Saharawi activist Khatri Dadda has been sentenced to 20 years in prison as punishment for his activism. (Twitter/Equipe Media)

A call to action for imprisoned Sahrawi journalist Khatri Dadda

As a Saharawi photographer and human rights defender, Khatri Dadda's arrest is directly linked to his work advocating for the people of Western Sahara's right to self determination.
Saharawi activist Khatri Dadda has been sentenced to 20 years in prison as punishment for his activism. (Twitter/Equipe Media)

The following release is also available in Arabic:
هذا متاح أيضًا باللغة العربية

Khatri Dadda is 21-year-old activist from Western Sahara belonging to Salwan Media, a group of Saharawi media activists located in the city of Smara. On 24 December 2019, Khatri was arrested due to his activism as a Saharawi activist and photographer on 24 December 2019 in Smara, Western Sahara. He was later sentenced to 20 years in prison as punishment for his activism and is currently held in Ait Melloul prison, in neighbouring Morocco.

On 24 December 2019, Khatri Dadda went to the police station in Smara to retrieve an identity card together with Sahrawi human rights defender and president of Moroccan Association of Human Rights, Smara branch, Abdelouahab Haddi. Prior to this, Khatri had visited the police station on two occasions wherein he had been informed that he had a pending arrest warrant against him. He was never informed of the reason for the arrest warrant nor what kind of charges that were brought against him.

Picture of the young Saharawi activist Khatri Dadda having been sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison as punishment for his activism.On 24 December, he was, when applying for his identity card, arrested by five police officers from within the premises of the police station.
He was subsequently brought to the headquarters of the judicial police in Smara and subjected to interrogation for two days during which time he was forced to sign police records that he had absolutely no chance of understanding as Khatri does not know how to read nor write Arabic.

After having been held under arrest for two days, Khatri was brought in front of the investigative judge in El Aaiún who ordered his detention. Khatri was later sentenced to 20 years in prison on the charges of having attacked police officers and destroyed public property on 4 March 2020 in front of the Court of First Instance in El Aaiún. The evidence being used against Khatri was the confession Khatri had been forced into signing whilst being held under arrest; later denied by Khatri when he was actually informed of what was written. As part of the evidence was also images of a masked person retrieved from an alleged video that neither Khatri nor his lawyer has even seen. Khatri has therefore never been given full access to the evidence file.

On 12 May 2020, the sentence was confirmed by the Appeal Court in El Aaiún through a video conference with Khatri attending the session from his arrest in the so-called “Black Prison” of El Aaiún. On 3 June, Khatri Dadda was transferred to an unknown location with his location remaining undisclosed for a total of 22 days; before the family learnt that Khatri had arrived in Ait Melloul prison. Complaints submitted by the family have not been responded to.

The arrest of Khatri Dadda is directly linked to his work as a Saharawi photographer and Saharawi human rights defender, advocating in favour of the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. In fact, it has been reported by anonymous sources that the reason why Khatri was arrested by the Moroccan police and later sentenced to 20 years, is because the police believes that is was Khatri who filmed the violent arrest of Walid Salek El Batal in June 2019.

Walid Salek El Batal is a well-known human rights defender and journalist from Western Sahara that was subjected to excessive police violence and torture upon his arrest, with his case being treated in a recent Urgent Appeal launched by the United Nations Special Procedures (Al Mar 5/2019). The arrest and detention of Walid led to international attention with Front Line Defenders and l’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’homme pressing for the immediate release of Walid, and with Human Rights Watch and the Washington Post having conducted independent reviews of the case.

The arrest and imprisonment of Khatri is further seen in relation to the wider crackdown on the Saharawi civil society, targeting both Saharawi journalist and the younger generation of Saharawis fighting for the right to self-determination and the end of the brutal Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. The sentence rendered against Khatri Dadda – 20 years in prison – establishes a dangerous precedence and has set out a ripple of fear amongst Saharawi journalists.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has on several occasions documented the systematic persecution and political prosecution of Saharawi journalist and human rights defenders in response to their support for the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara. In all decisions, the Working Group found that the detention of Saharawi journalists constitute a violation of Morocco’s international obligations to not politically prosecute or discriminate.

The detainment of the four journalists in the Gdeim Izik Group, El Bachir Khadda, Hassan Dah, Abdellah Lakhfawni and Mohammed Lamin Haddi – sentenced to 20 to life in prison – in addition to the continued detention of Mohamed al-Bambary and Walid El Batal serves as vicious examples of this practice; aimed at silencing the once trying to break the current culture of impunity imposed on the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

How you can help

Equipe Media and the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara invite you to write to the Moroccan authorities, asking them to:

1. Ensure that Khatri Dadda is released from prison as his imprisonment is to be considered arbitrary, as

his imprisonment results from his exercise of his fundamental right of freedom of opinion and expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights;

the non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial is of such gravity that it renders his detention arbitrary;
Picture from the video going viral portraying the violent arrest of Walid Salek El Batal. Walid is sentenced to two years in prison and is currently held in Bouzarkarn prison.

the arrest and imprisonment of Khatri Dadda constitutes racial discrimination as he is imprisoned in response to his opinion relating to the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara and due to being Saharawi.

2. Ensure that that no Saharawi journalist or human rights defender is subjected to arbitrary detention in response to and as punishment for their activism;

3. Launch an independent investigation into the circumstances evolving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Khatri Dadda.

Where to send requests

Mr. Saad-Eddine El Othmani, Prime Minister of Morocco. Fax: +212 37 76 99 95/37 76 86 56
Mr. Nasser Bourita, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Morocco. Fax: +212 – 37-76-55-08 / 37-76-46-79. Email: ministere@maec.gov.ma
Mr. Mohamed Aujjar, Minister of Justice, Rabat, Morocco. Fax: +212 37 72 68 56. Email: ccdh@ccdh.org.ma
Mr. Mustapha Ramid, Minister of State for Human Rights, Morocco. Fax: +212 5 37 67 11 55, Email: contact@didh.gov.ma
Mr. Mohammed Essabbar, Secretary General of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH), Email: cndh@cndh.org.ma
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations Office at Geneva and other International Organizations in Switzerland – 18a Chemin François Lehmann, 1218 Grand-Saconnex, Fax: + 022 791 81 80 41 Email: mission.maroc@ties.itu.int
HE Mr. Alem Menouar, Ambassador, Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the European Union. Franklin Roosevelt Avenue 2, 1050 Brussels, Belgium. Email: mission.maroc@skynet.be

This story was produced by Metta Center for Nonviolence


We provide educational resources on the safe and effective use of nonviolence, with the recognition that it’s not about putting the right person in power but awakening the right kind of power in people. We advance a higher image of humankind while empowering people to explore the question: How does nonviolence work, and how can I actively contribute to a happier, more peaceful society?

Waging Nonviolence partners with other organizations and publishes their work.