During his working visit to Washington, a year ago, King Mohammed VI of Morocco took a triple discreet engagement with his host, President Barack Obama, on the Western Sahara. The official joint statement did not include it.
The agreement was brought to light thanks to Chris Coleman, an anonymous Twitter profile that leaked four weeks ago tens of Moroccan diplomacy confidential documents. The agreement is defined by a cable that the Deputy Ambassador of Morocco to the UN Abderrazzak Laassel, sent on August 1st to his minister debriefing him on the conversation with his US counterpart Rosemary Di Carlo.
A year later, in April 2013, the Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, tried to change the resolution that the Security Council votes every year in April on the Sahara to extend the mandate of the MINURSO, the UN blue helmets contingent deployed in the former Spanish colony. Rice has proposed to expand its remit to be charged with human rights, but Rabat, supported by several European capitals, turned it down.
Seven months later, the Obama Administration came up with other ideas and snatched a triple commitment from the monarch. The king agreed to establish a program of visits to the Sahara of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for human rights; legalize many Saharawi NGOs and renounce the trial of the Sahrawi and Moroccan civilians by military courts.
To what extent Mohamed VI has fulfilled his commitment? Eric Goldstein, who is the deputy director of the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) Maghreb region, and who has a great knowledge of Morocco, answered the question. « The record of events since then in relation to visits to investigate human rights is positive, » he replies. « Special Rapporteurs and delegations were able to pay visit and work in good conditions, » he said.
The second point, however, has not been accomplished. « In Western Sahara, no association has been legalized by Morocco of which it suspects orientation or hostile leadership to its presence in the territory” Goldstein replied. The most affected are two NGOs defending human rights: CODESA, led by the famous activist Aminatou Haidar and ASVDH, where another woman, Ghalia Djimi plays a leading role.
On the third point, the evaluation of Goldstein is ambiguous: « The bill [to end military tribunals] is good, but has not yet been officially adopted » Mohamed VI chaired in March the Council of Ministers that approved the amendment of the authorities of the military system of justice, but it has not yet been addressed by the Parliament and therefore it is not in force.
The last major trial of civilians by military court took place in February 2013. Twenty-five Sahrawis were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two years in prison to perpetuity. The court found them guilty of killing eleven Moroccan riot policemen during the dismantling of the Saharawi protest camp Gdim Izik in November 2010 near El Aaiun. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have harshly criticized the lack of procedural guarantees for defendants.
More recently, in February, a young Malian of 18 was also tried by a military court because of his participation in stoning a Moroccan policeman who died at the gates of Melilla where migrants have been trying to jump on its fence.
The demands made by the Obama administration to the Alawite ruler may appear from the human rights side, small or shy, but no European country, among those who have close relations with Morocco, has dared to do.