Rights crackdown in Western Sahara —again

Even as UN-mediated negotations are set to begin, Morocco has unleashed a new wave of repression against advocates of independence for Western Sahara. The new crackdown began May 7, when Saharawi students at the university of Agadir, Morocco, were brutally beaten and arrested. On May 17, police clashed with student protesters demanding independence for the occupied territory at Rabat University, with 15 arrested and some students injured. The clash came after protesters defied a police order to end a week-long sit-in at the entrance to the university. Brahim Elansari, a member of the Saharawi Association for Human Rights Victims (ASVDH), was arrested Sunday afternoon after police stopped his car in Laayoune, Western Sahara’s main city, said the organization’s president, Brahim Dahane. Fellow activist Hassana Douihi, who was riding with Elansari, was also arrested. Shortly afterward, police arrested Naama Asfari, president of the Paris-based Committee for the Respect of Human Freedoms and Rights in Western Sahara. (Infoshop News, May 22)

On May 22, Brahim Sabbar and Ahmed Sbai, imprisoned members of the ASVDH, were ordered to serve another six months in prison from a court in Laayoune, Western Sahara’s main city. They had each already served a year in prison. (AP, May 22)

Some 100 people gathered at the Moroccan Embassy in Pretoria May 23 in support of the Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco. The march was also attended by ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula, who said the African continent cannot celebrate Africa Day while other people were not yet free. (IOL, May 23)

See our last post on the Western Sahara.