Congressional Hearing Focuses on Western Sahara, Atrocities Against Sahrawis in Occupied Territory
Chaired by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ), the hearing included testimony from DFF Board Member Ambassador Frank Ruddy and Senator James Inhofe (OK). Inhofe has traveled to the refugee camps on one of his many trips to Africa and his staff members have participated in DFF’s fact finding missions.
In addition, DFF made it possible for Toby Shelley, a journalist with the Financial Times, to travel from London to testify at the hearing about the atrocities being committed against the Sahrawis in occupied Western Sahara. Both Ruddy and Inhofe strongly support the Sahrawis’ right to self-determination and cited the ongoing obstruction by Morocco which is preventing progress in resolving the dispute. Meanwhile, during the conflict and even today hundreds of Sahrawis have disappeared into Morocco’s infamous prisons, according to Shelley, who testified as an eyewitness to the ongoing brutality he saw committed against the Sahrawis who had been peacefully demonstrating for the right to vote.
“The streets of Laayoune are currently swarming with an alphabet soup of [Moroccan] security forces,” said Shelley. “Each week I and many other journalists receive photographs of Sahrawis covered in blood, bandages, bruises after their release from custody. I know children as young as five years old who have been chased through their neighborhood by police on the grounds they were illegally demonstrating.”
Shelley also described the brutal beating and murder of Lembarki Hamdi, a young Sahrawi killed by 11 Moroccan security agents who ran him down with a vehicle and then trampled him.
Additionally, in a related but separate event, Congressional staff and others were invited to a screening on Capitol Hill of the powerful documentary: Western Sahara: Africa’s Last Colony and hear from JoMarie Fecci, one of the film’s producers. Shown on Capitol Hill under the sponsorship of the Subcommittee on Africa, Human Rights and International Operations of the U.S. House International Relations Committee, the event was organized by Lindsey Plumley, who participated in DFF’s fact-finding mission to the Sahrawi refugee camps in May/June of 2005.