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Morocco/Western Sahara: 115 Moroccan prisoners released and repatriated

17-01-2002 News Release 02/02

Geneva (ICRC) – On 17 January the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repatriated 115 Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front. Among them was the longest-held Moroccan prisoner, who had been captured in 1975. Escorted 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 115 prisoners, most of whom are sick and elderly. However, it remains concerned about the plight of the 1,362 Moroccans still held captive and calls for the release of all prisoners.

ICRC delegates visit the prisoners twice a year. Their most recent visit took place in December 2001. 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. In December 2000 the ICRC repatriated 201 prisoners released by the Polisario Front.