After Spain withdrew from Western Sahara in 1975, both Morocco and Mauritania affirmed their claim to this territory, opposed by the POLISARIO Front. While Mauritania renounced to its claim in 1979, Morocco continues to claim sovereignty over the region, despite the fact that the United Nations recognized no such sovereignty and classified Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory”.
The POLISARIO fought against Morocco until a ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations in 1991 and a referendum on self-determination was agreed upon. The referendum, however, 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, arbitrary executions, sexual violence and enforced disappearance. Perpetrators of these crimes enjoy complete impunity.
TRIAL International works with the Association sahraouie des victimes de violations graves des droits de l’Homme commises par l’État du Maroc on cases of human rights abuses. In 2014, the two organizations submitted a complaint to the United Nations Committee against Torture on a case of arbitrary arrest and detention and torture by Moroccan security forces in 2010.