Western Sahara: Trial and sentencing of human rights defenders Mr Atiqu Barrai, Mr Kamal Al Tarayh, Mr Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Mr Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mr Mohamed Manolo and Mr Hasna Al Wali

On 18 April 2012, the El Ayoun Court of Appeal sentenced six human rights defenders to three years in prison.
Mr Atiqu Barrai, Mr Kamal Al Tarayh,Mr Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Mr Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mr Mohamed Manolo, who were arrested in October and November 2011, and Mr Hasna Al Wali, who was arrested in January 2012.
They are all members of the Western Sahara Organisation Against Torture and are renowned for their advocacy for self-determination for the people of the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.
The sentences were handed down by the Court of Appeal which convicted them, amongst other things, of « forming a criminal gang », « complicity in murder », « violence against public employees » and « damaging public property ». All these charges were brought against them in relation to violent events in the city of Dakhla in September 2011, which resulted in the death and injury of a number of people and the damage of property.
All six human rights defenders stated that they were not present at the violent events and vehemently protested their trial as unfair and politically motivated. No evidence was presented to the court to prove that the defendants were present and took part in the Dakhla events. They denied the charges brought against them and stated before the court that they were based on evidence extracted under duress while being held incommunicado in police custody following their arrest. Three of the human rights defenders showed marks on their bodies before the court which they declared were a result of torture during their detention.
Reports of torture which were brought to the attention of the court were not investigated nor were those defendants reporting torture referred for forensic examination. The defendants stated that torture and ill-treatment including beatings took place while they were held incommunicado in the custody of the Moroccan Judiciary Police in the city of Dakhla and that they were forced to sign documents incriminating them under duress.
At least two of the detainees had fallen ill since their arrest and Kamal Al Tarayh was admitted on 29 December 2011 to Hasan Ben Al Mahdi Hospital in the city of El Ayoun suffering from severe back pain. Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih is also reported to be suffering from back pain but has not been taken to hospital or provided with medical care. All six human rights defenders declared a hunger strike in protest against their detention and their protracted trial. The hunger strike was ended before the final round of their trial. All six defendants intend on appealing their sentencing to El Ayoun Court of Appeal.
Front Line Defenders views the sentencing of Atiqu Barrai, Kamal Al Tarayh, Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mohamed Manolo and Hasna Al Wali as part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Western Sahara. Front Line Defenders believes that the trial of these human rights defenders is directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, particularly with regard to their advocacy in favour of the self-determination of Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.
Please take action on behalf of human rights defenders in Western Sahara.
Copy the enclosed letter and send it to the address provided.
Thank you for taking action on behalf of Atiqu Barrai, Kamal Al Tarayh, Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mohamed Manolo and Hasna Al Wali.
Target adresses: 
Sa Majesté le Roi Mohammed VI
Secrétariat royal
Palais Royal
Rabat
Morocco
Letter: 

Your Excellency,

On 18 April 2012, the El Ayoun Court of Appeal sentenced six human rights defenders to three years in prison: Mr Atiqu Barrai, Mr Kamal Al Tarayh, Mr Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Mr Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mr Mohamed Manolo, who were arrested in October and November 2011, and Mr Hasna Al Wali, who was arrested in January 2012. They are all members of the Western Sahara Organisation Against Torture and are renowned for their advocacy for self-determination for the people of the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.
The sentences were handed down by the Court of Appeal which convicted them, amongst other things, of « forming a criminal gang », « complicity in murder », « violence against public employees » and « damaging public property ». All these charges were brought against them in relation to violent events in the city of Dakhla in September 2011, which resulted in the death and injury of a number of people and the damage of property.
All six human rights defenders stated that they were not present at the violent events and vehemently protested their trial as unfair and politically motivated. No evidence was presented to the court to prove that the defendants were present and took part in the Dakhla events. They denied the charges brought against them and stated before the court that they were based on evidence extracted under duress while being held incommunicado in police custody following their arrest. Three of the human rights defenders showed marks on their bodies before the court which they declared were a result of torture during their detention.
Reports of torture which were brought to the attention of the court were not investigated nor were those defendants reporting torture referred for forensic examination. The defendants stated that torture and ill-treatment including beatings took place while they were held incommunicado in the custody of the Moroccan Judiciary Police in the city of Dakhla and that they were forced to sign documents incriminating them under duress. At least two of the detainees had fallen ill since their arrest and Kamal Al Tarayh was admitted on 29 December 2011 to Hasan Ben Al Mahdi Hospital in the city of El Ayoun suffering from severe back pain. Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih is also reported to be suffering from back pain but has not been taken to hospital or provided with medical care.
All six human rights defenders declared a hunger strike in protest against their detention and their protracted trial. The hunger strike was ended before the final round of their trial. All six defendants intend on appealing their sentencing to El Ayoun Court of Appeal.
I view the sentencing of Atiqu Barrai, Kamal Al Tarayh, Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mohamed Manolo and Hasna Al Wali as part of an ongoing campaign of judicial harassment of human rights defenders in Western Sahara. I believe that the trial of these human rights defenders is directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, particularly with regard to their advocacy in favour of the self-determination of Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.
I urge the Moroccan authorities to:
1. Overturn the sentences against Atiqu Barrai, Kamal Al Tarayh, Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mohamed Manolo and Hasna Al Wali, and release them immediately and unconditionally, as I believe that their trial and sentencing are solely motivated by their human rights work in Western Sahara;
2. Provide as a matter of urgency specialist and independent medical care to Kamal Al Tarayh and Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, and ensure that the two men and other human rights defenders detained are held in conditions compatible with international standards;
3. Immediately investigate thoroughly and impartially reports of torture of Atiqu Barrai, Kamal Al Tarayh, Abd Al Aziz Barrai, Al Mahjoub Awlad Al Cheih, Mohamed Manolo and Hasna Al Waliwith, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Western Sahara are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
Yours sincerely,

Related links: 
You can find additional information on the situation for human rights Defenders in West Sahara. HERE