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International Law

City Bar Applauds Return of Human Rights Activist to Morocco

The City Bar applauds the return of Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar, Chairwoman of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) to her home in Laayoune, Morocco. She had been living in Lanzarote, Spain since her expulsion from Morocco in early November, commencing a 32-day hunger strike in protest. In concern for her health, and questioning the legality of her expulsion, the City Bar had called on both Spain and Morocco to return Aminatou, and is relieved to see the situation resolved.

Ms. Haidar was detained on November 13th, while entering an airport in Laayoune, Western Sahara, with two Spanish journalists. The three were detained, but while the journalists were released, Ms. Haidar was denied entrance to the country because she declared Western Sahara – not Morocco – as her country on her completed immigration entry form. This was viewed as a renunciation of her Moroccan citizenship, her passport was confiscated, and she was expelled to Spain. She was returning from receiving an award in the U.S. for her human rights work.

In mid-December, Haidar was put in intensive care for health problems caused by her hunger strike. She had refused to be force-fed, and was sustained only by sugar water.

The City Bar letter, sent on November 25th, expressed concerns that both Morocco’s expulsion and Spain’s refusal to arrange for Ms. Haidar’s return were illegal under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international treaty that both countries ratified in the 1970’s. The treaty states that no persons can be prevented from entering their own country, nor shall they be prevented from leaving any country.

You can read the City Bar's letter here.

Read more about Ms. Haidar's expulsion:

  • BBC 12/18 - Expelled Western Sahara Activist Haidar Returns Home
  • AFP 12/17 - Hunger-striking W. Sahara Activist in Intensive Care
  • Radio Netherland 12/17 - The Law Behind Western Sahara - Morocco Conflict