Human Rights Watch has sent two of its Moroccan members to Laayoune. Surprisingly, the mission did not receive the support of all human rights activists in the city.
A Human Rights Watch mission visited Western Sahara from the 28th to the 31st of August. The delegation was composed of two Moroccan nationals, namely Ahmed Réda Benchemsi, head of the Middle East and North Africa division, and Fairouz Youssfi the NGOs representative in Morocco.
Sent to the city to inquire on the human rights situation in the province, the work of the two HRW members did not proceed as expected.
Ahmed Benchemsi, MENA communications director, Human Rights Watch with some pro Polisario members
Boycotted by activists close to the Polisario
«Troubles» started for the Human Rights Watch members when journalists from a pro-Polisario newspaper called Equipe Média issued a communiqué accusing them of siding with the Morocco. On August the 29th, they announced that they are boycotting a scheduled meeting with the two HRW representatives.
In a statement made public on Wednesday, the newspaper slammed the international organization for not consulting the Polisario before visiting the province as «it is the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people».
According to these journalists, the two HRW activists «asked for the permission of the Moroccan authorities», instead. The fact that the two representatives bear a Moroccan citizenship shows that they wouldn’t be neutral and that their mission wouldn't be accomplished in an objective way, says the same communiqué.
However, the situation did not prevent the Human Rights Watch delegation from meeting activists who defend the position of the Front, such as the «Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations». The latter is committed by the Moroccan state.
They have also met representatives from the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), which is chaired by Sahrawi activist Aminatou Haidar.
However, reportedly Haidar did not attend the meeting that took place on August 29th at the place of Ali Salem Tamek, vice president of CODESA.
By the end of their trip to Laayoune, the two representatives were unable to speak with members of the regional office of the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH). The same thing happened with NGOs that support the Kingdom’s stance.
For the record, the Moroccan authorities expelled on Thursday, 30th of August, Pablo Jimenez and Ana Sebastian, at the moment they arrived in Laayoune’s airport.
Th two Spanish lawyers were planning to attend the trial of Khalihenna El Fek, which was held on August the 31st. the latter was arrested in the same month, after he returned from Algeria, where he attended the 9th edition of the University Boumerdes.