French trade union accuses Morocco of repression in Western Sahara

Other News Materials 27 February 2008 18:56 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The French trade union confederation CGT accused Morocco of police repression and human rights abuses in Western Sahara in a letter made public by Moroccan media on Wednesday.

The arrest of a delegation of European trade unionists visiting the Saharawi capital Laayoune on February 19 was "unacceptable," the CGT said in the letter, which was addressed to the Moroccan ambassador in France.

Police detained a total of four trade unionists from France, Italy and Spain as well as three Moroccan trade unionists and the wife of one of them, the CGT said.

The detainees were released after interventions by several European foreign ministries, the CGT said, accusing Morocco of violating human rights, international labour agreements and the right to organize meetings.

A Moroccan government source meanwhile said the fourth round of negotiations between Morocco and the Saharawi independence movement Polisario Front, which had been scheduled for March 11 near New York, had been postponed to March 16.

The reasons of the delay were not clear, but the parties probably needed more time to prepare the talks, which are sponsored by the United Nations, the source said.

Diplomats say there is no compromise in sight between Morocco, which is offering autonomy to the region it annexed after Spain withdrew from there in 1975, and Polisario, which insists on a 1991 plan on a referendum on independence.

About 100 Saharawis meanwhile left refugee camps housing tens of thousands of Saharawi refugees in Algerian Tindouf and crossed the border into Morocco.

Tired of the decades-long conflict, several members of the group had given their support to the Moroccan autonomy plan, participating in a pro-Moroccan congress in a buffer zone of the Sahara in December.

The Saharawis, who included 20 children, told journalists they needed to steer clear of Algerian and Polisario frontier surveillance in order to cross over in el-Karkrat.