The Right Livelihood Foundation strongly condemns the online smear campaign that Moroccan media have been conducting against 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate Aminatou Haidar and her fellow human rights activists, as well as the opening of a judicial investigation in response to the recent establishment of the Sahrawi Organ against Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM), a new organisation created in El-Ayoun and led by Haidar.
On September 20, 2020, alarmed by the deterioration of the human rights situation in Western Sahara, Haidar announced the establishment of the new organisation ISACOM, with the aim of, among others, “committing to defend the Sahrawi people’s rights to freedom, independence and dignity through legitimate non-violent means.”
In the days following the announcement, Moroccan media and social media sites have launched a smear campaign against Haidar and the other founding members of the organisation, claiming that they are establishing a separatist body that poses a serious threat to social peace, and, in some cases, inciting violence against them and calling for their detention.
Articles published in the Moroccan press claimed that the Right Livelihood Foundation has been requested by Spanish lawyers and members of the international human rights community to withdraw the Right Livelihood Award, bestowed on Haidar last year. Others argue that the open letter recently sent by 22 Right Livelihood Laureates to the UN Secretary General denouncing the human rights situation in Western Sahara is the result of a manipulation by Haidar, who convinced them to be “at the service of the Polisario Front.” We firmly deny these accusations, as well as any intention to withdraw the Award bestowed on Haidar or having been requested to do so.
On September 29, the Moroccan Prosecutor’s Office in El-Ayoun opened a judicial investigation against ISACOM on the basis that it “threatens national integrity” and that the constitutive congress of this new independence NGO is “a clear incitement to commit acts contrary to the Penal Code.” It also announced that “adequate” measures will be taken to preserve public order, as well as “legal sanctions” appropriate to the crime of attacking the territorial integrity of Morocco.
“This is not the first time efforts have been made to undermine Haidar’s peaceful human rights work: it is consistent with a long line of actions by Moroccan authorities to repress Sahrawi civil society,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation. “We strongly condemn the decision to open an investigation against members of the new organisation, which is in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association. More than ever, we stand in solidarity with Haidar and her fellow Sahrawi activists in their struggle for self-determination and respect for the fundamental rights of their people.”
2019 Right Livelihood Laureate Aminatou Haidar has been campaigning for over 30 years for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people and the respect of their fundamental rights. Her activism has taken place within the context of the illegal occupation of the territory of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco. During her peaceful activism, she has been a victim of enforced disappearance, she was detained without charges, beaten and tortured by the Moroccan authorities. Despite the enormous psychological and physical suffering to which she has been subjected, she has continued to tirelessly fight for justice and the rights of her people.
Haidar received the Right Livelihood Award in 2019 “for her steadfast non-violent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. (Sumoud)