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Morocco / Western Sahara: ICRC speaks to men reported missing by the Polisario Front

15-11-2001 News Release 01/45

An ICRC delegate was in Laayoune from 2 to 6 November to meet 24 former Polisario Front fighters for whom tracing requests had been submitted. One of these was seen on 7 November in a place of detention near Casablanca. With the exception of one man who was in Mauritania at the time of the visit (and was represented by his wife), all were able to speak to the ICRC delegate in private and be photographed with him as proof for the families that the cases had been resolved.

The persons concerned agreed to information regarding them being forwarded to the Polisario Front, which had reinitiated the tracing process when 201 Moroccan prisoners were freed on 14 December 2000. A list of 179 missing former Polisario combatants was handed to ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger on that occasion.

After the ICRC delegate’s visit, the fate of over 150 former Polisario Front fighters remains unknown. All were reported missing between 1975 and 1991. In addition, over 800 members of the Moroccan armed forces are still being sought and 1,479 Moroccans captured between 1975 and 1991 are still being held in camps near Tindouf, Algeria.