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Mohamed Khouna Babait


Mohamed Khouna Babait is a human rights defender who was born in 1981. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Appeals Court in Salé in 2017. Mohamed Babait worked at the local administration in Laayoune. After the violent dismantling of the Gdeim Izik camp, Mohamed Babait regularly participated in the demonstrations demanding the release of the prisoners. He continued to participate in the protest marches, despite numerous threats from both his workplace and from the authorities. Mohamed Babait was subsequently arrested on 15 August 2011. At the Appeals Court, he reported that he had been blindfolded and taken to a deserted place near Gdeim Izik, where he was stripped of his clothes and violently tortured. He also denounced the tortures he was subjected to on his way to Agadir, and then to the Salé II prison. He claims to have signed the declarations and confessions under torture, and that he was not present in the Gdeim Izik camp on 8 November 2010.

The issue of the status of Western Sahara remains unresolved, despite ongoing negotiations between the Moroccan authorities and the Polisario Front. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), established in 1991, has been extended but continues to have no human rights monitoring component. The dispute over self determination created deep political and security related tensions throughout the Sahara area and affects all aspects of life, including the work of human rights defenders.

Sahrawi human rights defenders continued to be subjected to intimidation, harassment, questioning, arrest, incommunicado detention, and unfair trials.

The right to freedom of assembly remains severely restricted. Permission to hold public gatherings is often denied and demonstrations dispersed by force. Participants, including human rights defenders, have been beaten, arrested or otherwise intimidated.