Written answers

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Department of Foreign Affairs

Human Rights Issues

8:00 pm

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)
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Question 769: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the recent arrest of human rights activists in Morocco who are being held without charge; his views on same; if this matter has been discussed at international level, at the European Union or United Nations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38258/09]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am aware of the arrest of seven Saharawi human rights activists in Casablanca, Morocco, on 8 October this year. I understand that Moroccan police arrested the group at Casablanca Airport, on their return from a visit to the Saharawi refugee camps in South Western Algeria. While the Moroccan police authorities have confirmed the arrest, there are no further official details on the group's whereabouts or their current situation. However, unofficially, we understand that they continue to be held and that they may face serious charges, including treason. Unfortunately, prior to their return, the group's visit to the camps had been highlighted and strongly condemned in the Moroccan press, which has accused the group of treason.

Through our embassy in Lisbon, which is accredited to Morocco, we have been in contact with our EU partners on the ground in Rabat, who have been in discussions with the Moroccan authorities about the case. The embassy will continue to monitor the situation of the group and remain in contact with our EU partners on the ground. I understand that the President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), has expressed his concerns for the safety of these seven Saharawi detainees directly to the President of the United Nations Security Council and that he has also written to the President of the European Council.

The plight of the people of Western Sahara remains an issue of great concern to the Irish government and to the international community. I spoke on this issue and about the grave humanitarian aspects of frozen conflicts at the Ethical Development Action Conference in Cork in April. We would wish to see that human rights activists in Western Sahara and in Morocco enjoy freedom of movement and expression and that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, in accordance with international law. We will continue to follow this matter and to raise the importance of human rights protection with the Moroccan authorities at every available opportunity.

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