In a letter to the European Parliament’s president, three high-profile Saharawi political prisoners call upon the EU to stop fishing in Western Saharan waters. “The only outcome of the fisheries agreement that our people have noticed, is that our voices are suppressed even more”, the letter reads.
“Rabat has also shown very little respect for its geopolitical and economical partner, the European Union, which is known for its persistent advocacy for respect for international law and human rights worldwide”, the letter reads.
The letter’s authors - Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmed Naciri – are three high-profile human rights defenders who have so far spent over 11 months in jail without being tried.
“It is a concern that the European Union allows its image to be tainted by Morocco. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of the 2007 Fisheries Partnership Agreement, where the European Union has been made an accomplice to the illegal theft of the Saharawi people’s natural resources”, the three prisoners wrote to the European Parliament’s president, Mr. Jerzy Buzek.
The EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement is in violation of the Saharawi people’s human rights as a people. Most EU fisheries under the agreement are 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.
“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 also call upon the EU to urge Morocco to either try or release them, in accordance with international legal standards on the rights of detainees. To back up that request, the prisoners have announced to kick-off a 48-hours hunger strike today, Wednesday.
However difficult their own situation might be, the detainees also state that they consider their own illegal imprisonment but a “very small violation compared to the nature and amount of gross violations committed in Western Sahara”.
Ali Salem Tamek, Brahim Dahane and Ahmed Naciri were among a group of 7 high-profile Saharawi human rights activists who were arrested by the Moroccan police on 8 October 2009, upon their arrival from a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria. Accused of “endangering the state’s security”, they were ordered to be remanded in custody. Moroccan authorities have provisionally released the other four activists facing the same accusations, Degja Lachgar, Yahdih Etarrouzi, Rachid Sghaier, and Saleh Lebaihi. Read the prisoners' entire letter here.