Throughout 2016, Adala UK recorded 85 cases of arbitrary expulsion of international observers (including human rights defenders and journalists) from Western Sahara by Morocco. They were accused of ‘disturbing public order’ for their attempts to observe the situation regarding human rights.
On 21 January 2017, the Moroccan authorities expelled a group of Norwegian activists from the city of Smara in the south of Western Sahara. The group were planning to meet with civil socity groups and human rights NGOs in the city. The group were detained by the police who confiscated their passports. They were questioned before being put in a car headed for Agadir, 600km from Western Sahara.
Those expelled, Mari Fjordheim Fjermedal, Eva Benedikte Skogli and Jor Hjulstad Tvedt, are part of a youth delegation of a Norwegian political party and Marthe Jaeger Tangen, a young activist, is part of a Norwegian human rights organisation. Many Saharawis, including human rights activists, protested in support of the group and tried to prevent their expulsion.
On 21 January, two Norwegian activitsts were removed by the police from the house of a Saharawi activist, Fatimatou, in El Aaiún, where they were attempting to conduct an interview
Moroccan intelligence agents, led by the regional police chief, surrounded the house in the Dwirat neighbourhood. They confiscated the passports of the two Norwegian activists, Sofie Brunvoll and Peder Østring, having attacked the car in which they were travelling.
The decision to expell the activists from the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara suggests that the Moroccan authorities have something to hide and is a flagrant attempt to impede the legitimate investigation into allegations of human rights abuses and to silence criticism of the situation in which the Saharawis are living.
Morocco considers any such monitoring of human rights in Western Sahara is meddling in their internal affairs and as such has adopted a closed door policy when it comes to international observers attempting to investigate in the Occupied Territories of Western Sahara.
Adala UK takes this opportunity to remind Morocco of its duty to guarantee the law when it comes to promoting and defending human rights. They must defend this law and protect all people who stand up to protect human rights, regardless of their country of origin.