afrol News: Appeal for 131 Sahrawi detainees on hunger strike

Western Sahara & Morocco 
Appeal for 131 Sahrawi detainees on hunger strike

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afrol News, 4 January - As the unlimited hunger strike by Sahrawi political prisoners in La‚youne's prison continues, POLISARIO leader Mohamed Abdelaziz has sent an urgent message to the president of the UN Security Council. POLISARIO just had announced it would free 115 Moroccan prisoners of war.

According to a POLISARIO report on the National Radio of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic on Wednesday, Abdelaziz appealed to president of the UN Security Council, Jagdish Koonjul, to intervene in the La‚youne hunger strike.

- For nine days 131 Saharan detainees have been staging an unlimited hunger strike at La‚youne's depressing Lakhal prison, Abdelaziz writes. "In the face of the lamentable situation, the Sahrawi detainees did not find a solution except to stage a strike in order to express their rejection of the inhumane conditions in which they live as well as the maltreatment which they are subjected to." 

The detainees started their hunger strike on 25 December, denouncing the poor treatment and rights violations they had endured, naming "solitary confinement and the summary trials" of which they were victims. They further demanded their immediate release

In an earlier statement, they asked for the intervention from human rights organisations and the UN. The prisoners also asked the UN Secretary-General and his personal envoy, James Baker III, to go through with the delayed referendum about independence for Western Sahara. 

As a result of the hunger strike and maltreatment, according to Abdelaziz, 35 of the detainees in critical conditions have already been transferred to a hospital. Abdelaziz describes 23 of the detainees as political prisoners "who were arrested following a protest march in Smara. Their arrest did not warrant their detention in a jail for common right prisoners." 

According to the POLISARIO radio emission, Abdelaziz wrote to the UN Security Council he believed it was "a humanitarian duty for me to draw the attention of your excellency on the need for the urgent intervention of the organization of which you are the president in order to bring to an end this dramatic situation and to urge the occupying authorities - which are blatantly breaching the international human rights treaties and conventions signed by Morocco itself - to assume their responsibilities with regard to the suffering of these detainees."

Meanwhile, in La‚youne, the hunger strike has lead to political protests. According to ARSO, an organisation close to POLISARIO, 70 mothers of the striking prisoners had gathered in front of the governor's office, demanding the immediate release of their sons. As their representatives were refused to meet the La‚youne governor, the women initiated manifestations.

Marching in front of the buildings of La‚youne's First Court of Instance, the Court of Appeal and local UN headquarters, all located in the same street, they demanded the release of their sons. "At the end of the march, anti-riots forces intervened brutally to disperse the march, violently charging the women with blows with boots and bludgeons," ARSO reports from La‚youne. 

La‚youne is the Moroccan administrative centre of the Western Sahara territory it occupies. The northern town now has the greatest population in the territory, after it was populated by thousands of Moroccans in a state sponsored campaign. Some Sahrawis however remain. 

Detention conditions in La‚youne prison are known for their precariousness, according to ARSO. With a capacity for 200 - 250 people, the establishment holds currently more than 700 prisoners. The prisoners languish in overcrowded cells, with deplorable conditions of hygiene, the propagation of contagious diseases like tuberculosis and the sexual harassment particularly of minors - who do not have a separated department. 

Sources: POLISARIO, ARSO, W.Sahara Online and afrol archives

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