Washington / Morocco News Board --The “politically charged” trial of the 25 defendants accused of killing of 11 people, including members of the security forces, in the Western Sahara in 2010 went smoothly and efficiently. Aside from complains by the “usual” left wing European organizations and the Algeria backed Western Saharan groups, most independent observers agreed on the fairness and openness of the Moroccan military court of Rabat judicial proceedings.
The 24 defendants in court are accused of “conspiracy and violence against the security forces” during the 2010 demonstrations in which hundreds of Sahrawis set up tents in the Gdeim Izik camp near the Saharan city of Laayoune to protest unemployment. The military court sentenced eight to life in prison, two were let go for time already served, while the rest of the defendants received prison terms ranging from twenty to thirty years.
Most of the defendants were involved in violent acts against members of the security forces. The Moroccan state presented in open court irrefutable evidence of the “barbaric acts’ committed by some of the defendants. Videos showing Polisario trained criminals urinating on the corps of a dead police officer and decapitating bodies supported the state case and undermined pro-Algerian accusations of unfair trial.
The public nature of the trial that was attended by families of the defendants, international human rights organizations, independent observers and pro-Algeria “foreign delegates” underscores the fairness of the judicial proceedings.
While Amnesty International’s concerns over the use of military tribunal to judge some the Gdeim Izik defendants are valid given that some of them were not directly involved in violence, the open and transparent judicial proceedings during the hearings are hard to dispute. In fact, this trial may be a first step toward giving the domestic pro-independence movement in the Sahara a legal status. The presence, inside and outside the courthouse, of domestic Sahrawis advocating for independence of the Sahara was evident and public. While a Moroccan court was sentencing Algeria backed Polisario agents for of killing members of the security forces, local pro-independence activists were freely expressing their views. The Moroccan authorities are making a conspicuous and consciousness distinction between the” separatists of the interior” and the Polisario sympathizers that service the Algerian agenda.
Morocco could be adopting the United Kingdom‘s play book in Northern Ireland. After years of bloodshed, the UK had to accept the legitimacy of the catholic demands minus the republican assertions. It may be time for some of the Sahrawis to create a Saharan Sinn Fein party. Rabat must give a voice to the young local Sahrawis who are advocating for separatism, as many of their grievances are actually social and economic in nature. Creating a democratic, fair and equitable Saharan local government involving different segments of the local population is a key element in Rabat’s efforts to maintain peace, law and order in the Sahara.