Testimonies

Below are a few testimonies of some former residents of the Polisario-controlled Tindouf Camps in south-west Algeria, including a former Moroccan Prisoner of War who spent 27 years in Algerian detention, including in Tindouf.

These testimonies represent a minute fraction of many tens of thousands of similar experiences and highlight the systematic abuses of basic human rights and freedoms, to which those confined to Tindouf are subjected.

Ahmed El Hafed

My name is Ahmed El Hafed and I worked for 13 years in the media and was close to the Polisario Leadership. I witnessed and observed many aspects of human rights abuses in the Tindouf Camps. These include:

Several women were raped and subjected to violations of honour by a number of members of the Polisario leadership. To obtain administrative certificates and other necessary documentation for daily life required the "submission of honour".

I remember that the Polisario leadership worked on sending some men away from their wives, for the purpose of being alone with them, and I can elaborate on this at length. There are many famous stories in the Camps, including what became known as the affairs of Mohamed Lmine El Bouhali, Defence Minister of the Polisario Front, Naama Jomani, Minister of Development of the Polisario Front, and Mansour Omar, the Polisario Representative in France.

In addition, I can testify to the status of children who are trafficked, whereby large sums of money from associations in Spain are received in return for children being able to stay there, which then pushes their families to pay large sums of money for their return.

Another aspect about which I can testify is the wounded people at the side of the Polisario, who were placed in corridors away from the camps in a centre known as Nkhila, in a very difficult humanitarian situation. This centre became a place where prostitution was conducted by Polisario officials with women and the female relatives of inmates.

To talk about the status of human rights in the Tindouf Camps, we need many hours and I am ready to stand before the world to talk about such human rights violations.

Before concluding, let me talk about a painful story, which is the story of the person giving this testimony. I am my mother's only son and she still lives in the Camps; she is deaf, blind and old. I am prohibited from visiting her because I used to work in the Polisario media and I decided to return to my homeland (Morocco) and reveal the crimes of the Polisario to the national and international media, which made the Polisario put me on their black list.

Ahmed El Khar

I, Ahmed El Khar, otherwise known as Saroukh, spent twelve years in the prisons of the Polisario Front. Ten of these years were spent in a solitary dungeon, for political reasons, which at that time were due to divergent ideas and objectives between Algeria and Libya. Both these countries wanted to have the upper hand in directing the Polisario Front. I came from a conservative clan, which opposed any Algerian interference in the Movement, which explains why I was arrested and imprisoned from 28 February 1975 until 5 January 1988 when I was freed.

In this way, I was the first person to be imprisoned in Gakoulte Prions, which was created before those of Rabouni, Kouira, Bouila, Bruviate Laatatsa or finally Errachid.

At the beginning, the forms of torture were primitive. The prisoners were kept in "holes" in the ground and left exposed to the torrid sun of the Ahmada during the day and the harsh cold of the night. This was the period before certain revolutionary elements were trained by the Algerian military and security forces in Bechar.

The arrival of these elements, the Polisario Front, changed the way in which prisoners were treated. Prisoners were subjected to atrocities, such as forced labour, hunger, beatings, electric shocks, "the cooked chicken" when I was hung with my feet in the air and my head towards the ground.

They also used other forms of torture, such as psychological methods to make one afraid. Many prisoners who were subjected to torture died. Often the torturers would say that somebody would be executed the next day and that the following day it would be Saroukh's turn to be executed.

I experienced all these types of torture during my period of imprisonment and I lost many friends amongst the prisoner. I still suffer from the physical and mental scars of torture which were inflicted upon me and I regret my youth spent in these prisons.

Ibrahim Essaadi

My name is Ibrahim Essaadi and while living in the Tindouf Camps in Algeria and through my job at the Intelligence Establishment of the Polisario Front, I witnessed many serious human rights violations which degrade the dignity of the human being.

I remember the conditions of detention and the torture of many innocent people, because being a minority they had no one to enquire about them or to draw attention to them. Through my work I witnessed many cases of people who after being tortured, were handed over to the Algerian Military Security of Tindouf who then completed the task and sometimes killed them.

I also witnessed the recruitment of minors to military institutions and their being subjected to harsh training beyond their capacity and age.

During my work there, I witnessed many cases of rape by influential officials of the Polisariio Front, which meant that we were threatened to keep quiet and not to pursue the offender.

Nabat Rigasse

I, Nabat Rigasse, was born in 1952 in Esmara and hereby declare that I was incarcerated for nine years in the prisons of the Polisario Front. I was imprisoned solely on the basis of my Moroccan Saharawi tribal origins.

In prison I was confined to a small cell measuring 60 cm wide and 120 cm high. During my incarceration and while being subjected to torture I was accused of being an agent in the pay of Spain and of Morocco, although I had never set foot in either Spain or Morocco.

I was subjected to all types of torture during my imprisonment. Drenched with cold water to wake me up, rocks placed on my body, nails pulled out with pincers, hands tied with wire and being suspended from the ceiling. In winter, my clothes were removed, after I had already been woken by being drenched first with cold water, then with hot water until I lost consciousness and collapsed, when I was taken back to my solitary dungeon. I was frequently blindfolded and restrained with electric wires for two hours and longer.

While imprisoned in the cell, only one meal was provided every twenty-four hours. The grain was served from a bowl. Each prisoner was summoned by his number. As he collected his food, he was often deliberately bumped into, resulting in the food falling to the ground and being mixed with dirt and then having to be scooped up and eaten.

I was subjected to these indignities for nine years. When I was liberated I had become such a dislocated, bumbling creature, that I did not remember I had family or recognise my relations.

Following my return to my homeland of Morocco, I pray that those confined to the Camps of Tindouf may also be able to return to their country, Morocco.

