The French lawyer said that the absence of a clear, legal framework to govern the Tindouf camps is an “exceptional, unprecedented” violation of international law.
Algeria’s decision to delegate the management of the Tindouf camps to the Polisario Front, a “criminal, military, mafia” organization, violates international law, said Hubert Seillan, a lawyer at the Paris Appeals Court.
A state actor cannot delegate sovereignty to a non-state actor, even less so to a military one, said the expert in a video uploaded May 21 debuting the “Sahara Debate” program on the “Sahara Question” YouTube channel.
Seillan, who is also the president of the France-Morocco Foundation for Sustainable Development, added that the absence of a clear legal framework governing the status of the Tindouf populations is an “exceptional, unprecedented” case in international law.
The UN Human Rights Committee reviewed Algeria’s fourth report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in July 2018, and expressed its “concerns over the de facto devolution of Algeria’s power to Polisario.”
Algeria’s delegation of sovereignty to Polisario is a verifiable fact, said Seillan, as the Algerian army and the Polisario Front cordon off the camps, thus restricting access and exit.
Taking the delegation of sovereignty to the extreme, Algeria went so far as to leave the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region to Polisario, an armed militia that has neither the legal authority nor the technical capacity to take on such a responsibility, stressed the French lawyer.
Sources within the camp explained that Algeria’s delegation of control to Polisario amid the pandemic prompted a state of “panic and despair.” They said this reflects the Sahrawi refugees’ “distrust of the polisario leaders and their suffering, which is worsening with the spread of the pandemic,” according to an April 23 statement from the Global Africa Latina Foundation.
Seillan also raised questions regarding the unknown whereabouts of Ahmed Khalil, a former Polisario leader who Seillan represents as a lawyer. Algeria arrested Khalil in 2009 and he has not been seen since. The expert underlined Algeria’s responsibility in his disappearance.
Seillan further warned of the “gravity of human rights violations in the Tindouf camps,” referring to the latest report of UN Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres, of October 2019.
The report reveals that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) received information regarding the harassment, arrest, arbitrary detention, and ill-treatment inflicted on a human rights defender and a blogger involved in the documentation of human rights violations in the region. They were arrested in June 2019.
In reaction to Algeria exploiting the issue of the Gdeim Izik common law prisoners, who were arrested in November 2010, Seillan, who was an international observer to their trial, declared the proceedings “exemplary.” He said the court sentenced the prisoners to perfectly equitable prison terms given the nature of their crimes.
Charges had included “forming criminal gangs and violence against public forces that led to their death with premeditation, the mutilation of corpses, and complicity.”
Having visited their detention facilities himself, Seillan also testified that the conditions of their incarceration conform with international standards.
Seillan’s “Sahara Debate” video follows the May 2 release of newly declassified US documents regarding the Clinton administration’s involvement in the Western Sahara question. A 1999 document revealed that the US had proposed Morocco abandon pursuing a referendum in Western Sahara.