Morocco/Western Sahara: Moroccan prisoners released and repatriated
01-09-2003 News Release 03/62
Geneva/Tunis (ICRC) – On 1 September, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) repatriated 243 Moroccan prisoners released by the Polisario Front. They included 13 officers, one of whom had been in captivity for 28 years, together with 14 civilians.
ICRC delegates, including two doctors, spoke to each prisoner in private to establish that he was returning of his own free will. They also provided medical care throughout the operation. The prisoners left Tindouf (Algeria) on an ICRC-chartered aircraft and were handed over to the Moroccan authorities at the Inezgane military base, near Agadir.
Since January 2000, the ICRC has repatriated 946 Moroccan prisoners. Currently, 914 others are still deprived of their freedom, and over half of them have been held for more than 20 years. Pending their repatriation, the ICRC is continuing to visit them and to provide them with medical care. The organization is also maintaining contact between the prisoners and their families, delivering Red Cross messages between prisoners and their families, delivering parcels from the families and visiting them in Morocco.
The ICRC is concerned about the deteriorating health of those still in captivity and once again appeals for their immediate release, in accordance with international humanitarian law.See also an eyewitness account
Photos of this repatriation operation will be available from the ICRC Press Service (Florian Westphal) from the afternoon of 2 September.
Mohamed Ben Ahmed, ICRC Tunis, tel. ++216 71 960 179
Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, tel. ++41 22 730 29 30