Although the United Nations classified it Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory”, Morocco continues to claim sovereignty over the region. Sarahawi civilians, activists and human rights defenders suffer gross abuse sat the hand of Moroccan security forces.
After Spain withdrew from Western Sahara in 1975, both Morocco and Mauritania affirmed their claim to this territory. While Mauritania renounced to its claim in 1979, Moroccan authorities persist in claiming sovereignty.
The Polisario Front, an armed political movement resisted Spanish, and later Moroccan occupation, until a ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations in 1991. A referendum on self-determination was agreed upon but has not yet taken place because of Morocco’s on-going objections. Indeed “advocacy of independence” and “attack on territorial integrity” are criminalized and sanctioned under Moroccan legislation. Even non-violent protests are systematically and brutally shut down.
In this conflict, Moroccan security forces have often been responsible of gross human rights violations committed against the Saharawi population and human rights defenders. These violations include massacres, torture, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence and enforced disappearances. Perpetrators of these crimes enjoy complete impunity.