Amnesty call for probe into W. Sahara refugee camp raid

11th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International called Thursday on Moroccan authorities to launch an independent probe into a raid on a refugee camp in Western Sahara which left 11 people dead.

Moroccan officials say 10 of those killed were police while the other victim was an employee of the state-run phosphates bureau.

The Polisario Front, which opposes Moroccan rule in Western Sahara, also says 11 people died in Monday's raid to clear 12,000 refugees from the camp, but has indicated that at least some were civilians.

"This was clearly a very serious incident and one that threatens to fuel further tension in Western Sahara," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"The Moroccan authorities must launch an immediate, independent inquiry and get to the bottom of what occurred and consider asking the UN to assist.

"We need to know what sparked the security forces' action and whether the force they used was reasonable and proportionate or excessive. If excessive force was used, those responsible must be held to account."

Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975, but the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario Front wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.

The third round of informal talks between the Polisario Front and Morocco on Western Sahara's future ended Tuesday near New York with both sides only agreeing to meet again in December.

Amnesty said the latest violence "highlights once again the urgent need to include a human rights monitoring component in the Mandate of MINURSO, the UN body which monitors the ceasefire agreement".

"The absence of a specific human rights monitoring component has undermined MINURSO's effectiveness and allowed human rights abuses to pass without adequate investigation," Smart said.

© 2010 AFP

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