Great News! Prisoner Of Conscience Chekib El-Khiari Released In Morocco

Chekib El Khiari © Private

Late last week, the Moroccan King pardoned prisoner of conscience Chekib El-Khiari, who was serving a three year prison sentence for speaking out against government corruption.

Amnesty suspects that the charges against Check El-Khiari were politically motivated, as he had brought allegations against Moroccan officials in connection to a drug ring. Jailed since June 2009, Chekib El-Khiari was greeted by family and friends upon release.

The pardon came as part of a wider movement that commuted or shortened the sentences of 190 prisoners in Morocco, 96 of whom were reportedly released.

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Honor Women's Rights Defenders by calling for a strong UN agency for Women

Gertrude Hambira, Zimbabwe. (c) Amnesty International

Gertrude Hambira, Zimbabwe. (c) Amnesty International

Amnesty International spoke to three inspiring women’s rights activists about the challenges they face in their work, the personal risks they endure and their motivation to continue their struggle.  Today, on World Human Rights Day, we should take a moment to recognize the work done by Gertrude Hambira from Zimbabwe, Zebo Sharifova from Tajikistan and Aminatou Haidar from Western Sahara, and countless women like them around the world, to defend human rights.

Despite threats and physical abuse women’s human rights defenders strive to improve women’s lives and promote human rights.  However, all too often, their work is constrained by limited resources and limited commitment to promoting women’s rights from their governments.

The United Nations is a galvanizing force in setting new international standards and commitments to protect and promote women’s human rights.  The UN needs the strength and the capacity to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled.  Amnesty is calling on the President of the General Assembly to make the United Nations more effective in realizing women’s rights by creating a strong, UN agency for women.  Today, on the final day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and World Human Rights Day, take action to increase the UN’s effectiveness in realizing women’s human rights and sign the petition calling for a strong UN agency for women. Take action today in honor of Gertrude, Zebo and Aminatou.

Fighting Back Against Sexual Assaults in Western Sahara

Hayat Erguibi. Photo courtesy of the Sahrawi Organization of Human Rights Defenders

Hayat Erguibi. Photo courtesy of the Sahrawi Organization of Human Rights Defenders

Many young women in Western Sahara are believed to have suffered sexual assaults and other abuses at the hands of Moroccan occupying forces and police, but Hayat Erguibi is different.  She refused to remain silent.

Given the stigmatism of rape or molestation within the conservative Islamic culture of the Western Saharans or Sahrawis, such humiliation at the hands of foreign occupiers prevents victims from stepping forward. It has also been charged that women are threatened by Moroccan forces if they dare to speak out.

Erguibi so dared.  On Feb. 24, she went to a local human rights organization a statement detailing accusations against Moroccan police of detaining, intimidating and sexually violating her on Feb. 22.   A Norwegian NGO later confirmed the story.

The Moroccan government, responding to the claim, fiercely denied the accusations to Reuters several days later.

But Erguibi didn’t stop there. She has allowed local Western Saharan rights groups to disseminate her photo and a video of her testimony was recently posted (with Spanish subtitles). In her testimony, she recalled that Moroccan police threatened to kill her if she publicized her attack.

Amnesty USA has long been concerned about Moroccan abuses in the part of Western Sahara under its control. Amnesty’s position with respect to the Western Saharan territorial dispute between Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front is neutral.