Country Report on Human Rights Practices

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Morocco claims the Western Sahara territory and administers Moroccan law
through Moroccan institutions in the estimated 85 percent of the territory it
controls . However , the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and
Rio de Oro (Polisario), an organization that has sought independence for the
formerly Spanish territory since 1973, dispute s Morocco ‘s claim to sovereignty
over the territory . The population of th e territory was approximately 491 ,000, an
estimated 100,000 of whom were attributable to Moroccan in -migration . The
majority of Western Sahara ‘s population is Sahrawi (literally “people of the desert”
in Arabic) Sahrawis also live in the south of internationally recognized Morocco,
in Algeria, and in Mauritania.

The Moroccan government sent troops and settlers into the northern two provinces
after Spain withdrew in 1975 , and extended its administration to the third province
after Mauritania renoun ced its claim in 1979 . Moroccan and Polisario forces
fought intermittently from 1975 until a 1991 ceasefire and the deployment of a UN
peacekeeping contingent, the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara
(MINURSO), whose mandate does not include huma n rights monitoring . In the
late 1980s, Morocco constructed a 1,250 -mile stone and sand wall known as the
“berm” that marks the effective limit of its administrative control.

In 1988 Morocco and the Polisario agreed to settle the sovereignty dispute by
re ferendum . The parties did not resolve disagreements over voter eligibility and
which options for self -determination (integration, independence, or something in
between) should be on the ballot; consequently, a referendum never took place.

There have been several attempts to broker a solution . In 2007 the first face -to -face
negotiations between representatives of the Moroccan government and the
Polisario began under UN auspices . Morocco proposed autonomy for the territory
within the kingdom; the Polisario p roposed a referendum in which full
independence would be an option . After four meetings in 2007 and 2008 produced
little progress, both sides participated in informal meetings in August 2009, and
during the year from February 10 to 11, from November 8 to 9, and from
December 16 to 18 under the auspices of Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary
General for Western Sahara , Christopher Ross . Neither the November nor the
December meetings yielded significant progress toward a permanent solution to
the conflict.

On April 30, t he UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1920 , extending
MINURSO ‘s mandate until April 30, 2011 . The resolution also called on member
states to consider voluntary contributions to confidence building measures carried
out under the UN High Comm issioner for Refugees intended to allow increased
contact between family members separated by the dispute .

Morocco considers the part of the territory that it administers to be an integral part
of the kingdom with the same laws and structures conditioning the exercise of civil
liberties and political rights . Accordingly, ultimate authority rests with King
Mohammed VI, and human rights conditions in the territory tended to converge
with those in the kingdom.

There were reports that government security officials committed arbitrary or
unlawful killings . There were unconfirmed reports of politically motivated
disappearances .

On October 10, 173 Saharawis set up approximately 40 tents outside of Laayoune
in an area known as Agdem Izik to protest the government ‘s lack of response to
poor social and economic conditions in the territory . The camp grew quickly , and
by late October, according to most government and credible NGO estimates, as
many as 16 ,000 persons liv ed in or spent signific ant time in the camp . On October
21, a delegation led by three regional walis , or regional governors, began
negotiations with the organizers of the tent settlement to address the organizers ‘
social and economic concerns , including housing conditions and em ployment . In
order to control the growing number of individuals moving in and out of the
community, authorities buil t a sand wall around the site and placed security
checkpoints around the perimeter.

On October 24, security forces shot and killed 14 -year -old Al -Nagem Al -Qarhi and
injured four other civilians while the y were in a car at a checkpoint waiting to enter
the Agdem Izik tent camp . In an official statemen t, t he M inistry of the Interior
stated that known criminals were riding in the vehicle and that they fired on the
gendarmes who had attempted to detain them . An independent investigation ,
conducted by the domestic NGOs Mediator for Democracy and Human Rights
(MDDH), the Forum for an Alternative Morocco, and the Moroccan Observatory
for Public Liberties (OMLP) , confirmed that a group of men in a 4X4 vehicle
attempted to force their way past a Royal Gendarmerie checkpoint . The NGOs
note d that gunfire ensued during the incident, but could not identify who fired first .
Authorities opened a n internal judicial investigation, which they had not concluded
at year ‘s end.


