Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Western Sahara – Critical health of Mr Mbarek Daoudi who is on hunger strike after a year in pre-trial detention

10 December 2014

9 December 2014 marked the sixth week of hunger strike for Sahrawi human rights defender Mr Mbarek Daoudi which he began on 1 November 2014 in protest of his lengthy pre-trial detention and the conditions of his detention. Moroccan police arrested Mbarek Daoudi ِand three of his sons on 28 September 2013, after raiding his house in the city of Guelmim in southern Morocco. Since then, he has been in pre-trialdetention, facing military court for “possessing weapons”. He is currently detained in Salé prison and is in very poor health.

On 1 November 2014, the human rights defender started a hunger strike in protest against abuse and negligence by prison officials, as well as the delay in scheduling his trial. Mbarek Daoudi's health is rapidly deteriorating. He is reportedly unable to walk or talk and has difficulty opening his eyes. He started vomiting blood on 21 November. He is detained in an overcrowded cell with over 20 prisoners.

Mbarek Daoudi is a Sahrawi human rights defender and father of five. He served in the Moroccan Army for more than 30 years and retired in 2008. He has advocated for the right to self determination for the Sahrawipeople since his retirement. At the time of the uprising in Gdeim Izik in October and November 2010, Mbarek Daoudi mobilised families in his home region and encouraged them to join the protest camp thatconsisted of nearly 7,000 tents and was later dismantelled by the Moroccan authorities.

Mbarek Daoudi was initially arrested on 28 September 2013, after the Moroccan police raided his house on El Kharchi Street, in the centre of Guelmim, and arrested him alongside his three sons, including one who was just 17 years old. The four of them were then handcuffed and moved to an undisclosed location. Reportedly, the house of Mbarek Daoudi’s father in Legsabi, 10km from the centre of Guelmim, was also raided, where police officers found a weapon from the war against the French in 1936 that belonged to his great-grandfather. Later on, the possession of this firearm was declared as the official reason for Mbarek Daoudi's arrest. Both houses were searched without a warrant.

On Friday, 29 November 2013, Mbarek Daoudi appeared before the General Crown Prosecutor at the Permanent Court of the Royal Armed Forces in Rabat, although his trial session was originally scheduled for 30 January 2014. Reportedly, Mbarek Daoudi's lawyer was not present and the court appointed a different lawyer to provide legal assistance. In his court session on 30 January, the original date scheduledfor his initial court appearance, the trial of the human rights defender was indefinitely postponed by the Moroccan military court in Rabat. He appeared before the court in the absence of his family, international observers and Sahrawi defenders of human rights. A group of observers and lawyers from Spain and France arrived the day before to attend the trial, but they were prevented from accessing the court room.

In a separate incident, on 19 August 2013, the Guelmim Commission Court in southern Morocco issued sentences ranging from four to ten months in prison against six Sahrawi prisoners, including another two of Mbarek Daoudi's sons. They were arrested after a football match for raising the Sahrawi flag, chanting slogans, demanding the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and leading to clashes between security forces and young Sahrawis. On the day of their trial, Mbarak Dawdi's house was surrounded by police officers in civilian clothing because of a meeting he had attended with foreign observers and Sahrawi human rights activists in the capital city of the formerly Spanish colony, El Aaiun. The international observers were also prevented from attending the trial.

Mbarek Daoudi's arrest is believed to be related to his advocacy for the right to self determination of the Sahrawi people, his regular participation in peaceful demonstrations and the fact that he had testified as a witness to the execution of a family in February 1976, whose bodies were discovered in the mass grave of Amgala in June 2013.

Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned at Mbarek Daoudi's deteriorating state of health and at the allegations of mistreatment and believes that his arrest and detention are solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights, and his advocacy for the right to self-determination in Western Sahara.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Morocco to:
  • Immediately and unconditionally release Mbarek Daoudi;
  • Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the human rights defender, in particular grant him access to medical attention;
  • Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Western Sahara are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.