I’ve been hoping to write a post about the kidnapping of 3 foreigners from the reception centre at Rabuni, in the Sahrawi refugee camps, where I’ve spent many happy days on the way to and from the Free Zone for fieldwork. However, time is short. Thankfully, Malainin Lakhal has written about it here in Pambazuka. This story has been squeezed dry for its propaganda value by Morocco and its apologists, and it’s fair to say that only party to benefit from this sorry affair is Morocco. This in itself raises some questions about who is behind it – it doesn’t take a genius or a conspiracy theorist to conclude that Rabat and its allies may have had a hand in the kidnappings, although the whole affair remains very murky.
On 26 November, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a detailed report of the violence following the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik camp by Moroccan security forces, near El Aaiun. The report was limited in its scope to the events that followed the closure of the camp, rather than the events that led to this point, or any wider contextual issues. HRW conducted interviews in Western Sahara from 12-16 November, having gained access to the territory after initially being refused access (twice). It appears that the Moroccan authorities were trying to calm things down during this period, for example by offering compensation to people whose houses were looted and/or damaged by Moroccan settlers in collusion with security forces. However, the report details a litany of abuse, and there is still little in the way of news coming from El Aaiun. The HRW report provides the most detailed and comprehensive account of the violence that followed the dismantling of the camp that is currently available (and credible).
In other developments, the European Parliament issued a pretty strong response to the situation, in the form of a resolution and associated press release, expressing its “greatest concern about the significant deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara”. The Parliament ” ‘strongly condemns’ the violent events of 8 November, when a still unknown number of people were killed during a raid by Moroccan security forces aimed at dismantling the protest camp of Gdaim Izik, in the outskirts of Laâyoune.”
Significantly, MEPs noted that while “the Moroccan parliament has set up a committee of enquiry, MEPs believe that the United Nations is the most appropriate body to launch an international and independent investigation on the events, deaths and disappearances.” So the EU is pushing for a UN investigation where the UN Security Council refused to do so.
The European Parliament also stated that it “deplores the attacks on press freedom, which have affected many European journalists, and calls on Morocco to allow free access and free movement in the Western Sahara for the press, independent observers and humanitarian organisations.”
Quite strong stuff for the EU, and it also raises questions about the future of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, which is mentioned explicitly in the text of the resoution (see also WSRW here).