Activists demand end to illegal confinement of Sahrawi human rights defender

Moroccan authorities have kept prominent Sahrawi activist Mahfouda Lekfir illegally confined in her father’s house after she was released on May 15 following six months of political detention

June 01, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Sahrawi activists Lefkir illegal confinement
Mahfouda Bamba Lefkir has a long history of fighting the Moroccan state’s occupation of Sahrawi land.

Several human rights groups and activists have issued statements demanding that the Moroccan government end the harassment and persecution of human rights activist Mahfouda Bamba Lekfir. The activist has been kept forcefully confined at her father’s house since her release on May 15 following six months of political detention.

According to a statement released by the Sahrawi Collective of Defenders of Human Rights (Codesa), Lekfir has been under house arrest ever since her release, and has been prevented from meeting her comrades and other citizens by the police and army officials.

Lefkir was arrested in November last year when she tried to object to the sentencing of fellow activists, Mohammed Lamine Salik Bechri and Mansour Othman Moussaouli, in the courtroom. She was charged with “assaulting an officer.” Following her arrest, she was allegedly interrogated by the king’s prosecutor in the courtroom itself and later transferred to a local police station where she was further interrogated for several hours by the judicial police. On November 16, she was transferred to the Lakhal prison where she was kept till her release on May 15.  

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch, Sidi Essbai, a member of the Codesa, said that the Moroccan authorities are still confining and monitoring Lefkir. A statement by Codesa said “Units of the auxiliary forces and the Moroccan police remain in civilian and military uniforms stationed there to prevent members of her family and a group of Sahrawi civilians from seeing her.” These forces have also assaulted some of the people who have tried to meet her, including Saeed Al-Mustafa Haddad who is a person with special needs.

After some activists complained about the seizure, the Moroccan authorities claimed that the move was a precautionary measure to prevent any possible spread of COVID-19. According to Sidi, this is a complete lie by the government with the real motive being to harass Lakfir and her comrades.  

The World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) and other groups have also issued solidarity statements and demanded the immediate end of all forms of harassment by authorities against Lekfir and other human rights activists.   

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a partially recognized state on the western coast of Africa and was an erstwhile Spanish colony of Western Sahara. While the Polisario Front-led war of independence finally forced Spain out of the country, it was only after the Front signed a peace deal with Mauritania that it was able to create a state in the eastern parts of Western Sahara in 1979. The western part of this region is currently under the territorial control of Morocco. However, the people of the Moroccan-controlled areas of Sahrawi continue to struggle for the liberation of their territory.

Lefkir has a long history of fighting against the Moroccan state’s occupation of Sahrawi land. She is a member of the Akdim Izik Collective, a group formed in 2017 with the objective of defending persecuted political activists, and also a member of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH).