This week sees closing arguments presented in a case that offers a historic opportunity for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to rule on attacks, illegal surveillance and the use of technology against human rights defenders.
ISHR together with ACAT-France, the League for the Protection of Sahrawi Political Prisoners in Moroccan Prisons (LPPS) and a group of lawyers have submitted four complaints before the CAT on behalf of four Sahrawi human rights defenders who have endured severe acts of torture at the hands of the Moroccan authorities.
The four victims, Mohamed Lamine Haddi, Hassan Dah, Abdelmoula El-Hafidi and Mohamed Bani have been detained for six to twelve years based on confessions obtained under torture, in violation of international law and in the absence of a fair trial.
Morocco, a self-proclaimed international human rights champion and core supporter of the Convention against Torture Initiative, is routinely found to be practicing torture domestically, especially against Sahrawi human rights activists. Like many in Moroccan prisons, the four victims were forced to sign confessions under torture.
Today, as they remain in illegal detention based on a confession obtained through torture, the plaintiffs continue to be subjected to acts of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment routinely. Some of them such as Mohamed Lamine Haddi have been in solitary confinement for years. Although they are subjected to continued surveillance and threats, the victims’ relatives are mobilising for their loved ones: “We are constantly experiencing repression and intimidation. We are used to it”.
With the support of the LPPS, ISHR and fellow representatives were able to communicate with the families of the imprisoned Sahrawi defenders – including during an international delegation’s visit to Rabat in May 2022. Despite surveillance, censorship and threats by Moroccan authorities, as evidenced by the Pegasus scandal, relatives of the detained are full of hope: “We cannot leave our sons abandoned in Moroccan prisons.”
In 2016, Morocco was found guilty by the CAT for the torture inflicted upon another Saharawi human rights defender, Naâma Asfari, one of the spokespersons for the peaceful protest camp of Gdeim Izik in 2010. In November 2021, Morocco was again found guilty for the torture inflicted on an additional three Sahrawi detainees (M.B. v. Morocco, Sidi Abdallah Abbahah v. Morocco, Omar N’Dour v. Morocco).
To this day, Morocco has not enacted the decisions of the CAT, and the detention conditions remain unchanged for these prisoners. The LPPS, ISHR and ACAT-France call on Morocco to comply with the decisions of the Committee against Torture, to release all prisoners convicted on the basis of confessions obtained under torture and to ensure their right to reparations.
The post of High Commissioner requires a mandate holder who is principled, independent, expert, and deeply committed to human rights.
The 71st online session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights was held between 21 April and 13 May 2022. This session addressed the impact of crises on the achievement of human rights on the continent and post-Covid-19 reconstruction.