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French Version

Amnesty accuses Spain, Morocco of abuse

Rights group wants probe into violence against immigrants

Amnesty International accused Spanish and Moroccan security forces Wednesday of using exorbitant force and violating immigrants' rights in trying to repel waves of Africans seeking to gain a foothold in Europe over the past month.

The London-based human rights group said it had gathered immigrants' testimony during a 10-day visit to the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, located on Morocco's northern coast, and to three Moroccan cities.

Amnesty said it would appeal for an independent, international probe into the violence that left at least 11 people dead in Ceuta and Melilla as security forces opened fire on sub-Saharan Africans who climbed over - or attempted to climb - razor-wire fences to cross over from Morocco to the enclaves.

"The fence kills. The fence allows people to be killed," delegation leader Javier Zuniga said.

Neither country has held its security forces accountable, Amnesty said. And in the group's talks with Spanish and Moroccan authorities, "each side blamed the other," said Philip Luther, delegation member.

On October 6, six Africans trying to cross over into Melilla died on the Moroccan side of the fences as they clashed with Moroccan security forces. The Moroccan Interior Ministry said some had been armed with knives or machetes, and its police shot and killed four in legitimate defense. The ministry said the other two died from shock caused by multiple wounds, according to the Moroccan state news agency MAP.

Five Africans were killed on September 29 when hundreds of Africans rushed the Ceuta border. Three bodies were found on the Spanish side of the border and two on the Moroccan side.

Since late August, waves of Africans from the continent's poorest countries have stormed the razor-wire fences more than half-a-dozen times in a bid to reach Ceuta or Melilla. An estimated 700 have made it in.

Zuniga said immigrants had told Amnesty that Spanish police hit people with rifle butts and opened fire with large rubber pellets at very close range.

Amnesty's report on the fact-finding mission said the Spanish forces were ill-trained to deal with such a refugee crisis. In some cases, it said, immigrants who made into Spanish territory were immediately sent back to Morocco, in violation of Spanish law.

Moroccan forces, meanwhile, sent hundreds of detained Africans into remote desert areas near the country's border with Algeria, leaving them without food or water and ordering them to walk across the frontier into Algeria, the report said.

Others were held at police stations or military bases in Morocco without being told how long they would be detained or of their right to a lawyer and appeal their arrest, it said.

Separately, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Zapatero said he will use an EU summit on globalization Thursday to debate ways of confronting the growing influx of African migrants into the 25-nation bloc.

Writing in the Guardian daily, Zapatero said the EU needed a common policy to control immigration while at the same time fostering cooperation with border countries like Morocco.

"That is why Spain is promoting a Euro-African ministerial conference on immigration, about which I shall inform colleagues at tomorrow's Hampton Court meeting," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is hosting the day-long summit Thursday at Hampton Court Palace, west of London, as a free-for-all debate on Europe's response to globalization.

Casablanca,11 01 2005
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The Daily Star
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