Amnesty asks Morocco to investigate “attacks” against activists

Amnesty International has urged Morocco to investigate allegations that security forces assaulted female activists in the country, two of whom claim to have been sexually assaulted.

The rights group alleged that Moroccan police and plainclothes agents beat the women with sticks and punched and kicked them. [Getty]

Human rights group Amnesty International on Friday urged Moroccan authorities to urgently investigate allegations that security forces last month assaulted five female activists who support the independence of disputed Western Sahara.

Two of the women said they had been sexually assaulted, Amnesty said.

The rights group alleged that Moroccan police and plainclothes agents beat the women with sticks and punched and kicked them, which left one of them with broken bones. .

The five activists “were targeted after their participation in peaceful demonstrations for Sahrawi self-determination”, Amnesty said in a statement.

The protests took place on April 15 and 16 in Boujdour, Western Sahara, and women were reportedly targeted in separate incidents.

The conflict in Western Sahara – a territory that has rich Atlantic fishing waters and access to West African markets – has pitted Morocco against the Polisario Front, a Sahrawi independence movement, for decades.

“Five weeks after these appalling attacks, the Moroccan authorities have still not lifted a finger to investigate,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amna Guellai.

The women had publicly expressed their support for fellow independence activist Sultana Khaya, who has been under house arrest with her family since November 2020.

Amnesty has also alleged that Khaya has suffered numerous abuses from Moroccan security forces since then, including rape.

“We urge the Moroccan authorities to end the harassment and violence against Sahrawi activists, and to launch immediate and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture” by Moroccan security forces, Guellai said.

There was no immediate comment from the Moroccan authorities.

Western Sahara is 80% controlled by Morocco but considered a “non-autonomous territory” by the UN.

Spain, a colonial power, withdrew in 1975 but the Polisario waged a long armed struggle for Morocco’s independence before agreeing to a ceasefire in 1991 on the promise of a referendum on the independence that never materialized.