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Morocco/Western Sahara: Repatriation of 186 Moroccan prisoners

02-03-2000 News Release 00/07

On 26 February the ICRC repatriated 186 Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front on humanitarian grounds. Escorted by an ICRC team, the men left Tindouf, Algeria, aboard an aircraft chartered by the organization and were handed over to the Moroccan authorities on arrival at the Inezgane military base near Agadir. The ICRC, which had offered its services as a neutral intermediary, acted with the agreement of all the parties concerned.

Before the operation, ICRC delegates had interviewed the prisoners individually to check that they were being repatriated of their own free will. They were all allowed to take their personal effects with them.

The ICRC is pleased to have been able to repatriate these prisoners, most of them sick and elderly. It remains concerned, however, about the plight of the remaining 1,686 Moroccan prisoners, some of whom have been in captivity for 25 years, and trusts that a solution will be found so that they can return to their homes in the near future. ICRC delegates visit them every year and provide them with aid, mainly medical. The ICRC also enables the prisoners to exchange news regularly with their families by means of Red Cross messages.

The ICRC will spare no effort to ensure that the families of persons who remain unaccounted for since the end of the conflict are one day informed of the fate of their relatives.