On September 21st 2016, Morocco’s Court of Cassation ruled that the Gdeim Izik prisoners would be granted a re-trial before the Rabat Court of Appeal. The proceedings opened on the 26th of December 2016, and ended on the 19th of July 2017. 19 of the 21 detainees was condemned to harsh sentences, in the absence of criminal evidence.
International observers conclude that the 19 detainees still imprisoned are on arbitrary detention.
The Group of Gdeim Izik The 19 detainees of the Gdeim Izik group are, and have for almost seven years, been imprisoned on arbitrary detention. The group of Gdeim Izik are political prisoners, subjected to political prosecution, and tried in a courthouse that lacked the necessary jurisdiction to trial them.
The Group of Gdeim Izik was arrested prior to, during and after the violent dismantlement of the peaceful protest camp Gdeim Izik. The Moroccan state claims that 11 Moroccan officials died this morning, and accused the Group of Gdeim Izik for the murder of 11 public officials, and the forming of a criminal gang, claiming that the protest camp was in fact a military camp, aiming to destabilize the region and attack the Moroccan military forces.
Torture and confessions signed under torture. The only piece of evidence describing the act committed by each of the accused are police records. These police records entail confessions which the accused urges are falsified against them and extracted and signed under torture.
There is no doubt that the detainees of the Group of Gdeim Izik have been subjected to torture, and that they for nearly seven years have been on arbitrary detention; and that Morocco is in violation of multiple articles listed in the Convention against Torture. Including torture during arrest and interrogation (art.1); failure to investigate (art.12); violation of the right to complain (art.13); obligation to compensate and reparation (art.14); usage of confessions obtained through torture (art. 15); and inhuman treatment in detention (art. 16).
The Moroccan Judges declared on several occasions that the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment and Punishment of 1984, and the CAT decision (CAT/C/59/D/606/2014) regarding the case of Eênama Asfari, have no legal binding at their court.
During the proceedings conducted, the court provoked that Eênama Asfari lied and provoked false accusations. The court thus provoked that the accused declared false allegations upon torture, and retrieved the policemen, the once accused of torturing, to the witness box. The testimony of the policemen was used as evidence in the final evidence evaluation, as supportive evidence to the police records, the now mentioned confessions extracted under torture of which the accused claims were falsified against them. Instead of complying with its international obligations, Morocco did the exact opposite; They used illegal evidence, and instead of investigating the policemen, they used their testimony against the defendants.
“The breach of the international law on the right to a fair trial in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of Morocco’s other international obligations renders the deprivation of liberty of the 19 detainees arbitrary. (…) Their conviction was not based on sufficient evidence. The reports by the police and the gendarmerie have been relied on as evidence; the defence has not been able to challenge it. (…) The file in the court case contained illegally obtained evidence and other evidence which is inadmissible. The defence was not allowed to challenge the witnesses identifying the detainees’ participation in the crimes they have been convicted of. The overt bias in the proceedings with judges who could not control their court against a domineering prosecutor and advocates from the victims, was an undignified spectacle. The court proceedings were in multiple regards in breach of the right to equality of arms and the rights of the defence.”
The group was tried in front of a court that lacked the necessary independence from the prosecutor, but also a court that neither behaved impartial, or in general could be interpreted as impartial. The defence could hardly utter a reasoning before being interrupted by either the civil party, the prosecutor or the judge. The defence was in general prohibited from mentioning evidence that could be exonerating, and was prohibited from asking questions that could lead to an exonerating answer. The defence was also in general prohibited from explaining what the Gdeim Izik camp was, and why the protest camp in the occupied territories was established. The defence was therefore de facto prohibited from facing the story told by the prosecutor; describing the camp as a military camp; leaving the painting one sided.
During the proceedings, three parties were active; the prosecutor, the civil party and the defence. The judge never ruled upon the competence of the civil party, and on the 19th of July, when the verdict fell, he rejected the civil claim, stating that the civil party did not have the competence. However, the civil party was a very active party to the proceedings conducted.
The civil party, invoked during the sessions held in June, that the court had an obligation to alter the charges to terrorism charges. The civil party urged that the court did not have sufficient evidence to condemn the accused for murder, and thus had an obligation to condemn the accused as terrorists. The civil party during its final pleadings to the court, invoked the court to condemn the accused as terrorist; as dangerous separatists threatening the kingdom of morocco. During the final arguments, one of the attorneys from the civil party, gave a three hour speech about how Western Sahara is part of the kingdom of Morocco, explaining how Morocco never was in any violation of neither humanitarian law, international law or human rights law. The other attorneys belonging to the civil party used their final arguments to describe how the Gdeim Izik camp was a dangerous violent resistance camp; and how the camp constituted the most horrifying terrorizing moment in the history of the kingdom of Morocco.
Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.