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Morocco/Western Sahara: 100 Moroccan prisoners released and repatriated

24-02-2004 News Release 04/13

Geneva (ICRC) - Today, 100 Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front were repatriated under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The release came following mediation by Qatar.

Accompanied by an ICRC team, the prisoners left Tindouf, Algeria, aboard an aircraft provided by Qatar 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.

The ICRC welcomes the release of the 100 prisoners. The organization nevertheless remains concerned about the plight of the 514 Moroccans still being held captive and reiterates its call for their release, in conformity with the provisions of international humanitarian law.

ICRC delegates visit the prisoners twice a year. The purpose of these visits, the latest of which took place between 2 and 16 December 2003, is to assess conditions of detention and developments in the prisoners'physical and psychological health.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel.: +41 22 730 29 30  

 Mohamed Ben Ahmed, ICRC Tunis, tel. + 216 71 960 179