afrol News, 11 February - The Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario has announced the release of 100 Moroccan prisoners of war. Many of these Moroccans have been held captive in Sahrawi refugee camps for more than 25 years.
- This release follows the intervention by the Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, an official statement by the Polisario published Monday said. Polisario, which also forms the exiled government of Western Sahara, also set free 151 Moroccan prisoners of war i January last year, also after a request by the Spanish government, the ex-colonial power.
Western Sahara was occupied by Morocco in 1975, when Spain ended its colonisation. In the subsequent war between Polisario and Morocco - where the latter also used chemical weapons delivered by the US against civilians - the Sahrawis succeeded in capturing thousands of Moroccan troops. The war ended in a UN-brokered cease fire in 1991, with almost the entire Sahrawi territory under Moroccan military control and the Sahrawi civilians in refugee camps in the Algerian desert.
The UN Security Council and the International Red Cross repeatedly demand the release of all prisoners of this war, including the assumed large number of Sahrawi prisoners in Moroccan jails. While Morocco denies the existence of such prisoners, Polisario during the years has released 1100 Moroccans as "a gesture of goodwill." The UN and the Red Cross claim both countries are violating the Geneva conventions.
The UN coordinator of the Polisario, Emhamed Khadad, told afrol News that even if Western Sahara had "tried to sign" the Geneva conventions "for 15 years," but this has been denied them by the Red Cross. "But we're anyhow complying with it," he adds. The prisoners are allowed to move freely around the camps, communicate with their families in Morocco and through the Red Cross have better medical services than the refugees, he informs. A release of all prisoners however was out of the question until Morocco starts releasing Sahrawi prisoners.
Also Polisario's latest communiqué emphasises the "suffering of the
Sahrawi political prisoners and prisoner of war in the Moroccan prisons,"
appealing for the occupation to end. For the moment, however, the war is
only to end for 100 not-so-young-anymore Moroccans, which finally are to
be reunited with their families in Morocco, in collaboration with the
Spanish Red Cross, according to Polisario.
POLISARIO, UN and afrol archives