On the Human Rights Channel this week, we feature two videos from opposite ends of Morocco, where advocacy groups are using raw footage to bring attention to urgent human rights concerns. One video features footage from Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara, a disputed territory whose people are ruled by Moroccan authorities. The other video was filmed at the border of Melilla, one of two Spanish enclaves located on the northern tip of Morocco that have attracted migrants attempting to find refuge, asylum, or economic opportunities in Europe. Also this week, an update from eastern Ukraine, where deadly fighting between pro-Russian militias and Ukrainian forces continue despite a ceasefire declared in September.
Sahrawis Protest Plans for US Company to Drill in Occupied Territory
In Laayoune, Western Sahara, a group of women protested plans by US oil company Kosmos Energy to drill for oil off the coast of Western Sahara. As we’ve seen in many protests there, Moroccan authorities arrived quickly to break up the demonstration, shown at 1:45 in the video above.
The scene was only the latest in a more than decade-long struggle. At issue are plans underway by international companies, such as Kosmos Energy, to begin oil exploration off the coast of the disputed territory. Western Sahara has been occupied by Moroccan authorities since 1975, and the local Sahrawi people face brutal repression under their regime. The UN considers Western Sahara a non-self-governing territory, and in 2002 it stated that oil exploration off the coast of Western Sahara would violate international law if it proceeded “in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara.”
Kosmos Energy, in agreement with the Moroccan state oil company, has moved forward with its plans to drill for oil as early as this winter. “Neither Kosmos, Cairn, nor the owner of the drillship, Atwood Oceanics have ever sought the consent of the Saharawis,” states the Western Sahara Resource Watch in a report released last week. “Carrying out protests against the planned drilling has brought real risk to the safety and freedom of the people involved,” the report states. “In recent years, activists have been handed lifetime sentences in a Moroccan military court for protesting against the resource plunder, and severely beaten by police for peacefully expressing opposition to Kosmos.” In February, the company released this position statement about its interest in oil exploration in Western Sahara.
For more on Kosmos Energy’s plans in Western Sahara, see the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Click here for more videos curated by the Human Rights Channel documenting human rights abuses in the occupied territory.
Footage From Spain’s Melilla Border Draws Widespread Condemnation
For many years, Spain has tried to fortify its border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, which has drawn thousands of migrants from across Africa. A video filmed last week by the organization Pro Derechos de la Infancia (PRODEIN) shows clearly that Spanish officers patrolling the border are resorting to violence to keep migrants at bay.
The 5-minute shot shows officers striking migrants climbing with batons, and then carrying a potentially injured migrant immediately back to the Moroccan side of the border, without appearing to assess his needs or provide him the right to seek for asylum. For more on this video, which has drawn condemnation from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, the UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, and others, see this Human Rights Channel blog.
Barrel Bombs and Casualties in Donetsk, Ukraine
Despite a ceasefire declared on September 5, pro-Russian and Ukrainian government forces have continued battling for control of the city of Donetsk and other territories in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, a blast hit a chemical plant, filling the sky with smoke.
Last weekend, four people were killed in Donetsk in fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces. This video, by a group calling itself “Patriotic Forces of Donbass” includes footage from October 18. It shows crews putting out a fire, testimony from residents in shattered homes, and at 2:15, covered bodies of those killed in the violence. In a report released this week, Human Rights Watch documents widespread use of cluster munitions in Donetsk, and states that “evidence points to Ukrainian government forces’ responsibility for several cluster munition attacks on Donetsk.
[Featured image is a screen grab from a stoptheplundering video on YouTube.]