Separatists slam Morocco ‘repression’ of protesters

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The Polisario Front on Friday slammed Morocco’s “systematic repression” of separatist protesters in the disputed Western Sahara and urged the U.N. to apply a new resolution calling for greater efforts on human rights.

“The Sahrawi government vigorously denounces the systematic repression of peaceful Sahrawi protests in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara... and calls on the Security Council to ensure the application of its latest resolution,” the pro-independence group said in a statement.

On April 25, the Security Council passed Resolution 2099 extending the Western Sahara peacekeeping mission for another year and urged Morocco and the Polisario Front to pursue efforts to promote human rights in Western Sahara.

The vote came after a bid by the United States to task the U.N. mission with rights monitoring was dropped.

The Polisario said the resolution was “violated by the Moroccan coloniser less than 24 hours after its adoption,” and denounced the “brutal treatment inflicted on around 40 Sahrawi protesters by the Moroccan police” in Laayoune on April 26.

Speaking from Laayoune, Western Sahara’s main city, an Amnesty International representative said at least 30 protesters were wounded when the pro-independence demonstration turned violent.

Sirine Rached told AFP the police had used “excessive force” to disperse the protesters who had been marching peacefully in the city center.

Morocco said the recent “events” in Laayoune had left 70 people wounded, among them members of the security forces.

During the protests “there were violations, including blocking a public road, aggression towards members of the security forces and the use of petrol bombs, causing damage to public and private property,” said a police statement cited by official Moroccan media.

Morocco occupied the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 in a move never recognised by the international community, and has proposed broad autonomy under Moroccan sovereignty for the phosphate-rich region.

But this is rejected by Polisario Front rebels, who took up arms to fight for an independent state until the United Nations negotiated a ceasefire in 1991, and who insist on the Sahrawis’ right to a U.N.-monitored referendum on self-determination.