*By Mahjoub Berch Sbai
While claiming to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawis, the Polisario leadership is starving refugees in Tindouf camps and using international aid for its own dubious agenda.
In 2015, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) exposed a scandal about the selling and stealing of European aid intended for refugees in the Tindouf camps run by the Polisario.
In its report covering the period (2003-2007), OLAF exposed Polisario’s hidden secret. According to OLAF findings, the militia sells EU aid in the Mauritanian and Sub-Saharan markets to buy or barter weapons, amid widespread cases of malnutrition, poor health, and a large shortage of foodstuffs, especially following the flood of 2015.
The European Commission body OLAF revealed in its report that blankets, medicines and construction materials that were intended to help the refugees were not distributed among the beneficiaries and were instead misappropriated by the leadership of the Polisario.
During the global lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions of refugees in the Tindouf camps are only getting worse.
They have been even exacerbated by the military skirmishes carried out by the Polisario from Algerian soil.
Last year, in the aftermath of Morocco’s November 13 operation to foil Polisario’s military maneuvers in Guerguerat, the Polisario leadership declared a state of emergency in the camps. This led to a mass recruitment campaign for all active groups. Hence, refugees are deprived of all activities from which they were earning their livelihood.
After the illness of Polisario leader, Brahim Ghali, Algeria furtively deported him to get treatment in Spain with an Algerian name and identity.
This clandestine move has brought to the fore the issue of humanitarian aid allocated by the United Nations to the refugees in the Tindouf camps. When Sahrawi human rights organizations took note of the presence of the Polisario leader under the pseudonym “Mohamed Ben Battoush,” they moved to prosecute him for committing murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearance against refugees and their families.
Al- Maadla Mint Al-Kori Ould Mohamed Salem is the first human rights activist in Spain to organize a sit-in outside the San Pedro Hospital in Logrono, where “Mohamed Ben Battouche” is being treated.
In a recorded statement, Al- Maadla confirmed that she calls to prosecute the leadership of the Polisario in all their where-abouts because of her father, who was imprisoned and tortured by the leader of the Polisario, Ibrahim Ghali, in 1977.
With a sad tone in her broken voice, she said “the Polisario doesn’t care about my mother’s feelings. They did not even bother to apologize to us, although they deprived us of seeing our father and forbade his children. They did not even bother to talk to me about this, so I could not bear this insult.”
Feeling insulted by the execution of her father and 164 other victims, including 57 people who were killed in cold blood in the horrific Polisario prisons, Al-Maadla Mint Al-Kori founded a human rights association, the Sahrawi Association to Combat Impunity in Tindouf Camps (ASIMCAT), to plead on behalf of victims in all international forums.
She filed, for instance, an immediate complaint to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, against the militia’s leaders.
Due to the planned prosecution of the Polisario Front’s leader in Madrid for his crimes against humanity, this Sahrawi activist receives many death threats against the rest of her family, who are still living in the refugee camps in Rabouni, on Algerian soil.
Al-maadla’s complaint against the ailing Brahim Ghali prompted the Polisario leadership to deprive and exclude her family from food rations and humanitarian aid provided by the World Food Program (WFP).
The tactic of starving human rights activists in Rabouni brings to mind Polisario’s crime of selling aid packages intended for refugees. A human rights defender and former detainee, Bouzid Moulay, stated that the Polisario leadership “uses the aid intended for refugees as fodder for herds of its camels and livestock.” He added: “The Polisario reduces the rations by depriving the families of human rights activists by using their food for fodder or reselling them at very high prices in north Mauritania.”
With the success of the campaign of solidarity with the Al-Kori family in the Tindouf camps and beyond, it is high time for the intervention of the High Commissioner for Refugees, WFP and the HCHR to protect human rights activists and their families from the Polisario, whose criminal behavior has become under the hearing and eyes of international courts.