On 24 October last year, a 14-year-old Sahrawi boy, Al Nagem Al Qarhi, was shot dead at a Moroccan army control post in the Western Sahara.
In spite of the political negotiations held under the aegis of the United Nations, the Western Sahara has been the subject of a bitter dispute between Morocco, which annexed it in 1975, and the Polisario Front, which calls for its independence and runs a self-declared government in exile in refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.
In October 2010, thousands of inhabitants of the Western Sahara left their homes and set up a camp in the desert around ten kilometres outside the town of Laayoune to protest against their economic marginalization by the Moroccan government.
According to his family, Al Nagem Al Qarhi was shot at point-blank range by the Moroccan armed forces and fatally wounded by a bullet in the kidney while sitting with six others in a car which was bringing supplies to the protestors’ camp.
According to Sadiya, the young victim’s sister, the other passengers were wounded by the shots and then beaten by Moroccan policemen. The wounded were brought to a military hospital near Laayoune and their relatives found them handcuffed to their beds when they came to visit the following morning. Al Nagem was buried the following evening by the Moroccan authorities, who refused to allow his mother, brothers and sisters to see the body and even to tell them where the child was buried.
ACAT has no comment to make on the political status of the Western Sahara. We merely call for an inquiry to be opened into the death of the young boy and for the rights of the Sahrawi people to assemble and demonstrate peacefully to be respected.