Moroccan authorities organize local elections and ensure that leaders of the Sahrawi independence movement are excluded from both local leadership and representation in the Moroccan parliament.
Morocco’s constitution guarantees press freedom but, in practice, little exists in Western Sahara. Although there were fewer reported instances of government interference with press access to Western Sahara in 2006, Moroccan authorities continue to exercise control over who enters and reports on the region. The restrictions are particularly evident when there are local riots or demonstrations against Moroccan rule. Moroccan and international reporters are subject to expulsion or detention if the government objects to their work or they enter the region without permission. [...]
Moroccan officials restrict the ability of Sahrawis to form political organizations or assemble in public places. Demonstrations and riots are a regular occurrence in Western Sahara’s towns and villages, and Moroccan authorities often arrest those involved. In October 2006, the Moroccan government disbanded the Groupements Urbains de la Surete (GUS), a security force formed in 2004 that was accused of human rights violations during riots and demonstrations in Laayoune in 2005. The force’s 5,000 members would be reassigned to other security units. [...]
Particularly during the 1961–99 reign of Morocco’s King Hassan II, the current king’s father, Sahrawis who opposed the regime were summarily detained, killed, tortured, and “disappeared.” While thousands of Moroccan dissidents suffered under Hassan’s rule, Sahrawis who defied him faced even harsher scrutiny. While the political situation is different today, Sahrawis who oppose Morocco’s sovereignty are still detained, and torture has not ceased under King Muhammad.
International human rights groups have for decades criticized the behavior of Moroccan authorities in Western Sahara. A September 2006 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was highly critical of Morocco’s record in the territory. The report was intended to be distributed only to Algeria, Morocco, and the Polisario, but was leaked to the press in October. Morocco’s Equity and Reconciliation Commission, founded in 2004 to examine government abuses under Hassan, did not hold scheduled public hearings in Western Sahara. Few Sahrawis had the opportunity to testify publicly before the commission.
[correction: a slight misunderstanding here. the
countries at the crossroads reports mentioned
in the next post are new, but the quote here comes
from freedom in the world, issued earlier this year]