Reuters reported, Wednesday, that the leader of the Sahrawi Front, the Polisario, will appear before a Spanish court. In April, Madrid reported that the man was being treated in a hospital in northern Spain. This sparked opposition from Morocco. The country is demanding the rights of Western Sahara, for which the Polisario Front is fighting for independence. After the authorities in Rabat abandoned border checks with Ceuta, a mass attack on migrants began.
On Wednesday, a Spanish court called the leader of the Polisario Front, Ibrahim Ghali, to appear in early June. According to a court document obtained by Reuters, these were accusations against him of his alleged involvement in committing war crimes. According to Reuters, the call is the first step to start a trial against a man.
Galli himself, who is currently undergoing treatment in a hospital in northern Spain, refused to sign a subpoena for a hearing scheduled for June 1. According to Reuters, he had to make it clear that he must first contact the embassy of Algeria – the closest ally of the Polisario, a group fighting for the independence of Western Sahara.
Reuters reported that human rights organizations and some residents of Western Sahara accuse Ghali and other leaders of the Polisario Front of genocide, murder, terrorism, torture and kidnapping.
Assault on migrants in Ceuta
On April 23rd, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya confirmed that Brahim Ghali had come to Spain from Algeria “for the sole purpose of treatment”. The Spanish side did not provide information about exactly where Gali was being treated and what diseases he was exposed to for medical care.
The Moroccan authorities called the Spanish ambassador two days later to explain the reasons for Madrid’s decision. Rabat also expressed fears that Ghali would be admitted to a Spanish hospital, adding in a statement issued on May 8th that it was a “deliberate act” that would face repercussions.
Earlier this week, Rabat canceled its border controls with Ceuta, prompting migrants to storm the Spanish enclave in North Africa. According to estimates by the Spanish government, a record number of more than 8,000 people have arrived in Ceuta since Monday. On the other hand, according to estimates by the Prime Minister of the Kut government, Juan Jesus Vivas, tens of thousands of people, mostly young Moroccans, would have entered the autonomous city.
On Wednesday, 72 hours after the mass influx of migrants began, Moroccan authorities reimposed checks at the border with the city.
Dispute over a former Spanish colony
The Western Sahara covers an area roughly the size of Great Britain, but is home to just over 600,000 people. It is bordered on the north by Morocco and Algeria, and Mauritania to the east and south. The Spanish Canary Islands are located close to its shore in the Atlantic Ocean. Western Sahara is rich in phosphate resources and fish wealth.
Western Sahara was a Spanish colony between 1884 and 1976. For decades, Morocco has claimed the territory that annexed the region after the Spaniards left the former colony and encouraged its citizens to settle there. Even before the end of Spanish rule, the Sahrawis formed the Polisario, which demanded independence. Then, with the support of Algeria, the militants launched a guerrilla war against the Moroccans.
In 1991, a ceasefire was negotiated through the United Nations. Morocco controlled about four-fifths of the territory of Western Sahara. The truce provided for a referendum on the future status of the region. However, it never came to fruition due to a lack of agreement on how the vote would take place and who could participate in it.
What do the parties to the conflict want?
According to the authorities in Rabat, Morocco has centuries-old rights to the territory of Western Sahara. It also confirms that it has invested heavily in the area since the annexation to improve the quality of life for its residents. Rabat tends to establish an autonomy for the Sahrawis, but it excludes the possibility of its independence.
In 1975, the Polisario established the Sahara government in Algeria. The SADR, which he proclaimed, is a member of the African Union, but is not recognized as a member state of the United Nations. The authorities of the republic affirm that they are ready to negotiate with Morocco on the terms of a referendum through which people can choose independence, integration with Morocco, or autonomy.
In December 2020, the then President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced that the Americans would recognize the Moroccan claims to Western Sahara. And Reuters reported that this is part of a deal that Rabat establishes diplomatic relations with Israel. The decision of the American leader was condemned by Algeria and the Polisario Front.
About 22 countries, mostly Arab and African, opened diplomatic missions in Western Sahara.
Main Image Source: PAP / EPA / Brais Lorenzo