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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 149
December 26, 2009

This week's issue:
Reviewing the views
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Good News

Human rights activist returns home

Amnesty International has welcomed the news that Aminatou Haidar, a Sahrawi human rights activist who has spent the past month on hunger strike in Lanzarote airport, has returned home and been reunited with her children. Aminatou Haidar said that she was allowed to fly back to Western Sahara on a private plane after being informed by a Spanish official that an agreement was reached between the Moroccan and Spanish authorities. Her passport was returned to her on arrival by the Moroccan authorities.

She told Amnesty International on 18 December that her return was “a victory for human rights and justice”. Aminatou Haidar has been on hunger strike since 15 November after she was expelled from Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities. She was admitted to hospital on 17 December morning as her health deteriorated. “We are delighted that Aminatou Haidar has finally been allowed home and obtained back her passport,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“There must, however, be no conditions imposed on her as a result. She, and other Sahrawi human rights defenders, should be able to enjoy their right to freedom of expression without fear of retribution.”

According to Morocco's official news agency, the activist was allowed to return following requests by “friend” countries to find a humanitarian solution. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed Morocco's decision to allow Aminatou Haidar to return “on humanitarian grounds”. Amnesty International has called for her unconditional return since she was stranded in Lanzarote airport.

Aminatou Haidar was detained at Laayoune airport in Western Sahara on 13 November when she returned from a month-long visit to other countries, including the USA, where she received the 2009 Civil Courage Prize, awarded annually “for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk.”

Her Moroccan passport was then confiscated and she was detained in the airport overnight. She says that on 14 November Moroccan officials offered to release her if she would publicly acknowledge Morocco's “sovereignty” over Western Sahara. She refused to do so, and a few hours later she was put on a flight to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.

Amnesty International wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 11 December, urging him to continue his efforts to obtain Aminatou Haidar's return to Western Sahara, unconditionally and without delay, and to ensure that her documents were returned to her.

The incorporation of a human rights component in the UN Mission's mandate, up for renewal in April 2010, would be an important step forward towards addressing human rights violations in Western Sahara.

Source: Amnesty International.


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