In 2010, the people of occupied Western Sahara claimed for their freedom with a massive camp, called the Gdeim Izik dignity camp. It was a defiance against the Moroccan oppression, so it was violently attacked by the Army and the occupation police, who destroyed the camp and set it on fire. 24 Saharawi leaders were detained and accused of several charges, including the alleged death of 11 Moroccan police officers—whose bodies were never presented.
Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / June 21, 2017
French lawyers Ingrid Metton and Oifa Ouled, who represented the Sahrawi Political Prisoners of the Gdeim Izik case, presented a detailed report on this case that denounces all of the illegal actions committed by the Moroccan government and the systematic torture that these 24 prisoners have suffered for almost seven years.
The report also includes three expert assessments that contradict the medical exams of the prisoners and the autopsies that the government presented to the defense almost seven years after the events—but they didn’t present them to the court nor allowed access to any of the bodies of the deceased.
The next session of the trial will be held on July 11. The accusation has requested in the final allegate to change the accusation to acts against the internal security of Morocco, which is essentially an accusation of terrorism. They also used the Polisario Front and Algeria of being enemies of the Kingdom.
On May 16, the political prisoners and their lawyers withdrew from the process. The accused declared they wouldn’t continue to participate in a “farce called a ‘trial’” where “the presumption of innocence is completely absent” and “is nothing more than a replay of the 2013 court martial”.
How did you get involved with this case?
Dr. Metton is a specialist in international humanitarian law and criminal law, and she’s the defendant of Naama Asfari, who is one of the accused. Her office presented a complaint in his name in France and won a procedure in the Committee against torture.
Dr. Ouled worked for the French government as a legal assistant on international and European law. She specializes in Sahrawi asylum cases.
On May 16, they were expelled out of the courtroom by force, by order of the judge. Is this a normal procedure in this country, which says it abides by the law?
The fact that we were expelled on May 16 is the proof that there’s no respect for the rules of law in the appeal court of Rabat and the Moroccan justice system.
It’s absolutely unusual to expel the defense lawyers during the allegation, and it’s one of the biggest crimes against defense one could make.
What are the main points that the defense rests upon to prove the innocence of the 24 people accused?
All the major points that prove their innocence were confirmed by national and international courts: there are no proofs that the 24 are guilty.
The military court condemned and pinned the accused mainly on the basis of their confessions—the inmates denounced that the security forces tortured them and forced them to sign statements they hadn’t read.
During the process, there was no evidence of the court conducting a medical exam on the accused to verify whether there had been abusive practices.
The accusation offered little evidence besides the police statements signed by the accused.
The court only listened to one witness—firefighter Redouane Lahlaoui, who wasn’t able to recognize any of the accused. No police agents testified.
The accusation also presented weapons that the police had allegedly taken from the Gdeim Izik camp. However, they didn’t present any piece of evidence to connect the weapons with the accused—except for their “confessions”, where they admit to their possession of the weapons. They didn’t present DNA tests, for example.
Besides, no autopsy report was presented in the trial to clarify when and how each of the security agents had allegedly died. The court didn’t establish which of the accused had caused the alleged death of these agents.
The court of cassation annulled this decision, which proves that:
- There were no victims
- There’s no evidence of murders having been committed
- There’s no evidence of the link between the accused and the dead agents.
Besides, the Committee Against Torture declared that Morocco tortured Naama Asfari—one of the accused—and used the statement obtained through torture to declare him guilty. So, there are no evidences beyond their own statements. And this is the case for all of the accused.
Do you believe this is a valid criminal trial?
A criminal trial must respect the basic principles of criminal law and of the criminal process: an impartial court showing the due diligence to try to determine whether there is enough proof to declare someone guilty of a crime.
This wasn’t present in this trial: the punishments are unfair for the accused. Almost all of the accused were known for their political involvement in the cause for the self-determination of Western Sahara, or for being human rights activists. That’s the true reason why they’re being persecuted by Moroccan justice.
Besides, during the six months that the trial lasted—and especially in the end—the president, the attorney general and the lawyers of the accusation tried to prove there was a link between the accused, the Polisario front, and the country of Algeria. Their goal is to present the accused as puppets of political forces that try to destabilize Morocco.