nationals and others by taking positive measures to protect them against the threat of terrorist acts or criminals and bringing the perpetrators of such acts to justice.

 

In Morocco the independence of the judiciary has been totally respected in this case, and the criminals were brought before a military court in accordance with the Moroccan penal code. I would understand if there were repressive measures used to stifle the voices of human rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists interested in covering the trial. This is not the case in Morocco.  International and national media, Spanish, Italian and French journalists have been allowed to attend the trial. The government has not taken any action that will have a corrosive effect on the rule of law.

 There was a total respect of the spirit of the chapter of the Moroccan penal code. I would have supported without any reservations Amnesty International if it proved that the defendants were tortured or ill treated, or if the Moroccan government decided to refuse the presence of any human rights NGOs or media during the trial. Yet this has not been the case and the trial was held in total transparency.

Those who criticize the decision of the Moroccan authorities to try the defendants in a military court should ask themselves what would happen if for democratic countries like the US or France, a group of criminals committed heinous acts against its security forces or threatened its national security. Without a doubt those perpetrators would be tried before a military court and subjected to the harshest sentences. I doubt it if these human right watch-dogs would react as vigorously and condemn the decision made by the American or French authorities. Yet in the case of 24 defendants, they did not only kill and mutilate the corpses of 11 security officers, they also posed a threat to the country’s national security.

The Moroccan law is clear and the crimes committed by the Polisario activists fall under the category of crimes that ought to be considered by a military court.

As a sovereign state Morocco is but enforcing the laws in force in the country and all the fuss made about this case belongs to politicized propaganda aimed at undermining the country’s image and presenting the Polisario activists as the victims of the Moroccan authorities, when in reality the crime these people are accused of are of the utmost gravity.

08/02/2013