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Morocco / Western Sahara - New visit to Moroccans held by Polisario Front

06-06-2002 News Release 02/23

A team of ICRC delegates, including a medical doctor, a dentist and an ophthalmologist, carried out a visit from 15 to 28May to Moroccan prisoners held by the Polisario Front.

A team of ICRC delegates, including a medical doctor, a dentist and an ophthalmologist, carried out a visit from 15 to 28May to Moroccan prisoners held by the Polisario Front. The delegates also had technical discussions with Polisario Front representatives regarding combatants from the Front who disappeared in the course of the Western Sahara conflict.

To see the Moroccan prisoners, the delegates went to five detention centres near Tindouf, Algeria, where they talked privately with 768of the 1,361 prisoners, 32 of them civilians. They were informed of the death of a prisoner, which had occurred since the ICRC had last visited them.

The purpose of the visit was to assess the general conditions of captivity for these men and to gauge the effect on their mental health of detention which, for 916of them, has now lasted more than 20years. The ICRC endeavours to maintain contact between the prisoners and their families through Red Cross messages. During its most recent visit, the delegates delivered 1,179 messages to the prisoners and collected 2,058 from them.

The ophthalmologist carried out nine operations, two of them on Sahrawi refugees. He delivered 80 pairs of glasses and conducted vision tests which determined that a further 45 pairs were needed. The dentist fitted 17prisoners with dentures. In addition, 188 kg of medical supplies were provided.

The ICRC is more concerned than ever at the exceedingly long captivity of these men. Given the prisoners'age and health, and the length and conditions of their captivity, as well as the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, the ICRC renews its appeal for all prisoners to be release d without delay, beginning with the weakest and most elderly.