Official recounted Moroccan war crimes in Western Sahara

Moroccan official recounts war crimes in Western Sahara: Ould Rachid reveals violations committed by Army Officers against Sahrawi civilians “There are several persons […], that is three or four army officers who committed what could be called war crimes against prisoners outside off the battlefield” and “many civilians who were thrown into the desert from helicopters or buried alive,” simply because they were Sahrawis.

The one breaking the taboo confirming that several Moroccan officers have committed serious war crimes in Western Sahara is not a known leader of the Polisario Front nor a Sahrawi pro-independence militant. The one who accuses high officers of the Royal Moroccan Army is Khalihenna Ould Rachid, the current president of CORCAS (the Royal Consultative Council for Saharan Affairs).

Ould Rachid is a famous pro-Moroccan Sahrawi who has many times been minister in the governments of [Moroccan] King Hassan II and has been one of the negotiators in the recent discussions with Polisario in Manhasset in the USA.

Ould Rachid did not make these declarations publicly but behind closed doors, during meetings of the Instance of Equity and Reconciliation (IER), an organization created by [Moroccan] King Mohammed VI to clarify the grave human rights violations perpetrated during the reign of Hassan II [1961-1999].

His testimony, recorded and transcribed in 2005, was not to be made public, but the Casablanca -based newspaper Al-Jarida Al-Oula has decided to publish them in their entirety, and announcing at the same time that it possesses other recordings in the same vein from high level Moroccan figures who testified in front of the same body.

Following these serious accusations, which concern a delicate subject in Morocco (the Western Sahara conflict) not normally discussed by the regime, the President of the [Moroccan] Consultative Council of Human Rights, an official body, was dispatched to block Al-Jarida Al-Oula from publishing these documents, not to refute them.

In effect, the publication of these documents in Morocco comes at a bad time. Since March 2007, Spain’s highest judicial body has asked judge Baltasar Garzón to inquire into accusations of “international crimes” committed by “32 Moroccan leaders and officers” in Western Sahara since 1975.

These accusations are the subject of a complaint deposited on 14 September 2006 before the highest Spanish court by several Spanish human rights associations, who estimate that 542 Western Saharans have disappeared since 1975.

Garzón has decided to ask Moroccan judicial authorities if these events have been investigated or if there are penal procedures under-way against the accused persons. But for the moment he has not received anything.

In Rabat, it is feared that many of the persons mentioned in the Spanish complaint, including many still occupying positions in the Moroccan army, have been named by Ould Rachid. For his part, Ali Anouzla, the Director of Al-Jarida Al-Oula, has announced that his newspaper will continue to publish the transcripts.

El Mundo 17 Juni 2008 – Ali Lmrabet

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