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Morocco / Western Sahara: 100 Moroccan prisoners repatriated

26-02-2003 News Release 03/10

Geneva (ICRC) – On 26 February, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repatriated 100 Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front.

Accompanied by an ICRC team, the prisoners left Tindouf, Algeria, aboard an aircraft chartered by the organization and were handed over to the Moroccan authorities at the Inezgane military base, near Agadir. Before the operation, ICRC delegates had interviewed the prisoners individually to make sure that they were being repatriated of their own free will. All the prisoners were allowed to take their personal effects with them.

The ICRC welcomes the release of the prisoners, most of whom are elderly and sick. The organization nevertheless remains concerned about the plight of the 1,160 Moroccans still being held captive and reiterates its call for their release, in conformity with the provisions of international humanitarian law. The matter is all the more pressing given the age and poor health of the remaining prisoners, some of whom have been deprived of their freedom for more than 20 years. On 7 July 2002, 101 Moroccan prisoners were released under ICRC auspices.

ICRC delegates visit prisoners held by the Polisario Front twice a year. Their most recent visit took place in   December 2002. The delegates provide the prisoners with medical aid in particular and enable them to exchange news with their families by means of Red Cross messages.

 Further information: Nada Doumani, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 79 244 64 14