Human Rights at The Border

This week, human rights have dominated the news, and a lot of political diplomacy has been exposed as being highly hypocritical.

Hasina Mulai Mehdi

11/11/20224 min read


       Pedro Sánchez used the Sahrawi people as a bargaining tool, but what he determined in exchange for resuming relations with Morocco is still unclear. Nevertheless, migration control is indeed one of the areas of collaboration offered. After the massacre that took place on the border between Nador (Morocco) and Melilla (Spain), the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, praised a Moroccan gendarmerie that had "worked thoroughly" to ensure that migrants' attempts to jump the fence were "fully resolved." While pretending to concentrate on the harm done to state security forces and bodies that "were injured as a result of violent assault organized by human traffickers."

         Additionally, it asserted that "the rejections at the border" were carried out "within the strictest legality," despite the fact that the Ombudsman's preliminary assessment of the incident indicates that 470 people were turned away at the border "without examining the legal provisions, both national and international," that must be taken into consideration in these situations.

        There is still much that must be clarified regarding this border massacre, and all parties, including the government partners, want explanations from Sánchez and Grande-Marlaska in light of well-known news outlets.

           In contrast to this narrative, the continuous denunciations of several deputies and numerous human rights advocacy organisations (including Spanish, Moroccan, and international ones) prompted both the Prosecutor's Office and the Ombudsman (who are still waiting to have a clear image) to launch investigations to elucidate what happened that morning, who intervened, in what way, and where to act. Although the images are clear, the socialist part of the government insists on denying that the deaths have occurred on Spanish territory. Even when confronted with direct questions with proven videos in which Moroccan and Spanish members were seen in the same location, something else also brought the BBC documentary back into focus. They continue to deny it from the Home Office, even though on the recent visit of several Interior Commission at the fence of Melilla members of Melilla's leadership showed the lock they had to open to allow Moroccan police to enter and retrieve more than 400 migrants who had been drowned.

Editorial Note

           As was noted during the meeting with numerous human rights advocates, it is typical to highlight victims by displaying pictures of wounded, dismembered, or dead bodies; nevertheless, the people or organizations accountable for rights violations at Europe's borders are not as sharply singled out. As a result, it is critical to demand and support investigations into what happened to clear up roles and inform civil society about border policies that democratic governments claiming to be "States of Law" (nearly always colonial powers) implement on the orders of third countries doing the dirty work in order to avoid being drenched in accusations and denunciations.


       On November 8, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session was held, which evaluated Morocco's respect for human rights. The reports' findings have placed the Spanish government's new ally in a difficult position, as they rely on cross-border supervision and assume that the Saharawi people's sovereignty is expected to submit to them.

      Nothing has changed significantly since Morocco was last assessed in terms of the Protocols and Covenants supporting the abolition of the death penalty, children's rights, and social, economic, and cultural rights. Indeed, according to David Bolero, Marie Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, notes that "during the last UPR assessment, the mandate of human rights defenders has alerted Morocco 18 times for its ongoing violations."

       Regarding the Sahrawi cause, Morocco was denounced due to the lack of cooperation between them and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which was denied access to the territory to monitor those rights. It is important to recall that MINURSO is the only UN mission that doesn't carry out its monitoring duty while on the ground. Additionally, constraints on the right to free speech, assembly, and association are also noted, focusing on Moroccan forces' disproportionate use of force.

       Despite everything, Morocco continues to receive recommendations from the institutions that show their concern but, at the same time, remain silent about the possibility of imposing sanctions or carrying out actions that could bring fundamental changes in this country. 

Committe Against Torture

  Twelve years after the dismantling of Gdeim Izik, six prisoners and a group of lawyers and NGOs denounce Morocco in front of the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) for the abuse they have suffered since their arrest in 2010. According to Danilo Albin, these groups emphasize that these prisoners were detained "in harsh and terrible conditions," and the Rabat Court of Appeal formally convicted them in 2017 to sentences ranging from 20 years to life in prison based on confessions obtained under torture. 

     Human Rights Watch stated that, a year ago, "the UN Committee against Torture criticized the appeals court's torture investigations for their lateness and for their failure to adhere to the Istanbul Protocol." Something similar occurred in 2022 following the complaint of another prisoner when he determined that "the appeals court did not take into account the allegations of torture when they were convicting him based on his confessions (...), thereby they clearly violated their obligations under Article 15 of the Convention," which prohibits admitting evidence obtained through torture in any proceedings, except as evidence against someone accused of torture.