The legal case against Ghali for genocide reactivated

José Bono, ex-Minister of Defence, considers the Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara "serious and credible"
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AP/FATEH GUIDOUM  -   Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali

The Criminal Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional has annulled the decision of Judge Santiago Pedraz, head of the Central Court of Instruction No. 5, regarding the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Ghali. On 29 July last, the magistrate opted to close the investigation against Ghali for crimes of genocide, torture and illegal detention following the complaint filed by the Saharawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEDH).

According to the Audiencia Nacional, Pedraz lacked jurisdiction to dismiss the case, as the decision to close the case is "exclusive" to the Criminal Chamber, not the investigating judge in the case. The judges of the Audiencia Nacional also stressed that the case against the Polisario leader should be processed as a summary case and not as a preliminary investigation of abbreviated proceedings, as the court did.

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REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ - Protest against Brahim Ghali, in front of the National Court in Madrid, Spain, on 1 June 2021.
The judge saw no evidence of a crime

According to Santiago Pedraz, there was no evidence of the crime of genocide. Furthermore, according to the magistrate's ruling, "the facts have become time-barred, the commission of the crime of genocide has not been proven, and the witness testimonies contradict the statements contained in the complaint". "It is enough to listen to the statements made to appreciate the contradictions denounced by the defence between the statements in the complaint," he added.

Pedraz also stressed that "there is no trace of those subgroups into which the Saharawi people are divided according to their geographical location".

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REUTERS/SERGIO PEREZ - People hold banners while protesting against Brahim Ghali, in front of the National Court in Madrid, Spain, on 1 June 2021.
Allegations of ethnic cleansing, torture and assassinations

Following confirmation of Ghali's presence in a hospital in Spain, the Saharawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEDEH) called for the immediate arrest of the Polisario leader. ASADEDEH filed a lawsuit against more than 20 members of the Polisario Front for violating the human rights of Saharawi refugees in the Tindouf camps (Algeria) between 1975 and 1990. In particular, the association denounced ethnic cleansing against the Tekna, Aitusa and Yegutt minorities and against the inhabitants of the former Spanish Sahara. ASADEDH also collects testimonies of citizens who witnessed "assassinations", "shootings", "beatings" and torture".

Two victims point directly to Ghali as one of the torturers in these camps. "I was treated savagely, they used all kinds of physical and psychological torture, until I lost consciousness, of which I still have serious after-effects," says 62-year-old Hosein Baida, according to the newspaper La Razón. 

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AFP/FAROUK BATICHE - Polisario Front leader, Brahim Ghali

However, this is not Ghali's only open case. The Polisario leader has also been accused of torture by Saharawi activist Fadel Breica. Breica denounced beatings and electric shocks in the Tindouf camps by Polisario Front agents during 2019.

Ghali's arrival in Spain, in addition to provoking a serious diplomatic crisis between Rabat and Madrid, has once again highlighted the suffering of many Saharawis under the Polisario Front.

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​PHOTO/REUTERS - Boudjdour refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria
José Bono defends Moroccan autonomy plan for the Sahara

The former Spanish Minister of Defence and former President of the Congress of Deputies has urged the Spanish Government to take on the role of mediator between Morocco and the Polisario Front so that the latter accepts the autonomy project presented by the Alaouite Kingdom, according to the media El Español. 

Bono considered the Moroccan autonomy plan presented to the UN Security Council in 2007 to be "serious and credible". "The Saharawis need solutions to their problems, not UN resolutions", he said. 

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PHOTO - Saludo entre Pedro Sánchez Mohamed VI

According to Bono, Spain should "promote solutions to the Sahara conflict because it has historical responsibilities" in the territory. He also reaffirms Madrid's role as mediator due to its "experience in democratic autonomy".

The former minister also recalled the importance of relations between Spain and Morocco. "Spain is Morocco's first client, Morocco's first supplier, the third largest investor in Morocco", he pointed out. He also stressed the importance of the Kingdom in the fight against terrorism. "We have prevented attacks thanks to the support of the Moroccan secret services. We must be good neighbours", he added. 

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FOTO DE ARCHIVO -  José Manuel Albares, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, in Islamabad (Pakistan)

After the replacement of the former foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, by José Manuel Albares, the crisis between the two countries has improved. Albares has already held talks with his Moroccan counterpart, Nasser Bourita, in order to bring about a rapprochement. In his inauguration speech, the head of Spanish diplomacy mentioned Morocco, which he described as a "friend", assuring that one of his main objectives will be to strengthen relations with Rabat.