After negotiations between Interior Ministry officials and camp organizers failed to
result in a peaceful dismantling of the camp, authorities moved on November 8 to
dismantle it using water cannons and truncheons . Police and gendarmes dispersed
several thousand campers and quickly leveled the camp . When news of the
dismantling reached Laayoune, it prompted widespread rioting , violent attacks , and
confrontations be tween security forces and protestors .

The government, international human rights NGOs , and independent domestic
NGOs reported that 11 members of the security forces were killed and over 200
injured in violent clashes with Agdem Izik campers or protestors in Laayoune .
Two Sahrawi s also died in the violence , and some international media sources
reported that hundreds of Sahrawis were injured . The government reported that a
nonofficial vehicle accidentally struck and fatally injured 26 -year -old Babi Gargar
Brahim Ould Mahmud Hamadi in Laayoune . H is brother and other eyewitnesses
told a Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigator that a police vehicle purposefully
struck him while he lay injured on the ground .

Ano ther civilian , 42 -year -old Brahim Daoudi, died in police custody . The
government reported first that he suffered a fatal asthma attack at the Laayoune
Military Hospital after security forces detained him . A second official press
statement called the cause of death pneumonia . However, Daoudi ‘s family
members told Amnesty International (AI) and other NGOs that the government
never confirmed the cause or circumstances of his death . At the request of NGOs
and the families, the government opened investigations i nto both civilian deaths;
by year ‘s end, it had not concluded either investigation , and authorities had not
provide d autopsy reports to the family or to the public .

In response to the November 8 events, the parliament , domestic human rights
organization Association Marocaine des Droits de l ‘Homme ( AMDH ), and a
separate consortium of 11 other domestic human rights NGOs launched
investigations . The AMDH and HRW report s, which were available at year ‘s end,
confirmed the gov ernment ‘s claims that it did not use lethal force during the
operation to dismantle Agdem Izik and that there were several cas ualties among
security forces . However, AMDH and HRW also concluded that police and
gendarmes used excessive force, including phys ical beatings to the point of
unconsciousness , in suppressing the unrest in Laayoune . The reports also claimed
that security forces mistreated detainees who were taken into custody following the
violence , and that officials and pro -Moroccan civilians had attacked several

Sahrawi homes in Laayoune . The parliament ‘s and the consortium ‘s report s had not
been released by year ‘s end .

Ther e were unconfirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances .

O n April 28 , plainclothes police in Laayoune allegedly abducted Mohamad
Abdellah Dayhani . His family reported to the Sahwari Collective of Human Rights
Defenders ( CODESA ) that Dayhani was last seen near the residence of his relative
and Sahrawi independence activist A bdallah Dayhani . His family allegedly
inquired about his whereabouts at the police station and received no information .
Government authorities claim ed that although Dayhani ‘s mother appeared at a
police station to inquire into the whereabouts of her son, s he never returned with
the information that authorities requested she provide to launch an investigation.

Regarding the 2007 discovery of a gravesite near the Laayoune Prison, the
government stated that judicial police who inspected the gravesite with the
assistance of French forensics experts found human remains that appeared to date
to 1938 . There were no further developments.

Regarding the still -unresolved cases of disappearance dating to the 1970s and
1980s, the governmental Consultative Counc il for Human Rights ( CCDH )
continues to cooperate with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human
Rights (OHCHR) to investigate claims of enforced and involuntary
disappearances . The CCDH has provided the OHCHR with information regarding
56 cases tha t the OHCHR considers unresolved . CCDH and UNCHR continued to
receive occasional new claims regarding disappearances that occurred in the 1970s
and 1980s . The CCHD acknowledged that d ue to a lack of evidence , it will likely
be unable to resolve nine diffic ult cases . Sahrawi human rights groups and
families, on the other hand, claimed that at least 114 cases remained unresolved
and accused the CCDH and its predecessor, the Justice and Reconciliation
Authority ( IER ), of failing to acknowledge many additional alleged
disappearances, especially from Western Sahara.

