Update: the appeal hearing was postponed to January 23, 2017
On December 26, the appeal hearing of the Saharawi political prisoners of Gdeim Izik, initiated by the Moroccan courts, will begin. 24 Sahrawi activists and human rights activists arrested, tortured and sentenced for alleged involvement in the Gdeim Izik protest camp in 2010, a spectacular collective mobilization to protest against the economic and social discriminations which Sahraouis consider are imposed on them by the Morrocan governement.
On February 16, 2013, the 24 accused were sentenced by a military court to very heavy sentences following an unfair trial. The judges refused to hear witnesses called by the defence, or to order a forensic examination of the allegations of torture, and did not mention the names of Moroccan security forces supposedly killed by the accused.
Beyond the serious violations of human rights already suffered by the prisoners of Gdeim Izik, their trial today is characterized by many violations of international humanitarian law.
Western Sahara is considered by the United Nations to be a non-self-governing territory occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco since 1975. This occupation is illegal, as Morocco is not recognized by the United Nations as the administering Power.
International humanitarian law should therefore apply to Western Sahara, as in the case of Palestine. The 24 Sahrawis convicted in the Gdeim Izik trial are protected persons within the meaning of Article 4 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and should as such receive the protections provided by international humanitarian law.
In flagrant contradiction with international law and numerous resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council of the United Nations, the Kingdom of Morocco refuses to recognize the status of Non-Self-Governing Territory for Western Sahara.
Consequently, Morocco rejects the application of international humanitarian law in this territory, although Morroco is a Party to the Geneva Conventions. Any reference to the Moroccan occupation exposes the person responsible to prosecution and retaliation, which may in practice lead to torture.
The political prisoners of Gdeim Izik who will be retried by the Court of Appeal of Rabat claim the respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention. We, the lawyers for the accused, recall that international humanitarian law imposes, as a minimum:
- the divestment of the Court of Appeal of Rabat in favour of a tribunal situated in the occupied territory
- their immediate transfer to a prison in the occupied territory
- an independent and serious investigation into torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention
In a repressive context hostile to any challenge to the occupation, Moroccan lawyers for the accused cannot demand the application of international humanitarian law as their clients would like. That is why, at the request of the detainees, we constitute an international collective for their defence, to carry out the legitimate demands of our clients and ensure that they have a fair trial this time.
The rights of the defence and the freedom of speech of lawyers are a cornerstone of democratic regimes. We hope that these rights will be respected during the trial of Gdeim Izik.
- Véronique van der Plancke, Belgium
- Oscar Abalde Cantero, Spain
- Nicolás Alonso Moreda, Spain
- Alberto Justo Angoitia López, Spain
- Andrea Bartomeu Navarro, Spain
- María Dolores Bollo Arocena, Spain
- Juan Ramón Crespo Aguilar, Spain
- Iñigo Fernández-Rivera Becerro, Spain
- Merche Garayalde, Spain
- Eleuteria García García, Spain
- Ander Gutiérrez-Solana Journoud, Spain
- Iñigo Iruretagoiena Agirrezabalaga, Spain
- Javier Ruiz García, Spain
- Julio Sánchez González, Spain
- Imanol Sáenz Mendizabal, Spain
- Aida Garazi Arraibi Larrea, Spain
- María Elena Crespo Arce, Spain
- Xabier Etxebarria Zarrabeitia, Spain
- Katlyn Thomas, United States
- Olfa Ouled, France
- Ingrid Metton, France
- Joseph Breham, France
- Anis Harabi, France
- Dominique Tricaud, France
- Matteo Bonaglia, France
- Emmanuel Daoud, France
- Benjamin Pitcho, France
- Richard Sedillot, France
- Christophe Pettiti, France
- Tewfik Bouzenoune, France
- Marie Roch, France
- Aline Chanu, France
- Roland Weyl, France
- Pascale Taelman, France
- Oumayma Selmi, France
- Francesca Doria, Italy
- Luca Saltalamacchia, Italy
- Roxane Sheybani, Switzerland
- Olivier Peter, avocat, Switzerland
- Stéphanie Motz, Switzerland
- Carlo Sommaruga, Switzerland
- Philippe Currat, Switzerland
- Raphaël Jakob, Switzerland