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Western Sahara: forgotten conflict, forgotten prisoners

08-05-1996 News Release 96/18

Four delegates and a doctor from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited 540 Moroccan prisoners, out of approximately 1,900 still held by the Polisario Front, in the Tindouf region from 26 to 29 April last. It was the first of a series of three visits planned for 1996 to see all these men, most of whom fell into enemy hands between 1978 and 1982 and have thus spent over fifteen years in captivity.

During the visit the prisoners were able to write Red Cross messages, which will be handed over to their families. A programme for the distribution of parcels sent by the prisoners'families was set up eighteen months ago. Since then the ICRC has delivered about a thousand such parcels.

The ICRC Delegate General for the Middle East and North Africa, who headed last month's mission, met high-ranking officials from the Polisario Front to look into the possibility of settling all humanitarian issues resulting from the Western Sahara conflict. The ICRC remains at the disposal of the two parties to oversee the repatriation as soon as possible of all prisoners held in connection with that conflict.