NGO sues Morocco over Sahara violence - Rabat accuses protestors

Other News Materials 16 November 2010 17:42 (UTC +04:00)

A Spanish non-governmental organization Tuesday filed charges against three Moroccan ministers at Madrid's National Court for alleged atrocities in Western Sahara, dpa reported.

   The Spanish Human Rights League made the move after Rabat released a video accusing Saharan protestors of recent violence in the Moroccan-ruled territory, which is a former Spanish colony.

   The unrest began with a Moroccan raid on a protest camp near the Western Saharan capital Laayoune on November 8. Rabat claimed that the demonstrators' demands for jobs and housing were being manipulated by the Western Saharan independence movement Polisario.

   The Spanish Human Rights League accused Morocco's defence, interior and foreign ministers and the governor based in Laayoune of crimes including genocide and torture, according to the court document.

   Moroccan repression at the protest camp and in Laayoune may have led to more than 100 people getting killed and to 600 going missing, the NGO claimed. The fatalities included a Saharan with Spanish nationality, it said.

   Morocco has rejected accusations of police brutality. On Monday, it made public a video showing Moroccan security forces as victims of Saharan protestors who were shown slitting the throats of some police officers.

   Rabat accuses Spanish journalists of biased reporting and has blocked their access to Western Sahara.

   Morocco puts the number of fatalities at around a dozen, most of whom were allegedly members of the security forces. Polisario says dozens of Saharans have been killed and thousands injured.

   The Spanish secret service CNI was aware of only two Saharan fatalities, the daily El Mundo reported.

   However, the CNI put the number of detainees at up to 800, while Rabat says they number less than 200. Spanish activists who returned from Western Sahara described Laayoune as remaining under siege.

   Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government was meanwhile coming under growing criticism for its refusal to clearly condemn the alleged Moroccan repression.

   Stressing the need to preserve friendly relations with Rabat, the government has focused on requesting that Morocco let the press into Western Sahara.

   Dozens of Spaniards demonstrated outside the government building where Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba was meeting his Moroccan counterpart, Taieb Cherkaoui, on Tuesday. The ministers were not expected to give a press conference.

   Morocco annexed Western Sahara after Spain withdrew from there in 1975. Polisario fought for independence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

   Polisario insists on the UN-proposed referendum on independence, while Morocco is offering the phosphates-rich territory autonomy instead. The recent unrest broke out just as Morocco and Polisario were relaunching their UN-sponsored talks in New York.