In line with Executive Council Decision EX.CL/Dec. 689 (XX) of the African Union requesting the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) to undertake a mission to the Occupied Territory of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with a view to investigating human rights violations therein, a delegation of the Commission undertook a fact finding mission to SADR from 24 – 28 September 2012.
The delegation comprised of:
- Commissioner Dupe Atoki, Chairperson of the Commission and Chairperson of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa, head of delegation;
- Commissioner Mohamed Bechir Khalfallah, Commissioner responsible for monitoring human rights in SADR and Chairperson of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
- Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders;
- Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women and Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa;
- Commissioner Maya Sahli-Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons;
- Commissioner Med Kaggwa, Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention.
The delegation was unable to visit the Occupied Territory due to the silence of the Kingdom of Morocco to the Commission’s request for passage to the Occupied Territory. For this reason, and with the cooperation of the SADR Government, the delegation only visited the Refugee Camps near Tindouf, part of the Liberated Territory and also met with some stakeholders in Algiers, Algeria.
During the Mission, the delegation was received by the President of SADR, H.E Mohammed Abdelaziz. The delegation also had constructive discussions with members of the SADR Government including the following:
- The Honorable Ministers of Justice; Education; Health; Interior; Culture; Public Service and Women Promotion
- The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and other judicial authorities
- The SADR Ambassador to Algeria
- The Governors of the Wilayas of Smara and Boudjour.
The delegation further met with the Director of the Sahrawi Referendum Commission, families of disappeared persons and victims of bombings and land mines, the National Union of Sahrawi Women, members of civil society, UN and other Humanitarian agencies operating in the Camps. The Delegation also met with the population of the Wilaya of Smara and visited the Women’s house, hospital, nursery and school for handicapped Children in the Wilaya as well as the Moroccan Wall.
A detailed report of the Mission will be submitted to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in January 2013. In the meantime, the delegation notes with concern the protracted human rights and humanitarian crisis faced by the Sahrawi people which has persisted for almost four decades.
The delegation regrets the numerous human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, infringements on freedom of speech, press and association, discrimination etc. brought to its attention, and allegedly committed by the authorities of the Kingdom of Morocco against the Sahrawi people living in the Occupied Territory.
The delegation appreciates the resilience, determination and courage of the Sahrawi people to work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The delegation extends its appreciation to the authorities of the SADR for their hospitality, cooperation and full transparency throughout the mission as well as to all stakeholders with whom it met during the mission both in Algiers and the Refugee Camps.
Done at Tindouf, 28 September 2012