Western Sahara: Human Rights Violations

Gathering information on the human rights situation in Western Sahara is notoriously difficult. There is a lack of international attention, meaning mainstream news coverage is minimal if not nonexistent. Morocco often blocks outside observers from traveling to the region. And the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly failed to expand the mandate of the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, to include a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism.

In an effort to fill this gap, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights collects and reports human rights violations in Western Sahara on a bi-annual basis, documenting the abuses against the displaced Sahrawi people that the United Nations should monitor and investigate.

The following report pulls together over 70 instances of human rights violations as reported on traditional and social media, as well as from sources on the ground in Western Sahara, between January 1 and June 30, 2015. Most of the abuses are violations of the right to be free from arbitrary arrest, the right to freedom of assembly and expression, and the right to freedom of movement. There are, however, instances of physical mistreatment and torture, landmine injuries, and death while in detention.

What the report makes clear is that those who wish to organize, speak out against the government, or advocate for political objectives face swift and harsh repression by Morocco—with no credible avenue for seeking redress or airing their grievances. The extent and severity of these alleged violations is an undeniable reminder of the vital purpose that a human rights monitoring mechanism would serve.