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CODESA is a collective of Sahrawi human rights defenders. It was created in 2002, but the Moroccan authorities prevented CODESA's constituent congress from being held in 2007. On 25 September 2020, the constituent congress was finally held in Laayoune, Western Sahara. It has been working for years to promote the right to self-determination in the territory of Western Sahara under Moroccan control, in the cities of southern Morocco where there is a high concentration of Sahrawi people, and in Moroccan universities where Sahrawi students pursue their higher education. At the same time, it aims to inform the international community about the human rights violations against the Sahrawi civilian population have been suffering, since the forced annexation of the non-autonomous territory of Western Sahara on 31 October 1975.

In response to the February 2011 pro-reform protests in Morocco, inspired by sister movements in Egypt and Tunisia, King Mohammed VI promised reform, including the “strengthening of human rights in all their dimensions, political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, and developmental”. The new constitution, which was voted in by the country’s electorate in July 2011, prohibited torture and ill treatment, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, guaranteed greater equality for women and introduced other positive legal reforms.


While these developments have been positive, difficulties remain for human rights defenders. Journalists and media workers critical of the government face harassment and arrest in some instances, and the country's press law includes prison terms for “maliciously” spreading “false information”. There are reports of torture and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in detention and activists held have been incommunicado.