Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Western Sahara

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 June 2011
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Western Sahara, 1 June 2011, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 490,000

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: Morocco and the pro-independence Polisario Front made little progress in mediated negotiations on Western Sahara's status in 2010, and violent clashes between Sahrawi protesters and Moroccan security forces led to a number of deaths in November. Sahrawi activists continued to face harassment and detention during the year.

Political Rights: As the occupying force in Western Sahara, Morocco controls local elections and works to ensure that pro-independence leaders are excluded from both the local political process and the Moroccan Parliament. Reports of corruption are widespread. The territory possesses extensive natural resources, including phosphate, iron-ore deposits, hydrocarbon reserves, and fisheries. Nevertheless, the local population remains largely impoverished.

Civil Liberties: According to the Moroccan constitution, the press is free, but this is not the case in practice. There is little independent Sahrawi media activity. Moroccan authorities are sensitive to any coverage that is not in line with the state's official position on Western Sahara, and they continue to expel or detain Sahrawi, Moroccan, and foreign journalists who report critically on the issue. Online media and independent satellite broadcasts are largely unavailable to the impoverished population. Nearly all Sahrawis are Sunni Muslims, and Moroccan authorities generally do not interfere with their freedom of worship. Sahrawis are not permitted to form independent political or nongovernmental organizations, and their freedom of assembly is severely restricted. As in previous years, activists supporting independence and their suspected foreign sympathizers were subject to harassment in 2010. Three Sahrawi activists who had been arrested in Morocco in October 2009 remained in detention throughout 2010, and their pending trial was postponed in November after disruptions in the courtroom, largely by pro-Moroccan spectators. Sahrawis are technically subject to Moroccan labor laws, but there is little organized labor activity in the territory. Morocco and the Polisario both restrict free movement in potential conflict areas. Morocco has been accused of using force and financial incentives to alter the composition of Western Sahara's population. Sahrawi women face much of the same cultural and legal discrimination as Moroccan women. Conditions are generally worse for women living in rural areas, where poverty and illiteracy rates are higher.

Copyright notice: © Freedom House, Inc. · All Rights Reserved

Search Refworld