Moroccan Journalist Remains Detained

Mohamed Al-Bambary Remains Arbitrarily Detained For Coverage of Morocco’s Protest Response in Western Sahara

In 2011, Saharawi media activist and human rights defender Mohamed Al-Bambary documented the disturbing violence of Moroccan security forces after peaceful protests turned ugly in the disputed African territory of Western Sahara. Four years later, Mohamed was arbitrarily detained for his “participation” in the protests and charged with, among other crimes, forming a criminal gang, partaking in a fatal brawl, and participating in a murder.

While detained, Mohamed was tortured and forced to sign a false confession he never read. At a trial during which he was not permitted to speak, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Although his original sentence was reduced to six years on appeal, Mohamed remains arbitrarily detained to this day. Most of his time has been spent in solitary confinement after he attempted to tell his family about a beating at the hands of prison guards, and his health continues to deteriorate after a series of hunger strikes.

Why is This a Key Case?

While Mohamed’s work for Equipe Media—a rare independent media outlet in Western Sahara—was critical of the response of the Moroccan government, he was an observer in the protests, not a participant. The charges against Mohamed and his forced “confession” are designed to silence his dissent and that of other media in Western Sahara. And Mohamed is not alone—other journalists have been arbitrarily detained by Moroccan authorities for their coverage of their abuses against the population in Western Sahara.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Mohamed Al-Bambary’s Case?

After his final appeal was denied in December 2016, RFK Human Rights and partner organization Freedom Now filed a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Mohamed’s behalf in March 2017.

What is the Status of the Case?

The Working Group issued a positive decision on June 29, 2018, stating that Mohamed has been arbitrarily detained, that his due process rights were violated, and that Morocco should release him immediately and grant him reparations. Despite that decision, Mohamed remains in prison. RFK Human Rights continues to advocate for his release.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Mohamed Al-Bambary, Citizen of Western Sahara v. Government of the Kingdom of Morocco

Month/Year of filing

March 2017

Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Rights and legal instruments found to have been violated

  • Mohamed’s arrest and detention were found to constitute an arbitrary deprivation of his liberty under Category II, Category III, and Category V as established by the Working Group, for violating Articles 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 (1), 19 and 20 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and Articles 2 (1), 9, 14, 19, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Procedural stage

UNWGAD issued a positive decision on June 29, 2018, which was notified to the petitioners on July 3, 2018. Al-Bambary remains in prison. RFKHR sent an update to the UNWGAD on April 16, 2020.

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