Respect the Sahrawi Students sign now

His Excellency, Minister of Justice
Mr. Mohamed Bouzoubвa
Rabat, Morocco
Fax: +212 037-70-23-98

Norway, September, 2007

Open letter to the Moroccan government

Dear Minister,

The undersigned would like to draw your attention to the rights of students from occupied Western Sahara, particularly those in Moroccan jails.

Reports from media, human rights organisations and witnesses on the ground document how Sahrawi students are being systematically harassed and detained for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of speech and assembly.

Once the students enter the jails or are sentenced to long prison terms, their right to an education is not respected. It is, for instance, impossible to study in the over-crowded prison in El Aaiun. Sahrawi human rights organisations regularly report that prison guards in El Aaiun confiscate the prisoners' property. There are no teachers available to carry out the exams, something which makes it technically impossible to study and graduate.

Some Sahrawi prisoners who have wanted to study have therefore been transferred to prisons in Morocco, where prison standards generally are better, and where exams can be practically carried out. This is, however, not the case for all.

Minister, we would particularly draw your attention to the case of the 21 year old imprisoned pupil El Ouali Amidane, who has not been given the possibility to study. Amidane is an active member of the Sahrawi human rights organisation CODESA, and would normally have been attending the secondary school at a private institution in El Aaiun. This is not possible, due to his incarceration. April 17th, Amidane was sentenced to 5 years of jail for having participated in a demonstration.

In June this year, Amidane applied to be transferred to the Ait Melloul prison in Agadir, in order to pursue his studies. The application was sent to the prison administration in El Aaiun, as well as to central authorities in Rabat. Despite the fact that three months have passed, and the school year started in September, his request has still not been granted. Monday 17th of September, Amidane started a hunger strike in protest.

On September 20th, he was transferred to the local jail of Taroudant, Morocco, where it is equally impossible to study.

The undersigned demand that Morocco:
-fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which it is a signatory, and halt the harassment of Sahrawi youths and minors.
-respect the Sahrawi students right to expression, movement, association and assembly.
-take measures to prosecute those responsible for carrying out abuses against Sahrawi students.

Most importantly, the undersigned demand the immediate and unconditional release of El Ouali Amidane, as well as all other Sahrawi political prisoners currently sentenced or temporarily detained.

While awaiting their liberation, the Sahrawi students in Moroccan jails, such as Mr. Amidane, should be granted their legitimate right to study.

Sir, please be assured of our highest consideration and sincere greetings.

Copy sent to:
The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Mohamed Benaissa
Direction de l'administration Pйnitentaire et de la Rйinsertion

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