As it has done since 2000, the CCDH paid reparations during the year to victims of
human rights abuses, including Sahrawis or family members of those Sahrawis
who had disappeared or been detained dur ing the 1970s and 1980s . During the year
331 individuals received reparation payments totaling 46,233 ,210 dirhams
($550,395 ). The CCDH reported that although it continued to receive and
investigate reparation claims during the year, it had shifted its focu s to community
reparation projects, including providing medical insurance to victims ‘ families .

During the year CCDH disbursed 979 medical insurance cards to individuals living
in both Morocco and in Western Sahara.

There were credible reports that security forces engaged in torture, beatings, and
other mistreatment of detainees . HRW, AI , and local NGOs continued to report
abuse s, especially of Sahrawi independence advocates .

Moroccan authorities detained more than 300 civilians during the November 8
dismantling of the Adgem Izik camp and the subsequent violence in Laayoune .
Authorities released without charge more than 100 individuals within 48 hours, but
by year ‘s end , the government had charged at least 60 with crimes . By year ‘s end,
the government claimed that nearly all detainees had been arraigned before a
civilian court and that 47 remained in custody at the Laayoune Prison awaiting
trial . Authorities reported that they had arraigned and transferred 20 additional
detainees to the Salé Prison in internationally recognized Morocco , where the y
were awaiting trial before a military tribunal at year ‘s end . However, NGOs alleged
that the government continued to hold as many as 131 detainees in either Salé or
Laayoune and had not filed form al charges against some of them by year ‘s end.

Many of those released and many of the families of those still in custody claimed
that security officials beat and otherwise abused them . International and domestic
NGOs claimed that security forces beat some civilians to the extent that they
sustained fractured limbs, open wounds , and loss of consciousness . NGOs and
family members also claimed that the security forces used rubber bullets during the
riots in Laayoune, although the government denied t his charge . A I reported that , in
two cases, victims alleged that police raped them while in custody . In addition AI,
the Association of Sahrawi Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations ( ASVDH ),
and other domestic NGOs alleged that , in numerous instances , security officials
threaten ed detainees with rape.

In the ensuing protests and riots that occurred after the dismantlement of the camp
on November 8 , numerous eyewitnesses reported that police beat and used
excessive force to detain protestors and bystanders . Police briefly detained and
beat with fists and rubber batons an American journalist and a Sahrawi employee
of HRW , who watched as police indiscrim in ately beat several other Sahrawis who
had gathered in the area . Police took the two to a tempor ary holding station on the
periphery of a city square and released them without charge.

Regarding the February 2009 case of a Sahrawi independence activist who claimed
that police had beaten and sodomized her, the Ministry of Justice rejected the case

for lack of evidence after judicial police investigated . Western Sahara -based
human rights NGOs criticized the decision and the lack of transparency in the

The Procurer General also rejected for lack of evidence a well known human rights
activ ist ‘s August 2009 claim that police stripped her, left her naked on the outskirts
of Laayoune, and threatened to post videos of her on the Internet . The government
confirmed that the victim had submitted a complaint to the Public Prosecutor in
Laayoune in September 2009 and that the public prosecutor had investigated the
accusation . Western Sahara -based human rights NGOs criticized the decision and
the investigation.

Authorities confirmed in November that the General Prosecutor at the Court of
Appeals in L aayoune received a complaint from 20 -year -old Chamad Marzouk,
who alleged that two police officers beat him while he was in custody in
September 2009 . Authorities conducted an investigation, but the Attorney General
ruled that Marzouk ‘s allegations were un founded due to a lack of evidence,
including medical documentation or eyewitnesses .

