Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmed Naciri are outspoken Saharawi human rights defenders who’ve been advocating their people’s right to self-determination and the right of sovereignty over their natural resources for years.
Together with 4 other Saharawi activists, Tamek, Dahane and Naciri were arrested upon their return from a visit to their Saharawi countrymen in exile in Algeria. In a dangerous precedent, they were due to appear before the military tribunal of Rabat, as they were charged with treason. However, on 21 September this year, after the three human rights defenders had spent nearly one year in jail awaiting a trial, the military tribunal declined jurisdiction over their case. Instead, they were referred to court of first instance in Casablanca, where their case is scheduled to be held on 15 October 2010.
Even from within the confines of the Salé prison, they continue to protest the ongoing Moroccan occupation of their homeland and the plunder of the territory’s natural resources. Just three weeks ago, the imprisoned activists sent a letter to the President of the European Parliament, Mr. Jerzy Bucek, calling for the termination of EU-fisheries in Saharan Waters.
The bulk of EU fisheries under the bilateral fisheries agreement with Morocco is carried out in the waters adjacent to the Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara. However, economic activities in these territories can only be undertaken in consultation with the people of that territory – something which the EU has failed to do. The Saharawi’s rights to self-determination over the resources was summarised in a legal opinion from 2002, a document which the EU is misusing by falsely quoting from.
“Your Excellency, we never had a voice in this undertaking, and the only outcome of the fisheries agreement that our people have noticed, is that our voices are suppressed even more, as Morocco feels itself supported by the European Union in its illegal and unfounded claim over our homeland. Since the Saharawi people have not agreed to nor benefits from the agreement, as required under international law, we respectfully ask that all European fisheries in Saharawi waters be halted immediately”, the prisoners wrote.
In November last year, the Swedish government awarded Brahim Dahane the Per Anger Human Rights Award. "On the behalf of Brahim, myself and all the Saharawis I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Sweden for their opposition to the EU Fisheries Agreement" stated Aicha Dahane, upon accepting the award on behalf of her imprisoned brother.
Tamek, Dahane and Naciri were among a group of 7 high-profile Saharawi activists who the Moroccan police arrested upon their return from a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in south-west Algeria. Although there is still no evidence to support the charges brought against them, the Moroccan state news agency has been quick to qualify their arrest as the result of meeting with “bodies opposing Morocco”. They were accused of “undermining the Moroccan state’s security” and referred to a military tribunal, charged with treason. Moroccan authorities have provisionally released the other four activists facing the same accusations, Degja Lachgar, Yahdih Etarrouzi, Rachid Sghaier, and Saleh Lebaihi.
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.
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.
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