”When we left our hotel, we discovered that we were being followed by a small army of Moroccan security officers. They obviously did not want the truth about the occupation of Western Sahara to be revealed,” says Danish MEP Søren Søndergaard.
He has just spent four days in both Morocco and the Moroccan-occupied territories in Western Sahara together with Danish MP Christian Juhl and two representatives from Danish NGO, Africa Contact. Here the group met with representatives from Moroccan opposition parties and Saharawi human rights groups.
The delegation and the Saharawi representatives, amongst other things, discussed the implications of the proposal for a new fisheries agreement between the European Union and Morocco which the European Commission is trying to finalize, despite it being both in violation of international law and against the interests and wishes of the Saharawi population.
According to Søndergaard, the show of power by the security forces is meant to discourage Saharawis in the occupied territories from communicating and corresponding with foreigners on such matters.
The Danish delegation can count themselves lucky for only being stalked by the Moroccan police. Spanish MEP, Willy Meyer, was roughed up and sent home up by Moroccan police last year after having tried to enter the occupied territories on a similar mission.
And Saharawi’s who criticise the occupation of their country are treated much worse than this, says Søren Søndergaard.
“The Moroccan authorities are trying to cover up the fact that they are trying to change the demographical set-up of Western Sahara by suppressing and intimidating its population through disappearances, torture and beatings.”
Christian Juhl concurs. “The conditions in Western Sahara are unacceptable. The Saharawis are harassed by the Moroccan government which is responsible for severe human rights violations against the former. It is important that Western countries pressurize Morocco to ensure a referendum on the status of Western Sahara and independence for Western Sahara.”
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
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