Monday, March 05, 2007

Robert Holley wins Tindouf Challenge

The Tindouf Challenge, where contestants tried to find non-Moroccan evidence that the Sahrawis in Tindouf are held against their will, has been won. While there were many excellent entries, I finally had to go with the contestant who personally turned his in. That lucky Western Sahara-phile is none other than Robert Holley, executive director of the Moroccan American Center for Policy.

Holley's winning evidence was an Amnesty International report from 2003 that summarized the human rights situation in Algeria. One section, devoted to the Tindouf camps, said this:
This group of refugees does not enjoy the right to freedom of movement in Algeria...

Amnesty International is not aware of Sahrawi refugees being allowed by the Algerian authorities to leave the camps without the authorization of the Polisario authorities and to find safe haven in other parts of Algeria. Reports received by Amnesty International indicate that those refugees who manage to leave the refugee camps without being authorized to do so are often arrested by the Algerian military and returned to the Polisario authorities, with whom they cooperate closely on matters of security.
Seems like pretty damning evidence, and it's certainly enough to win. Still, there are some mitigating factors that make me less concerned that the refugees in Tindouf are held against their will.

First of all, it seems like it's a usual, though still unfortunate, thing for refugees not to be allowed to leave their camps. The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees said the state the refugees are in must allow them to reside wherever they want in the country, and move around it freely. Unfortunately, as this report shows, the Convention is rarely respected. Thanks to Professor Andy Schoenholtz for the information about warehousing.

Morocco hardly comes across like angels in the report. Morocco could be crueler than it already is to Sahrawis and that still wouldn't make Polisario abuses right. Still, this section of the Amnesty report suggests why Moroccans have such misapprehensions about the Sahrawis in Tindouf, and why so many returned Sahrawis are "eager" to talk about their experiences:
Those Sahrawi refugees who find their way to Morocco normally, it would appear, by travelling southwards through Mauritania rather than through Algeria are only reportedly able to enjoy protection if they are willing to declare their allegiance to Morocco, to renounce any view in favour of the independence of Western Sahara and to denounce publicly to national media the Polisario authorities and the human rights situation in the Tindouf camps.
But hey, Mr. Holley won. The CORCAS sign is up, and will be for 3 weeks, just in time for the autonomy plan unveiling in April.


  1. Anonymous8:37 AM


    Tindouf is in Algeria, so why not try to write something about the great algerian...democracy!


  2. You get 'em with the graphic every time, babe.

  3. Actually, Houala, I plan to write posts about abuses in Algeria's government. It certainly falls short of what the Algerian people deserve.

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