Sahrawi activist Yahya Mohamed El Hafed, convicted by a judge along with seven
others of killing a security officer in 2008, remained in prison . The group claimed
that the court convicted them based on confessions elicited through torture . The
government reported that it had released one of the convicted, Omar El Faquir, in
2008 . There were no other developments in the case .

There were several cas es of violence br eaking out at rallies or demonstrations
between pro -independence Sahrawi groups and pro -union activists . In all these
cases, the government reported security forces responded adequately to prevent
violence from becoming serious, al though Sahrawi activists alleged that the
security forces responded slowly and sometimes even tacitly encouraged violence.

On April 6, a group of 11 Sahrawi independence activists returned to Laayoune
after having traveled to Algiers and the Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf,
Algeria, to meet with Algerian and Polisario officials . When various groups
gathered at the airport to greet the activists, 31 nationalist Sahrawi associations
clashed with several groups of pro -union activists . Independence activists claimed
that plainclothes police encouraged pro -union demonstrators to attack them and
deliberately delayed action to prevent the violence . While no one was seriously
injured, crowds damaged the vehicles . The government claim ed that security
forces acted professionally and prevented greater violence.


O n April 8, police stopped independence activists Sultana Khaya and others who
had returned from Algiers on April 6 at a standard police checkpoint in Boujdour .
The activists reported th at a large group of pro -union activists had gathered at the
checkpoint to await the group . While independence activists report that the pro –
union group attacked first, pro -union activists allege that the independence activists
provoked the ensuing violence . CODESA claimed that three individuals were
injured . Authorities reported the scuffle and claim they maintained order.

On May 7, ASVDH claimed that security forces intervened during a pro –
independence Sahrawi demonstration in the Ma ‘atalah neighborhood o f Laayoune ,
resulting in injuries to Dagna Moussaoui and her two sons, Jamal and Alyen
Housaini . Authorities confirmed that a group of activists held a protest near a
school where one police officer on a routine patrol dispersed the students , but
claimed that their intervention was nonviolent.

On July 18 , several pro -independence activists gathered to welcome activists who
had recently visited Algiers and Tindouf . The reception took place in the Al ‘Ina ‘ach
neighborhood of Laayoune, which was repo rtedly surrounded by dozens of police
cars and plainclothes security authorities . ASVDH reported that police verbally
intimidated gatherers and attacked several individuals including Mohamed Manolo
Hassan Dah, Khadjatou Lma ‘adal , Mary Salek Boudjemaa, and Kalthoum Lbsair.

Police impunity remained a problem . According to several international, domestic ,
and Sahrawi NGOs, the number of alleged victims of human rights abuses to file
complaints against police increased . The government disputed the alleged i ncr ease
and provided statistics indicating that through October , residents of Western
Sahara filed 45 complaints against authorities based throughout the territory .
A uthorities referred all 45 complaints to the judicial police for investigation . The
Public Prosecutor opened investigations into all 45 complaints but dismissed 32
due to lack of evidence . Thirteen cases remain under investigation . International
and domestic human rights organizations claim ed that authorities dismissed nearly
all comp laints without collecting evidence beyond the police version of events.

The government stated that it increased investigations, prosecutions , and training
(including a human rights component ) to security personnel and took some steps
aimed at reduc ing pol ice abuse and impunity . The government reported that some
of these prosecutions involved officers who committed crimes in the territory;
however, the exact number was uncertain because the government did not

disaggregate any of the data by region . Past pra ctice has often left alleged abusers
in leadership positions or transferred them to other positions .

A llegations of abuse and substandard prison conditions persisted . Government
policy permits NGOs that provide social or religious services to prisoners to enter
prison facilities, but does not permit NGOs that solely have a human rights mission
to enter except when authorities authorize them to do so . The Moroccan
Observ atory of Prisons (OMP) , a government -subsidized local NGO consisting of
lawyers and benevolent activists promoting better conditions for prisoners , and
members of the CCDH continued regular visit s to prisons and child protection
centers, which host juvenil e offenders, and relayed complaints of substandard
prison conditions or detainee abuse to government authorities.

