Sunday, November 04, 2007

Morocco and Spain are no longer amigos over Ceuta and Melilla, genocide

Only a few months ago Spain was staying neutral on the Moroccan autonomy proposal, even though it's the European country with the most responsibility for Western Sahara's predicament. Now Morocco and Spain are fighting over not one but two things. I think this feud spells only good things for Western Sahara.

The first dispute is over the Spanish king and queen's visit to Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish enclaves on the northern coast of Morocco. Morocco's wanted them for some time, as it follows the sensible "fine for me, not for thee" policies in regard to colonies. In a fit over the visit, a clear assertion of Spanish sovereignty, Morocco recalled its ambassador. What is up with ambassadors being used as diplomatic yo-yos when people finally call their governments to task?

The other fight, Western Sahara related and exciting, is Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon's decision to investigate possible crimes, including genocide, committed by Moroccans against Sahrawis after the 1975 invasion.

Garzon's role in pursuing another Auguste Pinochet gives him some international crime-fighting credibility. With luck this'll draw attention to Western Sahara and make the Moroccan government look bad at the same time. Western Sahara Info has more. So does pro-integration Sahrawi Chagaf Aziza, who curiously doesn't seem to connect the investigation with Morocco's abuse of Sahrawis today.

The Maghreb Arab Presse, the Moroccan government's organ, isn't pleased about any of this. The top three stories right now are about Ceuta and Melilla and the Garzon inquest. Neither is Moroccan blog The View from Fez.

Now that Morocco and Spain have fallen out of love with each other, what do you think will happen to the Humvees and riot gear? I hope for the Moroccan army's sake that they got a receipt.


  1. Laroussi6:32 AM

    Hi Will, there a couple of errors in your text that you might like to correct.

    First of all the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón (one -z) has started an investigation of possible crimes committed by Moroccans against Saharawis, not the other way around.

    Secondly you wrote that "only a few months ago Spain was staying neutral on the Moroccan autonomy proposal"

    I do not think it is at all correct to describe Spain's position to the Moroccan autonomy proposal as "neutral". On the contrary. Spain has during the recent socialist administration taken a clear stand in favour of Morocco and also in favour of its autonomy proposal.

    About Chagaf Aziza, you should not wonder about her logics. She never seems to speak about abuse against Saharawis by Moroccans. Not now or earlier.

    In her recent blog she even questions that a genocide ever occurred in Western Sahara.

    "If the story of the Genocide is True, the victims deserve justice to rest in peace.Period.", she writes.

    If it is true? For those of you who do not know, genocide does not necessarily imply that a whole people has been wiped out. It is the intent in combination with the actions that counts, and Morocco surely made it very clear during the reign of Hassan II and the first years of M VI that in their eyes there was no such thing as a Saharawi people. Everyone is Moroccan. Even today you hear this, although the propaganda has been slightly modified the last year and become a bit more subtle.

    Now besides the cultural and oral repression, you have the killings, bombings and Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara with the intent of turning the Saharawis into Moroccans. But, in the end this has failed. With many casualties however during the years.

    According to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
    genocide means acts committed "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

    a) killing members of the group
    b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
    c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
    d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group
    e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

  2. Thanks for pointing out that the Moroccans are being investigated, not the Sahrawis. I knew that, I just mixed them up.

    I wasn't able to find any articles where the Spanish government endorsed autonomy. ARSO had something about Spain not saying either way how they felt about it.

    The Sahrawis have suffered a lot at Morocco's hands, you're right. Like Chagaf, though, I'm not sure if genocide charges can be proven. That UN definition of genocide is applicable here (the Moroccan government targets people because they're Sahrawis), but I don't know if it's genocide in the sense most people think of it. A lot of people still don't recognize the Armenian genocide, and that was the unambiguous murder of 1 million people.

  3. Anonymous2:36 PM

    Ofcourse do people accused of genocide not easely recognize that kind of claims - they have to be forced. The truth about genocide is typecally forcefully supressed. That is true for Turks and Moroccans, to name only two. But don't say "a lot of people" as if it is an neutral opinion of bystanders.

    ¡uʍop ǝpısdn sƃuıɥʇ ƃuıʇʇnd ǝɹ,noʎ ʎɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ¡uʍop ǝpısdn sƃuıɥʇ ƃuıʇʇnd ǝɹ,noʎ ʎɐʍ ʇɐɥʇ

  4. Well, a lot of people really don't recognize the Armenian genocide, Turkish or not. I do, but they don't. So whether it's skilful manipulation on Turkey's part or not, I'm saying genocide is a difficult allegation to prove.

