Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 14:07 GMT

The Worst of the Worst 2009 - Western Sahara [Morocco]

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 3 June 2009
Cite as Freedom House, The Worst of the Worst 2009 - Western Sahara [Morocco], 3 June 2009, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
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.

Country Scores

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6
Status: Not Free
Population: 500,000

2008 Key Developments: In 2008, the pro-independence Polisario Front and the Moroccan government continued to hold talks on Western Sahara's fate. In November, King Mohammed VI announced that Morocco would pursue a "decentralization" plan for the territory in a manner that would not adversely affect Morocco's territorial integrity, effectively reiterating the kingdom's opposition to Sahrawi independence. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground for Sahrawis remained largely unchanged from previous years.

Political Rights: As the occupying force in Western Sahara, Morocco controls local elections and works to ensure that independence-minded leaders are excluded from both the local political process and the Moroccan Parliament. Corruption is believed to be at least as much of a problem in Western Sahara as it is in Morocco.

Civil Liberties: According to the Moroccan constitution, the press is free, but this is not the case in practice. There is little in the way of independent Sahrawi media. Moroccan authorities are sensitive to any reporting 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 reporters who write 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. In 2008, Sahrawi activists continued to be harassed and at times detained and tortured by Moroccan authorities, in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Moroccan authorities regularly use force when quelling demonstrations and riots in Sahrawi towns and villages. Sahrawis are technically subject to Moroccan labor laws, but there is little organized labor activity in the resource-rich but poverty-stricken 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.

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