Moroccan Sahrawis hold sit-in in Geneva against child soldiers in Tindouf

Protesters urge international community to urgently intervene to put an end to child soldiers, plight of families confined to Polisario-controlled Tindouf camps.

GENEVA - The Alliance of Moroccan Sahrawis in Europe for Development and Solidarity (ASMEDS) and the "White Dove" organisation have been holding since Monday a sit-in in Geneva to denounce the tragedy of the children forcibly enlisted in the Tindouf camps, in flagrant violation of international law.

Organised on the sidelines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council, the initiative called "Open Days on Polisario’s Crimes" is part of a broad campaign to raise awareness among international public opinion on the phenomenon of child soldiers, especially in the Tindouf camps.

It seeks to "draw the attention of the public to human rights violations perpetrated by Polisario leaders and militias, especially against children who are snatched from their families for training on the use of firearms and explosives," said the sit-in organisers.

"Many children have died after handling explosive devices before being buried in anonymity, while survivors are usually enlisted in armies, guerrillas or terrorist groups", read one banner at the protest scene.

ASMEDS Secretary General Ali Jeddou said that the sit-in aimed to alert the international community on the massive human rights violations in the Tindouf camps.

Protesters called on urge the international community and international humanitarian organisations to urgently intervene to put an end to the plight of families confined to the Tindouf camps under the control of the Algeria-backed separatists who they said flout the most basic human rights.

Between 100,000 to 200,000 refugees are living precariously in camps near the town of Tindouf in western Algeria.

The Polisario fought a war with Morocco from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed and MINURSO was deployed to monitor the truce in the former Spanish colony.

The mission was to prepare a referendum on Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, but it never materialised.

Morocco, which annexed the territory after Spain withdrew in 1975, considers Western Sahara an integral part of the kingdom and has offered autonomy, but not an independence referendum.