Rabat – Morocco’s National Human Rights Council (CNDH) has affirmed the fair conditions of the Gdim Izik trial, in which 23 pro-Polisario defendants were accused of killing 11 Moroccan enforcement officers in 2010.
The victims, members of the Royal Gendarmerie, Auxiliary Forces and Civil Protection were killed while dismantling the Gdim Izik protest camp on the outskirts of Laayoun in Western Sahara on November 8, 2010.
In July 2017, the Criminal Chamber of the Appeal Court in Salé delivered sentences ranging from two years in jail to life imprisonment against the 23 defendants.
The defense team of the victims’ families called the verdict “fair,” saying it “matched the crimes committed.”
On Tuesday, CNDH held a press conference to present its report as an observer of the trial. The conference was chaired by the council’s heads, president Driss El Yazami and secretary general Mohammed Essabaar, along with members of the observing team.
The report recalled that the defendants were granted a retrial at a civil court in July following their conviction in earlier trial in a military court.
The transfer of the case to the Rabat Court of Appeal, CNDH explained, came as a result of the modified military judiciary law in December 2014. With the new law, civilian courts became able to try defendants accused of violence against military officers or members of other security services.
CNDH listed a number of elements that helped the trial go “smoothly,” including the instant translation service into four languages: Arabic, French, Spanish and English. The report pointed out that a translation from Arabic to the local Hassani dialect and vice versa was made available when “needed.”
Throughout the trial, the report noted, the accused were granted seats whenever they wanted and medical examination in the court and in hospital, and were treated with respect despite repeatedly shouting anti-Moroccan slogans while entering and exiting the courtroom.
The council’s report also indicated that the court accepted the defense’s request for a medical examination of the defendants who claimed they were tortured, and it listened to the defendants in eight court hearings, where each of the accused spoke for three hours on average.
During the hearings, the defense presented phone recordings which proved some of the accused travelled to Algeria several times and had direct contacts with members of the Polisario Front.
In its conclusions, CNDH’s report stated that trial was “transparent” and operated under the adequate “legal conditions.”
In October 2017, l’Association de Promotion des Libertés Fondamentales (APLF), a French NGO of lawyers and legal experts, reached a similar conclusion while observing the trial.
“The trial sought to establish facts about the responsibility of each of the defendants,” said the APLF in a report.