El Fadel Breica was one of three activists the Polisario Front arrested last year for their involvement in sit-ins to voice anger against the human rights violations in Tindouf camps.
Rabat – The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has highlighted Algeria’s responsibility in the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of El Fadel Breica, an activist arrested last year by the Polisario Front for speaking out against human rights violations in the Tindouf camps.
The UN body found both Algeria and the Polisario Front guilty of torture, detention, and illegal confinement of the activist for more than four months.
Morocco’s state news agency MAP quoted the WGAD statement, which stresses Algeria’s responsibility for the crimes “as long as Fadel Breica was in Tindouf, on Algerian territory and therefore under the territorial jurisdiction of Algeria.”
WGAD stressed that the detention of the activist violated the “peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression.”
The group of UN experts emphasized that Breica was “kidnapped” without an arrest warrant or having been informed of the reasons for his detainment.
“He was not brought before a judge during the four months of his detention and that his right to an effective remedy has also been violated,” the UN group said.
In addition to arbitrary arrest, Breica faced pressure from some Polisario authorities in the Edhabia prison in Tindouf, who released private images of the activist’s wife to the press.
The experts concluded that Breica’s arrest had no legal basis and was arbitrary, denouncing the role of both Polisario and Algeria in the violation of his rights.
The group also asked Algeria to facilitate WGAD’s access to the country for dialogue regarding the matter and called on Algerian authorities to take all necessary measures to open a “thorough and independent investigation into the circumstances of Breica’s arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
They also asked Algerian authorities to hold all individuals involved in the case responsible for the violation of Breica’s rights and to provide compensation for the damages he suffered, in accordance with international law.
The Polisario Front released Breica in November 2019 after his arbitrary imprisonment, along with Oulay Aba Bouzid and Mahmoud Zidane in June of the same year.
The three activists faced charges of treason for condemning human rights violations in Tindouf, “crimes” for which they could have faced severe punishment, including the death penalty.
Polisario’s record of arbitrary arrests
Algeria and the Polisario Front have long faced accusations of arbitrary detention and kidnapping.
The family of Ahmed El Khalil, a former Polisario member who has been missing for over a decade, have been rallying in the Tindouf camps and calling on the separatist group to unveil the fate of their relative.
El Khalil went missing 10 years ago under unknown circumstances. Algerian intelligence services along with Polisario members allegedly kidnapped him in 2009, two months after Polisario had appointed him to monitor human rights in the Tindouf camps.
Polisario came under fire after the arbitrary arrests of three individuals, who were sentenced in June 2020 to 19 years in prison for their alleged cooperation with Morocco.
The Polisario Front also faces backlash for the case of a 70-year-old civilian named Mohammed Salahi who was kidnapped by an armed group of drug traffickers from north Mali and detained by Polisario.
Polisario arrested both Salahi and his kidnappers, but the prison guards at the facility where they were kept arranged the traffickers’ escape to Mali.
Salahi, meanwhile, refused to leave the prison in protest of his arbitrary arrest, and a “military court” then sentenced him to five years in prison. His family has protested his arrest in front of the Polisario’s “presidency” headquarters in Rabouni, Algeria.