Moroccan authorities “violently” put down peaceful protests in Western Sahara earlier this week, local human rights activist Aminatou Haidar said March 10. The crackdown on the two protests was Rabat’s “response” to a request made by EU president Herman Van Rompuy at an EU-Morocco summit in Spain over the weekend that Morocco make progress on human rights, Haidar said in a statement.
Haidar said “Moroccan police and secret service agents violently repressed a protest” staged March 8 in Laayoune, the capital of the disputed territory, and another the following day in the town of Fajla. Human rights activists Ennaama Asfaria and Sabbar Brahim were among the “many” people who were injured in the Fajla protest, she added.
Asfaria, the vice-president of the Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Western Sahara, “received strong blows throughout his body that left visible marks.” Brahim, the secretary general of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Serious Violations of Human Rights by the Moroccan State (ASVDH), suffered “an open wound on his head and serious bruising in his kidneys.” Haidar also said police blocked access to a hospital where victims of the police repression had sought medical aid.
Van Rompuy said at this weekend’s EU-Morocco summit held in Granada, Spain, that the bloc supported UN efforts “for a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution” in Western Sahara. “We also wish for improvements to the situation of human rights and their defenders on this issue,” he added. (Expatica, March 10)