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.
None of the Sahara’s human rights groups is legally registered. Human rights groups are generally viewed by the authorities as supporters of self-determination or “separatists”. Some of these groups have tried to register but with no success.