    I don't think I'm making much sense.

  5. what genocide you talking about this is just an other big drama orchestrated by some spanich organisation on behalf of poliarsso who are racist especially towards morocco
    as for judge bastard garzon it just smoke without fire
    i'm wandering what word i should use for what's happening in iraq and afganistan is it genocide or passion compere what happening in morocco sahara
    support for polisario = support for slavery
    support racism =you become a racist

  6. I'm with Will on the genocide charge: while there was undoubtedly ethnic cleansing in some areas (and panicked mass flight in others), there doesn't seem to have been any notable instances of single-instance mass killings, where the army or police rounded up tens or more Sahrawis and killed them just for being Sahrawis. Cultural and political repression alone does not a genocide make, however severe it was.

    Now, this of course does not in any way diminish the suffering of Sahrawis of the time (or today), or the fact that hundreds were killed through Moroccan terror tactics. And I agree with Laroussi in that genocide doesn't have to be the large-scale extermination of a people, à la the Holocaust or Armenia 1915 -- rulers have also been accused, investigated and/or convicted for genocide in places like Bosnia, Darfur, Yugoslavia, El Salvador, Chechnya, Algeria (in the colonial days), Iraqi Kurdistan, Kosovo and Tibet, where no such thing took place. So an investigation to see if W. S. 1975 matches up to those kinds of situations has my full support.

    One could perhaps argue that there would, or could, have been a genocide, hadn't so many packed up and fled, in this more limited sense. I don't think it's very likely that that can be substantiated, and I think it's extremely unlikely that if it is, it can also be pinned to any one person in the Moroccan government or army command (given that Morocco won't cooperate in the investigation), but of course an investigation in itself is a good thing.

    Main point: genocide may steal all the headlines, but the important charges are those 542 counts of murder and "disappeareance", plus the unspecified number of tortured and abused in other ways. A great many of those charges will be possible to prove if Garzon gives it an honest try, and could result in convictions -- and one proven murder is more important legally than a hundred unproven genocides.

    - - -

    On the autonomy proposal, I don't think Spain has ever said outright that it favors that over say independence, but they've openly encouraged it, and in diplo-lingo, the signals have been clear enough.

  7. Plus: I notice that Frothing Troll Anonymous has (accidentally?) revealed his blogger name as Tangerino. I was just about to open an international investigation into that.

  8. Laroussi6:49 PM

    "I don't think I'm making much sense." No Will, you're not making a lot of sense.

    Saying that "a lot of people really don't recognize the Armenian genocide" and in that phrase mean Turks when speaking of "a lot of people" is not making sense.

    It is like saying that "a lot of people think the Saharawis are Moroccan" where "a lot of people" are the actual Moroccans.

    Calling the mass murder on the Armenian people "a genocide" is a rather uncontroversial statement - outside Turkey. Just as calling Western Sahara an occupied territory is uncontroversial - outside Morocco.

    Now the genocide against the Saharawi people is not known to the great public in the world, so it is not surprising that Moroccans or other people have not heard of it. It is however very surprising, to say the least, that a Saharawi woman questions the genocide. Chagaf did not write that she thought it would be impossible to prove the genocide charges, as you implied Will. She questioned if there actually has been a genocide. A slight difference, don't you think?

    During the rule of Hassan II people were persecuted for being Saharawi if trying to state in any way that they had a culture, language and history of their own. Families were bombed with napalm when trying to escape the occupants. Young Saharawi children were forcefully sent to Morocco to be "Moroccanized", Saharawis were kidnapped and held in secret prisons, some of them have never been found. The entire idea of a Saharawi culture and identity was banned as "anti-Moroccan".

    This is not difficult to prove. What might be somewhat more difficult though, in some cases, could be to prove that certain higher officials, like general Housni Benslimane, indeed were responsible for the atrocities. It is seldom the high placed officials who get condemned. It is more often individual foot-soldiers who have to take the fall.

    Again, that Moroccans do not now about this is not surprising but very, very sad. But in their case it is just the result of a totalitarian regime and a totalitarian society. Even today Moroccans (and Saharawis under Moroccan rule) are taught in schools and Moroccan propaganda machinery like the news agency MAP to believe that The International Court of Justice ruled in favour of Morocco in its judgement in October 1975, when the court actually did the very opposite - ruled against Morocco's and Mauritania's claims of sovereignty over Western Sahara.

