Dear Ms. Margaret SEKAGGYA: I am writing to draw your attention to the unlawful arrest and unjustified trial of seven Saharawi human rights activists and to request you to use your mandate and good offices to urgently intervene to stop further attacks, harassment and unlawful trial of prominent human rights defenders; and to ensure full respect for their internationally recognized human rights to freedom of movement, association, speech and life; and their release.
Following their abduction by the Moroccan government, seven Saharawi human rights activists were charged on October 16, 2009 with treasonable felony. The activists abducted at the Casablanca airport on October 8, 2009 had been visiting the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria an act which the regime in Morocco considers treasonable and for which the activists have been hauled before a military court where the death sentence is being demanded.
The seven on trial include Ali Salem Tamek, Vice president of Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) who had been adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Brahim Dahane, president of the Saharawi Association of Victims of Serious Violations Committee by Morocco (ASVDH) who was abducted in the 1980s by Morocco and released in 1991, a lady, Dakja Lashgar who is on the ASVDH executive and Yahdih Ettarroui. Others are Saleh Lebayhi, president of the Forum for Protection of Sahrawi Children, Rachid Sghayar from the Committee of Action Against Torture and Ahmed Anasari, General Secretary of the Saharawi Committee for the Defence of Human Rights.
In addition, the Moroccan police invaded the home of Anasari in the Salam neighourhood of Smara, verbally harassing his wife, Ms Biba Lala Salkha and preventing friends and relatives from visiting the home.
We are seriously concerned about the safety and well-being of these human rights defenders and believe that their unlawful arrest and trial are a reprisal for their human rights activities.
We consider the activists to be human rights defenders within the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1998 (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).
We believe that their continuing trial is a serious violation of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) adopted by the General Assembly in 1999. This Declaration sets down a series of principles and standards aimed at ensuring that states fully support the efforts of human rights defenders and ensure that they are free to conduct their activities for the promotion, protection and effective realization of human rights without hindrance or fear of reprisals.
We also believe that their trial demonstrates the increasing intolerance of the Moroccan government for independent opinions and human rights defenders.
We therefore ask you to urgently assert your mandates to put pressure on the Moroccan government to halt the trial and immediately release the seven human rights defenders and to stop further threats of arrest, harassment and intimidation against them.
The Special Rapporteur should send a strong message to the Moroccan government that the campaign of unlawful arrest and detention, intimidation and harassment and unjustified trial against human rights defenders exercising their human rights is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.
Thanking you in advance of your urgent attention to the matter.
West African Bar Association
Ms Navanethem Pillay
High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Ms. Margaret SEKAGGYA
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Special Procedures Division
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
30 November 2009