For Morocco, such reports are consistent with its own repeated condemnation of Polisario’s mistreatment of refugees who do not subscribe to its agenda.
Rabat – Speaking at a press briefing yesterday, July 18, Mustapha El Khalfi, the spokesperson of the Moroccan government, said that Rabat is pleased with the recent storm of scrutiny and condemnation that the Polisario is facing for its crackdown on dissent.
El Khalfi said that recent reports have highlighted the difference between the predominant narrative in Polisario-friendly circles and the reality of suffering, distress, and restricted freedom in the camps.
For Morocco, the reports are consistent with its own repeated condemnations of Polisario’s mistreatment of refugees who do not subscribe to its separatist agenda.
Morocco has repeatedly maintained over the years that many Sahrawis do not identify with the Polisario’s agenda in the decades-long dispute still going on in Western Sahara.
Reports of the group implacably mistreating dissidents and cracking down on sit-ins are bringing to light the discrepancy between Polisario’s narrative and the reality that many refugees are critical of the front’s agenda, El Khalfi explained.
Of Morocco’s stance on ending the suffering of refugees in Tindouf, he stressed that Morocco was “greatly dismayed by reports of massive human rights violations” in the camps.
El Khalfi’s comments come after Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on the arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of three Sahrawi dissidents.
According to HRW, the three detainees were arrested and jailed without due process for simply voicing their discontent with the Polisario leadership.
Prior to their arrest in June, all three dissidents had shared posts on social media in which they lamented oppression in the camps and demanded that the separatist front be more willing to engage in dialogue to end the Western Sahara stalemate.
In its report, HRW urged Polisario to release the three detainees after failing to provide “credible evidence” showing that “they may be guilty of genuinely criminal acts and not just peacefully criticizing the Polisario.”
Khalifi explained, however, that simply denouncing and condemning them will not be sufficient enough to end the “deeply concerning” situation in Tindouf.
A step in the right direction, according to the Moroccan official, would be for the international community to exert more pressure on the separatist front to make it commit to the ongoing UN-moderated dialogue for a mutually negotiated and lasting political settlement in Western Sahara.
“It is now time to address this conflict that has been going on for far too long,” he said, adding that “Algeria and Polisario should show more willingness to engage” in the UN-led political process.
The mention of Algeria reaffirmed Morocco’s position on Algeria’s full-fledged participation in the conflict.
Over the years, Rabat has maintained that Algeria is the main instigator and the brain behind Polisario’s narrative and agenda. The dispute would not have lasted this long without the North African country’s active support for the separatist front’s actions, El Khalfi suggested.
But alluding to Algeria was also meant to echo Human Rights Watch’s latest report on arbitrary arrests and in the Tindouf camps, which also pointed out that Algiers has a hand behind the Polisario leadership’s every move.
“Algeria cannot subcontract the protection of human rights on its territory and turn a blind eye if the Polisario violates them,” HRW said in its report, as the body called on Algeria to stop supporting the Polisario Front and its grim record on human rights.