Morocco: civilian retrial for 25 unfairly convicted Sahrawis welcomed
‘Now the Moroccan authorities must ensure they are granted a fair retrial in line with international standards’ - Magdalena Mughrabi
Following reports that 25 defendants - including 21 prisoners serving lengthy sentences in connection with 2010 deadly clashes in Western Sahara - will be granted a retrial before a civilian court, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Magdalena Mughrabi, said:
“The news that Sahrawi civilians jailed more than five years ago and unfairly convicted to heavy prison terms in 2013 are due to face a retrial in a civilian court is long overdue and offers a glimmer of hope that justice may finally be served in this case.
“The convictions of these men in an unfair military trial based on scant and dubious evidence marred by allegations of torture, was a shocking miscarriage of justice. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the authorities to release these men or grant them a fair, civilian retrial.
“Now the Moroccan authorities must ensure they are granted a fair retrial in line with international standards, and that all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are independently and impartially investigated. It is vital that any statements extracted under torture be excluded from proceedings. The court should respect the presumption for their release pending trial, unless a judge determines that there are valid grounds to detain them.”
In November 2010, clashes erupted as Moroccan security forces dismantled a protest camp in Gdeim Izik outside the city of Laayoune where thousands of Sahrawis had gathered to make a series of social and economic demands. Hundreds were arrested and 25 were later convicted by a military court, 21 of whom remain imprisoned. In 2015 Morocco amended its military justice law to end trials of civilians before military courts, in line with international human rights standards.
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