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WESTERN SAHARA

Spanish judge indicts 11 Moroccan military leaders for genocide

Offenses relate to 50 assassinations and 202 kidnappings after Spain left Western Sahara

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The burial in November 2014 of eight Sahrawis who were assassinated in 1976 and were exhumed from mass graves by a Spanish team.

Spanish High Court judge Pablo Ruz has indicted 11 military leaders from Morocco for genocide offenses allegedly committed in Western Sahara after Spain abandoned its former colony there in 1976. In a 40-page writ, the magistrate states that it is a “fact” that from that year until 1992 there was “a systematic attack against the Sahrawi civil population on the part of the Moroccan military and police forces.”

Ruz, who is shortly to be relieved in his role by another magistrate, details at least 50 cases of assassination and another 202 of illegal arrest relating to Sahrawi citizens who had identity cards and passports issued by Spain.

Sahrawis were tortured in a number of official detention centers located both in Western Sahara and Morocco”

He says the attacks against the civilian population took place independently of whether or not the victims formed part of the Polisario Front, the guerrilla group that fought against the Moroccan kingdom for independence until 1991. The judge writes in his writ of “bombings against camps containing the civil population, forced displacements of the civil population, assassinations, arrests and the forced disappearances of persons, all of whom were of Sahrawi origin.”

Ruz argues that the objective of these hostile actions was the “total or partial destruction of the said group of the population and the takeover of the Western Saharan territory.”

As well as the detentions, the magistrate writes, “there were prolonged imprisonments without trial, some lasting many years,” as well as “the torture of Sahrawis by military staff and Moroccan police in a number of official detention centers located both in Western Sahara and Morocco.”

Ruz writes that these actions were “driven” by the top brass among the Moroccan military forces.

A family member of one of the victims shows a Spanish identity card located among the human remains in one of the mass graves.
A family member of one of the victims shows a Spanish identity card located among the human remains in one of the mass graves.

Given that many victims in these cases had Spanish nationality, the genocide charges will not be affected by the Spanish government’s reforms to the universal justice laws, which were put in place in March 2013. The legislation has put an end to a number of court cases relating to human rights offenses committed outside of Spain that were being investigated by the Spanish High Court.

The probe into genocide in Western Sahara began in 2007 after a court case was filed by the Association of Families of Sahrawi Prisoners and the Disappeared against 32 people.