In October OMP stated that overcrowding in the Laayoune Prison , the sole prison
in Western Sahara , was no longer a s serious a problem as in past years , and
conditions had improved significantly . The prison had an initial capacity of 300 .
OMP reported in October that authorities had reduced the prison population from a
high of 900 inmates in 2005 to 448 through a program that transfer red prison ers to
other facilities in internationally recognized Morocco . Of the remaining 448
prisoners , there were 39 women and 31 teenagers, all of who m were separate d
from the men while in detention . However, overcrowding increased when
authorities imprisoned up to 300 Sahrawis in connection with the Agdem Izik
camp dismantling in November . A uthorities held the majority of these prisoners
for one to four day s, then released them without charge , and government and NGO
reports indicate d that between 47 and 111 Sahrawis detained in connection with
the November 8 events remain ed in the Laayoune Prison , bringing the population
at year ‘s end to between 495 and 5 59 . Human rights activists and NGOs continued
to charge that the government occa sionally used its program to reduce
overcrowding as a punishment for politically active prisoners by transferring them
to facilities in Morocco far from their families . The government and OMP
acknowledged that transfers occurred, but stated that their purpose was apolitical
and solely to improve prison conditions.

In addition to the main Laayoune Prison , t here are small holding cells in Smara,
Boujdour, and Dakhla, which can hold approximately 20 prisoners each .
Overcrowding at these facilities was gen erally not a problem.

Human rights and pro -independence activists continued to claim that authorities
arrested them for their political activities but charged them with drug or other
criminal offenses . Laws require authorities to investigate abuse allegat ions for any

individual facing prosecution who requests an investigation, but local and
international human rights advocates claimed that courts often refused to order
medical examinations , or to consider medical examination results in cases of
alleged tor ture.

In September the government reported that the public prosecutor and magistrates
had requested expert medical examinations for 31 individuals, compared with 27
requests in 2009 and 49 requests in 2008 . A n 11 -member coalition of Moroccan
NGOs reported that 52 Sahrawis arrested by security forces in connection with the
November 8 camp dismantlement and ensuing protests alleged police torture and
submitted requests for medical examinations . The government ‘s response to th eir
requests was unknown at year ‘s end .

The government stated that by law and in accordance with official policy, there are
no political prisoners in Morocco or Western Sahara , and all detainees had been
convicted of or charged with crimes . However , human rights and pro –
independe nce groups alleged that there were approximately 52 Sahrawi “political
prisoners ” held either in Western Sahara or in prisons in internationally recognized
Morocco . OMP noted that , at year ‘s end , all known Sahrawi political activist
prisoners were in deten tion facilities in Tiznit, Kenitra, Ben Slimane, Agadir,
Taraghazout, Casablanca, and Salé.

Students who made public displays of their support for Western Saharan
independence were reportedly detained and mistreated . Student and human rights
activists stated that authorities regularly took them into custody, beat them, and
released them within 24 hours without formal arrest or charge.

In September 2009 according to local NGOs, police allegedly threw demonstrator
Mohamed Berkan from a window in Laayoune during an unauthorized
demonstration . The Public Prosecutor officially refuted the NGOs ‘ allegation and
charged Berkan with assaulting an officer and other crimes . Berkan paid a 200
dirham ($25) fine , and authorities released him on September 27 after he
completed his full one -year sentence.

Law prohibits q uestioning the institution of the monarchy, Islam as the state
religion, and Morocco ‘s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara (see country
report on Morocco) . The king announced , in a November 2009 speech , a policy of
decreased tolerance for individuals who ho ld pro -independence views . As a result ,
individuals and the m edia engaged in self -censorship, and no views appeared in the

media during the year supporting either independence or a referendum th at
included independence as an option .

Authorities barred Moroccan and international journalists from travelling to
Laayoune in the days preceding and subsequent to the November 8 camp
dismantlement , making it difficult for the public to obtain and verify information
regarding injury and death toll s. There were no reports of government action
against We b log writers in the territory . During the year there continued to be
credible reports that government authorities prevented some foreign journalists
from m eeting with pro -independence activists.

