| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Spain drops genocide case against Polisario leader

Spain’s Supreme court closed the investigation into Brahim Ghali, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario), who had been charged with committing war crimes and genocide. The court said it did not have sufficient evidence to convict Ghali.

According to a court document, human rights groups and individuals in Western Sahara have accused Ghali and other Polisario Front leaders of commiting genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and kidnapping. He denies any wrongdoing.

The Spanish Supreme Court ruled that most of the longstanding cases against Ghali were statute-barred, while confirming that there was no sufficient evidence to support the genocide charges.

The case dates back to a complaint that includes “unlawful detention, torture and crimes against humanity,” filed in 2020 by Fadel Barika, a dissident from the Polisario Front and holder of Spanish citizenship, who asserts that he was a victim of “torture” in the Western Saharan refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.

This complaint was dismissed, but it was reopened at the beginning of this year.

Morocco has been in conflict with the Algeria-backed separatist Polisario group over the Western Sahara since 1975, after the Spanish occupation ended. It turned into an armed confrontation that lasted until 1991 and ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement.

Rabat insists on its right to govern the region, but proposed autonomous rule in the Western Sahara under its sovereignty, but the Polisario Front wants a referendum to let the people determine the future of the region. Algeria has been supporting the Front’s proposal and hosts refugees from the region.

The 1991 ceasefire came to an end last year after Morocco resumed military operations in the El Guergarat crossing, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the state of Morocco and the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which the Polisario said was a provocation.

By launching the operation, Morocco “seriously undermined not only the ceasefire and related military agreements but also any chances of achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the decolonization question of the Western Sahara,” Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, said in a letter to the UN.