Aminatou Haidar (2019 Laureate)

Country: Western Sahara

Current status: Physical attacks, smear campaigns

Aminatou Haidar is a prominent human rights defender from Western Sahara and President of the Sahrawi Organ against Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM). Her activism has taken place within the context of the illegal occupation of the territory of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco. She has been campaigning for over 30 years for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people and the respect of their fundamental rights. Moroccan authorities have been constantly trying to intimidate, silence and discourage her from pursuing her peaceful human rights work through verbal and physical threats. She has been a victim of enforced disappearance, detained without charges, beaten and tortured by Moroccan authorities.

  • 1987: Haidar was arbitrarily arrested along with 400 demonstrators for organising a peaceful protest. She was detained in a secret prison and tortured, without anyone knowing her whereabouts, for four years. She was released in 1991.
  • March 2005: Haidar was expelled from her job for organising an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. Three months later, she was beaten and assaulted in the street. She was then arrested in the emergency room in El Ayoun hospital. She was sentenced to seven months of imprisonment on the basis of false accusations.
  • November 2009: Upon her return from New York, where she received the Civil Courage Prize, Haidar was detained and interrogated at El Ayoun airport. After 24 hours of arbitrary detention, Moroccan authorities revoked her passport and put her on a Spanish plane to Lanzarote, Canary Islands, against her will. Upon arrival, Haidar began a 32-day hunger strike demanding to be returned to her country. Thanks to international pressure, she was eventually allowed to return to Western Sahara.
  • November 2012: She was beaten and threatened with a knife by the police on her way home from a meeting with the former Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Western Sahara, Mr. Christopher Ross.
  • April 2015: Moroccan police attacked Haidar’s home with rocks as she hosted a meeting with UN representatives.
  • January 11, 2020: Haidar was attacked by Moroccan police officers as she was trying to attend a meeting with a fellow human rights defender. They verbally assaulted her and her children, pushed her to the ground, and punched her in the chest and neck, which caused serious damage to Haidar’s knee.
  • September 20, 2020: since Haidar announced the establishment of the Sahrawi Organ against Moroccan Occupation (ISACOM), an NGO committed to defending the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, Moroccan press and social media sites have launched a smear campaign against her, in some cases inciting violence and calling for her detention.
  • September 29, 2020: the Moroccan Prosecutor’s Office in El-Ayoun opened a judicial investigation against ISACOM’s founders on the basis that the organisation “threatens national integrity.” For more than two months, Moroccan occupation forces have put them under surveillance and prevented them to leave their residences without being followed.

Protection and Advocacy

March 1, 2021: Haidar delivered a video statement at the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, calling on the United Nations to establish a Human Rights mandate within MINURSO and to take their responsibility concerning the decolonisation of Western Sahara.

December 15, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation released a statement deploring the decision taken by outgoing US President Donald Trump to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in exchange for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel.

December 1, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation submitted a report to the OHCHR on Ms. Haidar’s case to inform the UN High Commissioner report on the situation of WHRD in the MENA region.

November 6, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation, jointly with 250 organisations, sent an open letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to express deep disappointment at his last report to the UN Security Council on the Situation in Western Sahara which fails to address the systematic human rights violations in the territory.

October 13, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation sent an urgent appeal to relevant UN Special Procedures denouncing the police siege Haidar had been subjected to since the creation of ISACOM.

October 5, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation, jointly with other organisations, sent a joint submission to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to provide her with an overview of the systematic targeting of Saharawi human rights defenders.

October 2, 2020: At the 45th session of the Human Rights Council, Haidar made a video statement during the Interactive Dialogue on the annual report of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to cooperate with the UN. The report was informed by a submission the Right Livelihood Foundation sent the OHCHR in April 2020 on the reprisals carried out by Morocco against Haidar in January and February 2020, after she met the UN representatives in Geneva.

September 30, 2020: The Right Livelihood Foundation released a statement condemning the online smear campaign against Haidar, following the establishment of her new organisation ISACOM. We called on other Laureates, German and Swedish lawmakers to stand up for her on Twitter by expressing their solidarity.

September 18, 2020: Twenty-two Right Livelihood Laureates sent an open letter to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressing solidarity with Ms. Haidar and calling for the expansion of the MINURSO mandate to include human rights monitoring and reporting, as well as for the appointment of a new UN Special Envoy.

September 16, 2020: During the 45th session of the Human Rights Council the Right Livelihood Foundation delivered two oral statements denouncing the UN silence over the situation in Western Sahara.