    About the Spanish pro-Moroccan policy I am sure that Alle at W-Sahara has written about it. The government of Zapatero has on several occasions praised the Moroccan autonomy proposal as "positive" and called it "a new element" in the conflict over Western Sahara.

    Now, there is nothing new with the Moroccan proposal besides the fact that it gives even less autonomy to the Saharawi people than the proposal to James Baker in December 2003. Calling the current proposal "a new element" is therefore a clear pro-Moroccan statement, besides being an obvious lie.

  9. same to you miss ((gadfly))i mean alle
    support for poliarsso = support for slavery

  10. All yours, dear. But seriously, whatever goes on with race relations in the Tindouf camps -- and I wouldn't be surprised if it's ugly -- do you think that it's the slightest bit different from what happens outside official view in the Moroccan-controlled territories? These problems are not of Polisario's (or Morocco's) making, they are hundreds of years old, rooted in tribal culture.

    Look at Mauritania: it wasn't France or Ould Daddah or the present president who invented race abuse and slavery in those communities, they all inherited it, and it's not going away by a snap of the fingers. What all governments in the territory -- certainly including that of Polisario in the Tindouf area -- can and should be criticised for is not working to end it with enough dedication (and in the case of Mauritania, traditionally, actively protecting it). Same for Polisario, Morocco, Algeria, and all others involved.

    The situation is incidentally very similar with eg. the Touareg in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Libya etc. They also have tribal class- and caste divisions and there are still vestiges of slavery left -- due to historical factors and social underdevelopment, rather than some devious pro-slavery policy of the governments involved.

    I realize that that's not as fun a line of argument as the one you're now pursuing with your precious satirical talent, but it's where you're at with a minimum of intellectual honesty.

  11. Laroussi6:48 AM

    Now Morocco's rulers compare Ceuta and Melilla with the occupation of Palestine, writes Spanish daily El País.

    "The decolonisation remains a current issue in some rare places in the world like the occupied Palestine, the cities of Ceuta y Melilla and the Mediterranean islands" (referring to the Spanish rocks outside the Moroccan coast), Prime minister Abbas el Fassi said in the Moroccan quasi parliament on Monday.

    They do have a curious conception of international law the Moroccans. Palestine is occupied, so is Ceuta and Melilla they say, but they consider Western Sahara as "liberated"... and of course any debate about the latter "fact" is illegal.

    Somehow Morocco completely has missed the seemingly small but very important principle that it is the people in the colonized territory that has the right to decide its future, not anyone else.

    And this is the "democracy" that EU supports and wants as favoured trading partner? No wonder the world looks the way it does when "real politic" still seems to be the leading word in most international relations and is put ahead of fundamental human rights.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Anonymous4:37 PM

    Hi Will
    the genocide thing is a lot of fun!!!!!!!! Funniest is a genocide by a 12year-old kid, that is the age of of one of persons cited in 1982. And you still think your polisario friends are serious! Come on!
    El Tiburon

  14. Thanks and thanks to Laroussi. Your wrote well and Laroussi and all comminted well.

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  16. Frank8:29 AM

    Hi everyone, I think that morocco wanted hide a clear truth about Western Sahara Occupation with some problems that he would like to create like a Ceuta and Melilla issue. In fact these 2 cities is part of Spanish authority like what he did with W. Sahara territory. Since when Morocco start think about these cities, Ceuta it had been taken 1580, and now in late 2007 Morocco ask about.. It’s not weird?! I think that’s a simple trick to make himself as a victim and a poor man who needs some help, or a way to truck W. Sahara’s people fate with some condescends from Spain.

    About Genocide, Morocco terrors the people of Western Sahara, directly after the invasion in 1975, somebody here said that Judge Baltazar Garzon needs a proves, and I don’t think so because there is a lot of proves, just ask anybody (Saharawi of cores) about how many family member he lost because Moroccan abuse? It’s rarely when you find someone who’s not had missing, another thing it’s about the Mass graves near from Smara in North East Sahara’s territory and that what Morocco deny, and that’s not all there is a lot of places that Morocco hide and cover..

    Well Morocco now he’s not in good position with “Mannhast 4” in the next 2 days, and after US Department of Foreign Affaire minister’s assistant visits to the region, Kosovo’s independence even it’s not colonized, and the push that Polisario exercise with war card!

    Thank you

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