Moroccan and international media, as well as satellite television, were available in
the territory . There was no indication that Internet access in the territory differed
from that in internationally recognized Morocco, which was generally open and
unrestricted, although the government blocked a small number of Morocco -based
Web sites and proxies used to make activity on the Internet untraceable .

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association within the
limits provided by law . Although sit -ins, demonstrations, and protests occurred, in
practice the government used administrative delays and other methods to suppress
or discourage demonstrations . The government also prohibited or failed to
recog nize associations it deemed unqualified for NGO status.

The Ministry of the Interior required persons wishing to hold public gatherings,
including demonstrations, to obtain permission for public assemblies . However,
authorities often allow ed those who hav e not received permission to hold
assemblies on an unofficial basis . NGOs have complained that the process is never

The constitution and the law provide for freedom of association . Specifically, a
1958 decr ee, Dhahir 1 -58 -376, article 5 governs the establishment and functioning
of establishments.

Pro -independence organizations and some human rights NGOs stated that in recent
years they have applied less frequently for legal permits to engage in sit -ins and
demonstrations because police r arely granted the permits . In addition to these
limitations, the organizations reported that holding organized demonstrations
became more difficult because police increasingly harassed them following the
king ‘s November 2009 speech . The government reported that as of October , (the
last date for which figures are available) over 130 demonstrations or protests had

been held in Western Sahara . The majority of these regarded socioeconomic issues
such as unemployment and housing concerns , but many also had political

The government enforced strict procedures governing the ability of NGOs and
activists to meet with journalists . Foreign journalists needed prior official approval
before meeting with pro -independence NGOs.

As in previous years, the g overnment did not allow CODESA or ASVDH to
register as official NGOs, limiting their ability to raise funds domestically and
internationally and to secure space for public meetings . CODESA last submitted an
application in 2008 by registered mail . ASVDH lea dership reported that in 2005 ,
an Agadir administrative court ordered the government to register it ; however , the
government did not do so .

The government continued to accuse the Polisario of withholding information
regarding 213 Moroccans alleged to be m issing since the 1975 -91 war, and the
Polisario continued to accuse Morocco of withholding information concerning
approximately 150 Algerians and Polisario supporters (including 58 soldiers) .
Morocco and the Polisario both denied that any former combatants remained in

Corruption among security forces and judicial officials was a problem.

The laws and restrictions regarding religious organizations and religious freedom
in the territory are the same as those in Morocco . For a complete description of
religious freedom, please see the 2010 International Religious Freedom Report at .

HRW and ASVDH reported instances of authorities preventing foreign persons
from meeting with pro -independence activists.

Sahrawi independence activists alleged that on August 28, plainclothes security
forces beat and arrested 14 Spanish activists protesting human rights violations in
Western Sahara in front of the Hotel Negjir . ASVDH reported that authorities
expelled the Spanish activists to the Canary Islands after hours of interrogation .
Moroccan authorities claimed that police only intervened to prevent and manage a
brawl that resulted when Moroccan youth leaving a soccer match came across the
Spanish activists . In an August 30 statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry
confirmed that the Moroccan police had detained 11 Spaniards and accepted

Morocco ‘s explanation that the police had intervened with the aim of defusing
clashes between demonstra tors and Moroccan citizens.

Al though in previous years , the government occasionally restricted freedom to
travel abroad, there were no reports that the government restrict ed freedom to
travel abroad during the year .

