Sister of imprisoned HR laureate spoke out against EU fisheries
"On the behalf of Brahim, myself and all the Saharawis I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Sweden for their opposition to the EU Fisheries Agreement" stated Aicha Dahane, upon accepting the Swedish Per Anger Human Rights Award, Monday, on behalf of her brother. Brahim Dahane is in Moroccan prison awaiting military trial for having visited his countrymen in the Sahrawi refugee camps.
"The position of the Swedish Government was highly appreciated by the Sahrawis when they voted against the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara fishing grounds.", stated Aicha Dahane on 16th November 2009 award ceremony in Stockholm.
Her brother, human rights activist Brahim Dahane, has since 8th of October been in a Moroccan prison, waiting for a military trial. He is charged with treason, for having visited his Sahrawi countrymen in exile. Dahane is the president of the Sahrawi human rights organisation ASVDH.
Dahane is an outspoken opponent of the EU-Moroccan fisheries agreement. Before he was imprisoned, he was selected as the winner of the prominent Swedish human rights award. His sister, living as a refugee in Scotland, accepted the award on his behalf.
"I urge the Swedes to work to convince other states to get similar position. And we urge the European Commission to put an immediate stop to the granting of all licenses to EU vessels fishing in Western Saharan waters, and we demand that no further EU fisheries operations take place in Western Sahara until a peaceful solution to the conflict has been found by respecting the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination over their land and their resources", stated Dahane.
Below is the full speech that Aicha Dahane gave on behalf of her imprisoned brother.
First of all thank you so much for your invitation to address you on behalf of my brother.
My name is Aicha Dahane. I am the sister of Brahim Dahane president of the Saharawi Association of victims of human rights abuses committed by Morocco. On his behalf and on the behalf of all the members of his association ADVSH, and the Sahrawi people, I would like to thank the Swedish section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) for nominating Brahim for the Per Anger prize. And to thank Living History Forum for awarding the prize to Brahim and to Mrs. Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth, Swedish Minister of culture for her presence in the ceremony. For us this prize is a powerful symbol of human rights and democracy, the democracy which Brahim has fought and strived to achieve for many years.
Through several interviews with the Moroccan and foreign media Brahim was the first person who talks from inside Morocco a bout the self-determination for the saharawis and considers Polisario their legitimate representative.
Brahim is extremely honoured to have been selected for this prestigious award.
Whilst I am very happy to be here today to accept this award, the fact that I am here and Brahim is not is very sad. Brahim could not be with us today. Rather than being here to accept this award he is sitting in a prison cell in Sale. Brahim was arrested in morocco with other prominent six human rights activists five weeks ago. His ‘crime’ was to visit refugee camps in the Algerian desert where 165,000 Saharawi’s have been forced to live. For visiting the refugee camps he and the other human rights defenders stand accused of undermining the security of the Moroccan state, including attacking its “territorial integrity”. They are due to be tried by a military court and could face long jail terms or even the death penalty.
The arrest of Brahim and the other six (Ahmed Alansari, , Yahdih Ettarouzi, Ali Salem Tamek, Saleh Labihi, Dakja Lashgar, and Rachid Sghir) has been condemned by human rights groups around the world, including Amnesty International. It comes at a time of an increased crack down on all peace activists in occupied WS culminating last week in the detention and later expulsion of Aminatou Haidar, recent recipient of the civil courage award 2009. I would like to recall that Aminatou Haidar went into a hunger strike last night at lanzarote airport, requesting the Spanish authorities to allow her to go back to Western Sahara.
The timing of this latest attack on human rights activists seems to be timed to undermine the prospects of any success in the planned UN-sponsored negotiations aimed at resolving this long-running dispute. By arresting respected campaigners like Brahim Dahane and Aminatou Haidar the Moroccans are sending a clear message to the world and they are destroying the “atmosphere of mutual respect” described by UN Special Envoy Christopher Ross, at an informal meeting of the two parties to the negotiations in Austria in August.
This is such a difficult time for me and my family, Brahim for me is not just a brother - I have a good and special relationship with him. We are both responsible for the family and we have been through a lot of difficulties in life which we have overcome by supporting each other. He is my brother, my best friend he is every thing in my life.