Saadani Maoulainine

My name is Saadani Maoulainine. When I was only one year old my family and I suffered by being forced to leave the city of my birth, Bakhala, for the Camps of Tindouf in the south of Algeria. These Camps were created by the Polisario Front, a cessionary movement, financed and protected by Algeria.

At a tender age I had to experience the terrible pain of seeing my father, Ouali Cheif Slama, become an hostage. He was tortured and threatened and thereafter incarcerated by the leaders of the Polisario Front, for the simple reason that he expressed different ideas from the prevailing ideology of the Polisario Front.

At the same time I was subjected to the most humiliating treatment that a human being could possibly imagine, ranging from shameful, evil treatment such as physical, psychological and moral abuse, including being insulted, shamed, scorned, humiliated, etc. Imagine the effect of this trauma on a child of five years old, witnessing humiliating treatment being inflicted on their father and their mother. The shock and trauma of these experiences have imprinted themselves on my memory and have permanently scarred me for life. My father was not only incarcerated and tortured, but was also falsely accused of treason and other false accusations, due to his ideas.

These brutal experiences were only the start of what was to come: a cavalry saturated with violence, traumatic and bad memories, which have marked and shaped the young girl and adolescent I was, and the young woman I am today.

When I was ten years old I was separated from my mother - brutally separated from my land and my culture - and deported with many thousands of other children to Cuba to live in a commune with a school alongside. The aims of the deportation were to force my mother to be tied and subjugated to the arbitrariness of the Polisario Front, with another objective being to indoctrinate these children in the Marxist-Leninism of the Polisario Front, which the Cuban Government supported without reservation. Throughout the seventeen years I was confined to Cuba, there was a perverse strategy of prohibiting any contact with my family and of depriving me of my mother's love and affection. The impact of these brutal actions is evidenced by the loss of my mother tongue and my finding myself a stranger in my own country, ignorant of my religion and my country's traditions.

I was subjected to hard work on tobacco and sugar cane plantations; sessions of Marxist-Leninist ideological indoctrination; and military preparation. Due to the seventeen years of cruel separation from my family and country, I have suffered greatly and experienced great feelings of frustration. In addition to experiencing and suffering these different forms of violence, including physical, psychological, moral, intellectual, and cultural torture, when I returned from Cuba, I discovered that my father had died and that my mother had returned to Morocco, her country.

I returned to Morocco in 2003.

Captain Ali Atmane

Testimony of Captain Ali Atmane, fighter pilot in the Royal Moroccan Air Force, captured in the Moroccan Sahara on 24 August 1977 and liberated by the International Committee of the Red Cross on 1 September 2003.

To be a Moroccan prisoner of war for 26 years - 9,498 days - in the hands of the Polisario and Algeria involves great suffering. On many occasions I was both a victim of torture and a witness to torture. My bitter experiences are so vast that I can only cite various limited examples.

  1. 24 August 1977 having been captured, I was beaten so savagely by mercenaries that I was drenched in my own blood: my head, my mouth, my nose and my hands were covered in blood. During the five or six days which it took to be transported from my place of capture to Tindouf, I was beaten and humiliated every day.
  2. We were often presented to the press in inhuman conditions in the region of Tindouf. We were beaten, humiliated and above all intimidated prior to our encounters with the press and forbidden to say anything which Algeria and the Polisario did not approve. After the journalists had left, the Polisario leaders distributed cigarettes to those who had obeyed their instructions and beat the other prisoners.
  3. Certain prisoners were suspended by their hands and feet for many days on end. They were provided with the most minimal amounts of food which were put in their mouths - so as to keep them alive. Their urine and excrement accumulated in their trousers. Many prisoners died in these conditions.
  4. When a prisoner was placed in a cell, it was often a death sentence, since the cell was no more than a cage of 50 cm wide by 60-70 cm high. Crouching in this space for one or two months at a time resulted in death. Very few prisoners survived this punishment.
  5. All prisoners were subjected to forced labour - including civilians, men of the ranks, junior and senior officers. Many of them had empty stomachs and were starving. I can never forget the pain I felt when I was lashed with a whip while carrying sacks of corn, lentils, etc weighing 100 kg.
  6. Although we transported enormous quantities of food, including luxury food items, those who beat and whipped us forbade us to eat any of it. We were always starving, suffered from malnutrition and diseases caused by vitamin deprivation Many prisoners died as a result of vitamin C deprivation. We all learnt first-hand the horrible manifestations of vitamin C deficiency.
  7. There was no virtually no correspondence with our families. It was only with the first visit of the International Committee of the Red Cross that post became fairly frequent. Only after 18 years of captivity did I first meet a representative of the Red Cross.
  8. To help the Algerian wounded and Polisario women who had given birth, we had 500 cc of blood transfused from us, without anyone caring about our own state of health or checking as to when we had last had our blood transfused. On many occasions there was less than a month's interval between transfusions.
  9. We were forced to insult our King and our country on the Polisario's radio.
  10. When I refused to speak on the radio, I was savagely beaten and the skin was removed from the soles of my feet.
  11. I was subjected to brutal, violent interrogations in prisons in Algiers, in Blida, in Boufarik, and in Boughar. Algerian Military Officers were in charge of my interrogations, torturing and humiliating me so as to destroy me psychologically.
  12. Many prisoners died, killed by Moroccan artillery and by Moroccan aircraft as those in charge in the Polisario deliberately exposed the prisoners of war to danger. And, above all, we knew that the Geneva Convention called for the protection of prisoners of war.


Signed by Captain Ali Atmane, Pilot, former Prisoner of War
Meknes, Morocco
1 April 2011

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