‘Travesty of justice’ in Gdim Izik verdict
On Saturday night, the Moroccan military court trying the 24 Sahrawi protestors from Gdeim Izik delivered its verdict. International outcry followed, with foreign governments, observers, and lawyers all lamenting the verdict as deeply politicised, legally flawed, and arbitrary.
The military court sentenced eight of the Sahrawis to life imprisonment (with another receive the same sentence in absentia), four to 30-year terms, eight to 25-year terms, and three to 20-year terms. Two of the protestors were given two-year prison terms, but immediately released since it was decided that they had already served their terms in custody.
The defendants were accused of involvement in the Gdeim Izik protest camp in Western Sahara in 2010, widely regarded as the first spark of the Arab Spring. Whilst in detention, the defendants claim to have suffered torture and to have been coerced into signing confessions. Thumb prints were often used rather than signatures, with accusations from the international community that these were extracted coercively and with the protestors blindfolded.
Thomas O’Bryan, Advocacy Coordinator of Western Sahara Action Forum, today spoke to the media:
‘This is a travesty of justice. The defendants need to be tried in a civilian court, rather than the military ‘show trial’ that we saw on Saturday.
The human right of the protestors to a free and fair trial has not been granted. This is just the latest in a series of affronts by the Moroccan authorities on the fundamental human rights of the Sahrawi people.’
Mr. O’Bryan called on the international community to apply pressure on the Moroccan government to live up to its responsibilities under international conventional law to conduct a civilian trial for the protestors in question, but moreover to instate human rights monitoring in Western Sahara.
‘More than ever, the need for independent monitoring of human rights violations in Western Sahara is clear. The aggressive and illegal actions of the Moroccan Government are unacceptable.
The United Nations must live up to its legal and moral responsibilities to protect the Sahrawi people when MINURSO’s mandate is renewed by the Security Council this April, and permit human rights monitoring immediately.’
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