In an October 2009 case , authorities d etained and charged seven Sahrawi activists
with “intelligence cooperation with a foreign entity ” and incitement to disturb
public order after they traveled to meet with Algerian and Polisario officials in
Algiers and Tindouf . Government officials sent the case to a military tribunal in
accordance with a law that gives military courts jurisdiction over cases involving
treason or espionage . On January 28, the prison administration provisionally
released one of the activists, Dakja Lashgar , due to health problems , but the
government did not drop official charges against her . After the remaining six
activists engaged in a 41 -day hunger strike, a separate civilian court in Sale
ordered the provisional release of Yahdith Ettarouzi, Rachid Sghir , and Saleh
Labihi on May 18, but also did not drop charges against them . On September 23,
the military court in Sale dismissed the espionage charges against the seven and
referred the case to the Casablanca civil appeals court for a hearing on the
remaini ng charge of incitement . The remaining imprisoned activists, Ahmed
Alansari, Brahim Dahane, and Ali Salem Tamek, appeared four times before the
Casablanca court, but the judge postponed the case each time because pro –
Moroccan activists in the courtroom cau sed chaos and physically threatened the
three defenda nts . Numerous credible Sahrawi and Moroccan h uman rights NGOs
claimed that authorities permitted the scenes of chaos inside the courtroom as a
means of intimidating the detainees and any witnesses or fam ily members who
might have wished to attend . The y also continued to maintain that the charges
against the seven were politically motivated . The detainees ‘ families reported that
while their access to the detainees was limited during the first month of the
activists ‘ detainment, the government generally allowed them access thereafter .

CODESA leader Aminatou Haidar, whom authorities prevented from reentering
the territory for 34 days in November and December 2009, returned on December
18, 2009 . Since her ret urn, Haidar has travelled freely in and out of the territory.

Since 1977 the inhabitants of the Western Saharan provinces of Laayoune, Smara,
Awsard , and Boujdour and, since 1983, Oued Ed -Dahab , have participated in
Moroccan national and regional election s. In the June 2009 communal elections,
the government allowed only Sahrawis with pro -Moroccan political views to serve

as candidates . Turnout exceeded 70 percent of registered voters . Domestic
observers leveled accusations of corruption, principally vote buying, in some races .

Relatively little information was available on discrimination in the territory . In
traditional tribal Sahrawi society, women participated more actively in political
and economic activities than among other North African ethnic groups . Most
Sahrawis in the territory lived in urban or semi -urban environments, and their
circumstances paralleled the situation in Morocco proper . In the June 2009
communal elections, women won 13 percent of seats due partly to the
implementation of the same new quota system used in internationally recognized
Morocco, which required all political parties to include at least 12 percent women
on their party slates.

For information on trafficking in persons, please see the Department of State ‘s
annual Traf ficking in Persons Report at .

The Moroccan labor code applie s in the Moroccan -controlled areas of the territory .
Moroccan unions covering all sectors were present in those areas but were not
active . The largest trade confederations maintain a nominal presence in Laayoune
and Dak hla . These include the Moroccan Union of Labor, the Democratic
Confederation of Labor, and the National Union of Moroccan Workers .

The constitution and the labor code permit the right to strike, but t here were no
known labor strikes, other job actions, or collective bargaining agreements during
the year . Most union members were employees of the Moroccan government or
state -owned organizations . Unions were also active i n the phosphate and fishing
industries . Wage -sector workers in the territory earned up to 85 percent more than
their counterparts in Morocco as an inducement for Moroccans to relocate to the
territory . The government exempted workers from income and value -added taxes.

The labor code prohibited forced or bonded labor, and there were no reports that
such practices occurred . Penalties for those who perpetrate forced labor range up to
four years ‘ imprisonment , and penalties for forced child labor are between o ne and
three years in prison . Labor inspectors assigned to labor delegation office s enforce
Moroccan labor laws . There are two delegations in Western Sahara, one in
Laayoune and one in Oued Eddahab.

Regulations on the minimum age of employment were the same as in Morocco .
There were no reports regarding child labor in the formal wage sector . There were

reports of children working in family -owned businesses and in the agricultural
sector .

The minimum wage and maximum hours of work in the territory were i dentical to
those in Morocco . In practice during peak periods , workers in fish processing
plants worked as many as 12 hours per day, six days per week . Occupational health
and safety standards were the same as in Morocco and enforcement was
rudimentary, ex cept for a prohibition on the employment of women in dangerous