Rabat – The US State Department has released a human rights report for 2018 providing an overview about how Morocco deals with the travel documents of Sahrawis.
The report recalled Morocco’s efforts to encourage Sahrawis living in the Tindouf camps in Algeria and elsewhere to return to Morocco “if they acknowledged the government’s” sovereignty over its southern provinces.
According to the report, freedom of movement in Morocco is generally respected.
The government, however, limited movement for areas experiencing widespread unrest, said the report.
“The government continued to make travel documents available to Sahrawis, and there were no reported cases of authorities preventing Sahrawis from traveling.
The US State Department also gave an overall summary of the situation in Western Sahara, in southern Morocco, in a separate report.
In the section about freedom of movement, the report said that activists alleged that “Moroccan authorities sometimes restricted access to Western Sahara for foreign visitors, including journalists and human rights defenders.”
Traditionally, the Moroccan government restricts access to the region for visitors “when such visits challenged Morocco’s territorial integrity or were perceived to be a threat to internal security and stability.”
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The government granted access to 13,844 foreigners traveling to Laayoune in the first eight months of 2018.
There are some cases when the government prevented visitors from accessing the region or deported them due to possible threats.
One of the most recent cases was when Morocco expelled two Spanish pro-Polisario activists in Laayoune who claimed that they were there for New Year’s Eve.
Authorities found that the activists were staying at the house of Hassana Alia, who is living in exile in Spain.
The separatist was sentenced to life in prison in absentia by a Rabat military court in 2013 for his involvement in the Gdeim Izik incident.
The incident dates back to 2010 when clashes between Sahrawis and Moroccan police erupted, resulting in the death of 11 Moroccan officers and the injury of 70 others, including four civilians, as well as great property damage.
The report on Morocco’s human rights performance mentioned the Gdeim Izik incident.
The report said that some NGOs believe that the group of 24 Sahrawis convicted for involvement in the killing of the 11 officers are “political prisoners.”
However, Morocco’s he National Council on Human Rights (CNDH) published a report on the 2017 hearings, which said that the convicts had a fair trial as provided in Morocco’s Constitution and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.