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RFK Center Condemns Brutal Attack of Human Rights Defender’s Children in Western Sahara

(2012-07-10) The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) expresses deep concern for the welfare and safety of the children of human rights defender Aminatou Haidar, who were beaten by unidentified assailants on July 8. The RFK Center demands a full investigation into this unlawful assault of minors and will continue to stand with Ms. Haidar in her peaceful efforts to protect the rights of the Sahrawi people living under Moroccan occupation in Western Sahara.

Hayat, 17, and Mohamed, 13, were physically attacked while riding a bus from Agadir, Morocco to El Aiun, Western Sahara. According to reports, once it was learned that Hayat and Mohamed were the children of Ms. Haidar, Moroccan passengers began yelling racial taunts and eventually became violent. Both children sustained wounds consistent with extensive head injuries including bloody noses, swollen eyes, bruises, and blurred vision.

"Moroccan authorities have an obligation to protect Sahrawi people under their jurisdiction and to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for these actions," said Santiago Canton, Director of the RFK Partners for Human Rights. "Morocco must also take all necessary measures, including passing legislation and implementing public policies, to stop violence against Sahrawi children."

Sunday's attack is part of a larger pattern of abuses against Sahrawi children, which have been provoked by racist media coverage. Last year, Mohamed was harassed by Moroccan police, who threatened to rape him. Mohamed was among dozens of children who were arbitrarily detained, were subjected to inhumane treatment, or were tortured by Moroccan security forces. The Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) filed claims on behalf of many of the children before the Moroccan National Human Rights Council. To date, there has been no investigation into any of the incidents.

Background:

Western Sahara, also known as "Africa’s Last Colony," is a territory occupied by the Moroccan government.

The human rights of the native people of Western Sahara – the Sahrawi – are persistently violated, and those who advocate for self-determination are denied their freedom of assembly.

Ms. Haidar, also known as the "Sahrawi Gandhi," is the 2008 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate and President of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). As a result of her non-violent human rights advocacy, she has been threatened, harassed, beaten, tortured, and even expelled from Morocco. However, this incident marks the first time that her children have been physically harmed.

For more information, go to: http://rfkcenter.org/aminatou-haidar

Contact:
Cate Urban, Communications
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