Western Sahara: Police beating of human rights defender Ms Aminatou Haidar.

Frontline Defenders

On 1 November 2012, human rights defender Ms Aminatou Haidar was physically and verbally attacked and threatened with a knife by Moroccan police in El Ayoun in a four hour long assault that left her car damaged. Aminatou Haidar is a renowned human rights defender and the Chairperson of the Collectif des Défenseurs Sahraouis des Droits de l'Homme – CODESA(Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders). Her human rights work focuses on advocating for the rights of the Sahrawi people and the independence of the Western Sahara.

At the time of the assault, the human rights defender was on her way home after a meeting with the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Western Sahara, Christopher Ross. She was accompanied by her sister and daughter, who were trapped inside the car whilst police officers reportedly threw rocks at the windows. Aminatou Haidar was threatened with a knife, shoved to the ground and beaten.

It is also reported that access to Aminatou Haidar's house was blocked between 5.30 pm and 1 am on the day of the attack. She is currently suffering from physical pain due to the attack, especially pain in her back, ribs and stomach.

Front Line Defenders condemns the violent physical attack, verbal assault and threats against Aminatou Haidar and believes that the attack was solely motivated by her peaceful advocacy in defence of the human rights of the Sahrawi people. An observation mission by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in September 2012, which included Front Line Defenders' Director, confirmed reports of police brutality and state-sponsored violence against human rights defenders in Western Sahara and a pervasive climate of impunity for such abuses.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Western Sahara to:

  1. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the attacks and assault against human rights defender Aminatou Haidar, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. Take all the necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Aminatou Haidar as well as of the members of her family;
  3. Cease targeting all human rights defenders in Western Sahara and guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Western Sahara are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

For actions see http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/20663/action