The brother of Ahmed El Khalil, a kidnapped leading Polisario member, took part in an event to speak about human rights violations in the camps.
On Wednesday, December 18, the Sahara League for Democracy and Human Rights brought together former Polisario members and prisoners who shared their stories of a long list of rights violations against Sahrawis in Tindouf camps. The group met at the Swiss Press Club in Geneva.
Adnane Braih, the brother of a kidnapped Polisario leader, Ahmed El Khalil Braih, also participated in the press conference to speak about his relative’s case.
El Khalil went missing 10 years ago under uncertain circumstances.
Algerian intelligence services along with Polisario members kidnapped El Khalil in 2009, two months after the Polisario had appointed him to monitor human rights in Tindouf camps.
El Khalil’s brother told the press conference that the kidnapping happened just before an investigation “which he was to conduct into the deaths of approximately 160 people, including women and children, in the 1980s and 1990s.”
Adnane Braih said that his family is carrying out an international campaign, urging the Polisario Front to disclose El Khalil’s fate.
Sahara League President Hammada Labaihi, who lived in the Tindouf camps for 40 years, also commented on the allegations of human rights violations in the camps, Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) reported.
He spoke publicly on the “cruelty” and other allegations, including the embezzlement of humanitarian aid destined for Sahrawis in the region.
Amid a shortfall in the funding to supply Sahrawis with aid, several international media warned the UN of embezzlement scandals in the Tindouf camps by Polisario members.
The population in the camps are suffering from malnutrition and related health issues, such as anemia.
“This meeting aims to make the voices of our brothers and sisters kidnapped in the Tindouf camps heard and to expose the degrading practices which the separatist leaders have engaged in against the Sahrawis for decades,” Labaihi said.
The former Polisario member also urged the international community to intervene and end the struggle of the Sahrawis in the camps.
Labahi also recalled that Sahrawis in Tindouf are “deprived of their most basic rights, in particular the right to travel, expression and work in [Algeria] in violation of the United Nations charters and High Commissioner for Refugee procedures.”
Oppression in Polisario-run prisons
The situation in the camps is worse in Polisario-run prisons. Speaking at the press conference, former prisoner Ahmed Kher told of how he spent 14 years in detention before returning to Morocco.
He said that Polisario uses abuse and torture to prevent anyone from opposing its leadership.
He said that the population in Tindouf is kept in the camps “against their will in an open-air prison without any legal document.” He also echoed Labahi’s statement, calling on the international community to stop the “serial violations” of rights.
It is not the first time prisoners and former Polisario members have told their experiences of rights violations in Tindouf.
A group of 126 prisoners in the Polisario-run prison of Al Rachid near Tindouf wrote a letter to condemn the rights violations they are subject to by the executive committee of the Polisario Front.
“We are the victims of the terrible El Rachid prison near the Sahrawi camps in Tindouf, southwestern Algeria. We are the signatories of the letter. Following the horrific [violence] we have been subjected to, we address the Sahrawi, international and regional public opinion and the readers to share our suffering [with you].”
The Sahrawi prisoners also accused leading members of the Polisario Front, including Al Bashir Mustafa Al Sayed, of serious human rights violations.
“We want to expose the crimes we were exposed to in El Rachid prison and to enlighten Sahrawi public opinion. We also want to the [Polisario Front] to uncover the fate of the missing, martyrs, and remains of people [buried] in secret graves,” the victims added.