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Morocco/Western Sahara: Visit to Moroccan prisoners held by the Polisario Front

13-05-1998 News Release 98/19

From 26 April to 2 May five ICRC delegates, including a doctor, visited 649 of the 1,800 Moroccan prisoners being held by the Polisario Front in the Tindouf region of Algeria and 84 prisoners who had been freed in April 1997 and are now awaiting repatriation. All the prisoners seen were given the opportunity to send Red Cross messages and photos to their families.

At the end of the visit, the ICRC regional delegate met a high-ranking member of the Polisario Front to discuss the prisoners'health and the logistical problems involved in their repatriation. The Polisario Front agreed to let the ICRC repatriate those whose condition was considered serious by the ICRC doctor. No date has been set for the simultaneous release of all the prisoners provided for under the UN settlement plan. 

The ICRC is highly concerned about the welfare of these men, most of whom have been held in captivity for more than 15 years, and is eager for a solution to be found that will enable both the prisoners and Sahrawi refugees to return home without delay. As for missing combatants, the ICRC is ready to do everything in its power to help the parties elucidate their fate.