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Moroccan forces violently suppress Sahrawi protests

(ANHRI/IFEX) - 6 November 2012 - ANHRI condemns the use of excessive force by the Moroccan police force to suppress the demonstrations that erupted in the Laayoune, Dakhla and Smara areas in the Western Sahara region of Morocco on 1 November 2012. Demonstrators were calling for the independence of the Western Sahara region.

Morocco's security officers were out in force. Police officers and the army were present to quell the demonstrations using batons and knives against the citizens. Those weapons were also used to threaten protesters that were detained, as well as to force shops and cafes to shut down. Stones were thrown at cars and citizens. Police officers raided the homes of several Sahrawi citizens and attacked protesters gathered in hospitals, resulting in the death of many of those wounded and injured.

The city of Dakhla has witnessed a similar situation before, which led to the arrest of several protesters on 3 November 2012 after Moroccan police violently suppressed a demonstration, wounding dozens in the process.

In the latest demonstration, Moroccan forces attacked several Sahrawi activists, including Aminatou Haidar, who was kicked and beaten with batons. While in her car, a stone was thrown through her window, breaking the glass and bruising her lower back. The police forces then moved towards her home which they violently and brutally raided.

Another activist, Sakina Gad Ohlo, was beaten to the point of losing consciousness. Hamia el Salama, a 17-year-old Sahrawi citizen from Laayoune, was kidnapped, arrested, and beaten up. He was also threatened with rape, and then driven to a deserted area and left there.

"The attack on the peaceful demonstrations and wounded activists is a blatant violation of the freedom of opinion and expression. Suppression has become the only method used by the Moroccan authorities to address the peaceful demonstrations. The security forces' use of excessive violence to abuse and arrest demonstrators is an attempt to restrain the popular movement which is taking place in the country. Such acts are clear in the Western Sahara region which is witnessing widespread protests that call for the right to self-determination," said ANHRI.

ANHRI calls on the Moroccan government to enforce the law and open an immediate investigation regarding these attacks and to hold those who were involved in the attack accountable by bringing them to justice.

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