Reports conclude that Gdeim Izik trial was unfair

The trial against the Gdeim Izik group was political and unfair, and the confessions of the accused were given under torture, two reports written by international observers conclude.

In July, 23 saharawis from Africa’s last colony Western Sahara were given harsh prison sentences of up to life imprisonment after two trials and nearly seven years in prison. The saharawis are all activists who fight for an independent Western Sahara, in accordance with international law.

They were accused of killing members of the Moroccan occupation army during or after the forceful dismantlement of the Gdeim Izik protest camp in 2010, where over 15.000 saharwis protested against the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

Two international observers describe in detail how the trial against the saharawis was political, marred by torture, and without any compelling evidence against the defendants.

Confessions under torture
Tone Sørfonn Moe, a Norwegian law student, wrote in her report that neither international law nor rule of law was respected at the trial.

According to Moe, the autopsy reports were never presented to the court and the defendants and their lawyers were never told whom they were accused of killing or how the alleged killings were to have taken place.

There were also clear indications that the 23 saharawis had been tortured, Moe says. According to several of the defendants, they were tortured in front of the judge or prison warden and subsequently forced to sign confessions to avoid further torture.

The manner of torture included beatings, sleep deprivation, rape, electric shocks and threats of torture and rape against the families of the defendants.

Lack of evidence
During the trial itself, the prosecutor frequently interrupted both the judge and the defense lawyers and used an array of unreliable witnesses, while the defense was barred from using all of their witnesses, Moe says in her report.

No photographical evidence from the crime scene or evidence that linked the weapons, that were allegedly used to commit the crimes, to the finger prints or DNA of the defendants were presented in court. Indeed the saharawis were only identified by prosecution witnesses six years after the incidents they were accused of had taken place, she adds.

“The court has condemned the accused without sufficient evidence, as there exists no material evidence showing how the detainees allegedly committed the crimes that they were found to have committed,” Tone Sørfonn Moe concludes.

Similar conclusions
Isabel Lourenco, a Portuguese human rights activist, reaches the same conclusions as Moe in her report.

Like Moe, she views the trial as being neither fair nor neutral.

One example she gives of this is that the court translators several times translated “the accused” as “the murderer” and how many saharawis were not allowed to enter the court, simply because they were saharawis.

No jurisdiction
Lourenco also emphasizes that several new witnesses, presented by the prosecutor nearly seven years after Gdeim Izik, were not mentioned in any of the police reports and that the saharawis, after having complained that they had been tortured, were only given a medical examination several years after the torture had taken place.

The examinations lasted between 15 minutes and an hour and included the prisoners being made to stand on one leg. They were conducted by a Moroccan doctor, with prison guards and Moroccan police present throughout. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the doctors concluded that conclusive evidence of torture could not be found, Lourenceo says.

She also stresses that Morocco, as an occupying force, has no territorial jurisdiction in regard to the case and that the saharawis ought to have stood trial in Western Sahara, under Saharawi law, not in Morocco.

Verdict of errors
According to Isabel Lourenco, “this trial cannot be evaluated as a fair trial” and the Gdeim Izik group are “to be regarded as political prisoners.”

One of the accused only received his verdict after the judge had adjourned the court, and the verdict was generally ridden with errors. Additionally, the evidence was inconclusive, as the prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves and each other.

The trial can therefore by no means be seen as fair or just, Lourenco concludes in her report.

One Response to Reports conclude that Gdeim Izik trial was unfair

  1. Pingback: تقارير تخلص إلى أن محكمة أكديم إزيك محاكمة غير عادلة. | المستقبل الصحراوي

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