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Treatment of Prisoners in Edhibia Prison in Tindouf Camps Violates International Law

The investigation into the treatment of prisoners has drawn attention to serious human rights violations in the prison, including the use of torture.

Rabat – The release of a condemnatory report on the inhumane conditions in the Edhibia prison in the Tindouf camps reflects the growing concern from Sahwaris about the situation in the camps and the failures of the Polisario leadership.

On September 3, pro-Polisario news outlet Futuro Sahara published a “special investigation, ” criticizing serious human rights violations in the Edhibia prison.

The report, entitled , “has the al-Edhibia prison become one of the worst prisons in North Africa?” narrowed its focus to condemning the situation of Sahrawi detainees in the prison. Currently, 58 Sahrawi detainees are being held in the Edhibia prison.

The prison has only seven cells and so the 58 prisoners currently incarcerated far exceed its capacity. The report explained that the overpopulation of the jail is in direct contravention of the international standards that Polisario pledged to respect.

“The institution belonging to the ‘Sahrawi state’  for many years has been out of the spotlight,” the report said.

The seven cells, according to Futuro Sahara, have become overcrowded as some of them cannot accommodate more than six people.

“It is one of the dirtiest and ugliest prisons in the region compared to prisons in Mauritania and Algeria, without comparison with Moroccan prisons,” said the condemnatory report.

The publication added that the Polisario leadership has forgotten that Edhibia jail is a “prison institution that is supposed to comply with international standards that respect the freedom of prisoners and provide them with some basic rights.”

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The investigation also condemns the sudden searches that prisoners are subject to three times a week.

Isolation and torture

The report also drew attention to the use of torture and solitary confinement. “A minor mistake can lead a prisoner to an isolated cell, abuse, physical torture from the gendarmerie. If ever one dies in the prison [ due to torture] there is nothing easier than making it seem like a suicide.”

Prisoners are “prevented from going out to the prison recreation space to enjoy the sun. They are also prevented from having sports activities,” reported Futuro Sahara.

Prisoners are forbidden from talking to each other, according to the investigative report. They are also kept from contact with the outside world and current affairs.

“It is strange to find an educated young man not aware of the word ‘Khashoggi,’” referring to the case of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“For example, one of them [prisoners] still believes that the Mauritanian president is still Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.”

“The isolation of inmates in Edhabia prison contravenes international laws.”

The investigation warned that oppression might have negative effects on the mental health of prisoners.

“The aim of the world’s prison institutions is to reform rather than increasing the number of mentally disturbed people in society.”

Silencing protesters

Polisario ‘authorities’ are currently holding three Sahwari activists who have no been in prison for more than 74 days. The activists were arrested for taking part in peaceful protests to condemn inhumane conditions and human rights violations in the Tindouf camps.

The families of the activists have been protesting the arbitrary arrest of the three activists and have called on Polisario leader, Ibrahim Ghali, to release the activists and explain the charges against them. 

This is not the first time that the Polisario Front faces accusations for violations in the camps. Throughout the year, the family of Ahmed El Khalil has been condemning the Polisario Front for its silence on the forced disappearance of their relative who has now been missing for more than 10 years.