Report on the Gdeim Izik Trial, hearings of March 13 and 14

2017 (by Margherita D’Andrea, Fabio Marcelli)

A delegation composed of two Italian democratic lawyers, Margherita
D’Andrea and Fabio Marcelli, participated, as international observers, in the
Gdim Izik trial hearings which were held in the Appeal Court of Rabat on the
13th and 14th of March, 2017. The delegation also represented the
European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights and the
International Association of Democratic Lawyers. The trial is being followed
by a number of international observers coming from France, Spain, Italy,
Denmark, Portugal and other countries.

The facts are well known. In November 2010, a “mass protest camp” in
Gdeim Izik, not far from the capital of occupied Western Sahara, El Aioun, in
which more than 20,000 persons had set up tents, was violently dislodged
by Moroccan security forces. The Moroccan Government claimed that 11
security agents were killed during this operation and proceeded to arrest,
during the following days, 25 Saharoui activists and leaders. These
individuals were subsequently condemned to heavy detention terms by the
Moroccan Military Tribunal in Rabat on the 23rd of February, 2013. Nine of
them received life sentences, 14 received terms between 20 and 30 years,
and two were sentenced to the two years that they had already spent in pre-
trial detention.

The decision was reversed by the Moroccan Supreme Court. In its decision,
concerning in particular the case of one of the sentenced activists, this
Court noted i.a. that the decision of the Military Tribunal “did not contain the
names of the victims”, that no autopsy had been executed on their bodies
and that no causality relationship had been established between the death
of the victims and the activities performed by the plaintiff. Moreover, the
trial by the Military Tribunal was considered null and void because a new
law, establishing the competence of civilian tribunals, had entered into force
in July of 2015.

The Supreme Court ordered the resumption of the trial before the Appeal
Court. It is not clear however, if it is a first instance trial or an appeal and
this lack of clarity affects the rights of the accused. Moreover, the main body
of evidence, as was the case in the trial before the Military Tribunal, consists
of confessions extracted under torture, as ascertained by the UN Committee
against torture, and by a film of obscure origin portraying some of the
presumed killings.

The hearings in which we participated were dedicated to the interrogatories
of some of the accused who squarely rejected the accusations of having
killed security agents and other State personnel, confirming that they had
been subjected to torture and physically coerced into signing their
confessions. Some even asserted that they had not even signed them at all.
One of accused denounced having been raped by some of the soldiers
during their attack on the camp. The interrogation of the witnesses serving
in the police was left to the successive phases of the trial.

Although the Appeal Court is making efforts to uphold fundamental
guarantees, it must be emphasized that, as of yet, the Court has not
acquired medical expertise concerning the alleged acts of torture and that it
has rejected the demands for provisional freedom made by the accused.

It is therefore possible to advance some doubts and perplexities concerning
the effective will and the real possibilities of the Moroccan judicial power to
uphold the fundamental principles of the rule of law. Thus we must still
exercise caution and continue to observe the trial closely, as a means of
maintaining continual and intensified international pressure on the

Given its eminently political nature, the trial is highly important and calls for
the strictest respect of international standards. At the same time, we
reassert the need for a political and peaceful solution to the Western Sahara
issue, through the full and unhampered exercise of the right to self-

Margherita D’Andrea, Fabio Marcelli Rome/Naples March the 21st