However this award has come at the correct time, as it recognizes this great man’s efforts and achievements and contradicts all the false charges to which he has been imprisoned unfairly for.
Indeed, this is not the first time Brahim has been in prison, On the 20 November 1987, when a visit of a technical United Nations Mission to Western Sahara was announced, Brahim Dahane and his compatriots planned to demonstrate in the streets claiming for the independence of Western Sahara. As a result of that, he was kidnapped and was a victim of Enforced disappearance within a group of more than 100 other Sahrawi citizens till 1991. I did not know where he was for four years. We were so happy when he was released.
But he carried on working hard for the Saharawi Association of victims of human rights abuses. He has been constantly watched by the Moroccan authorities. He had been arrested on the night of October 30, 2005 by secret service members while taking part in an unprompted gathering in front of the family house of Mr. Hamdi Lembarki, who had been beaten to death by Moroccan police that night. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Dahane was providing information relating to the death of Mr. Lembarki to the Spanish news agency EFE over the phone. He spent six months in prison.
The Moroccan authorities have not provided a formal reason for his arrest and "disappearance", but we believed that he was targeted for peacefully demanding the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination. Although the United Nations is present it has failed to implement a peaceful solution to the conflict. Morocco continues to deny the Saharawi rights and acts with impunity.
The human rights situation in occupied Western Sahara is grave. There are many reports of awful abuse including arbitrary arrest, disappearance, false imprisonment, unfair trials and torture – such as burning, blindfolding for extended periods, suspension in contorted positions and rape, prevented from travelling. Since the intifada or uprising by Saharawi started in 2005 the situation has escalated, and getting even worse since the arrest of Brahim and his group on 8th of October as the Saharawi human rights activists continued to be the subject of intimidation by the security forces. There are about 43 saharawi political prisoners that we know of right now in Moroccans prisons and many hundreds of disappeared
On behalf of Brahim and all the Sahrawis we urge the international community to put pressure on Moroccan authorities to release all the political prisoners and to take existing method to ensure that the rights of all Sahrawis to freedom of expression, association and assembly are fully respected and that Sahrawi human rights defenders, in particular, can collect and disseminate information and views on human rights issues without fear of prosecution, harassment or threats.
This prize will inspire my brother and I hope help draw attention to the plight of the Saharawi people. We need more international pressure to bring the situation to an end.
I support the international call for human rights monitors to be present in Western Sahara to ensure human rights are challenged. The international community has failed to deliver a referendum of self-determination – it should not fail to act to protect my brother and all Saharawi from human rights abuse. As President of the Saharawi Association of victims of human rights abuses committed by morocco my brother stood up for international law. It is now time for international law to protect him. The UN should monitor human rights abuse in Western Sahara and ensure Morocco can no longer act with impunity. The international community must fulfil its obligations to enforce international law.
On the behalf of Brahim, myself and all the Saharawis I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Sweden for their opposition to the EU Fisheries Agreement that allows Morocco to grant licenses to EU based fishing boats to operate in disputed waters off the Western Sahara. The position of the Swedish Government was highly appreciated by the Sahrawis when they voted against the illegal exploitation of Western Sahara fishing grounds.
I urge the Swedes to work to convince other states to get similar position. And we urge the European Commission to put an immediate stop to the granting of all licenses to EU vessels fishing in Western Saharan waters, and we demand that no further EU fisheries operations take place in Western Sahara until a peaceful solution to the conflict has been found by respecting the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination over their land and their resources.
The prize is gratefully received as a symbol of freedom and I am hopeful that one day you will all be able to visit Brahim and myself in our own country where human rights are respected. I look forward to being able to invite you to my home to meet Brahim in my own country to recognise your contribution to human rights.
The EU considers to pay Morocco to fish in occupied Western Sahara. An EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement from 2013 would be both politically controversial and in violation of international law.
The international Fish Elsewhere! campaign demands the EU to avoid such unethical operations, and go fishing somewhere else. No fishing in Western Sahara should take place until the conflict is solved.