Sahrawi Woman Human Rights Defender Sultana Khaya told me she has been forcibly held under house arrest for over a year, unable to leave, or to have any other family, or anyone else – including medics – visit her, even when she is sick.
She told me how, after her arrest in November 2020, she has been held in her family’s house, with dozens of security officers guarding the doors, day and night, that her sister and her elderly mother are with her, and only her mother is allowed to leave to get food.
Sultana said she has not been charged with any crime, and that she would welcome a chance to respond to whatever allegations are against her. In June 2021 I joined with other UN independent experts in raising her treatment with the Moroccan authorities, noting that Sultana has been a prominent Woman Human Rights Defender for many years.
A 2007 attack on her resulted in her losing an eye, and she has been subjected to various attacks as a result of her human rights work. Now she is held in indefinite detention in harsh conditions. Her house has been stripped all virtually all furniture and appliances, and she and her mother and sister all sleep in the same small room.
She told me that in recent months masked security agents have repeatedly raided the house during the night, tying her hands, blindfolding her and gagging her. She said during these raids she and her sister have been attacked, and that she has been raped. She named those who she said are the perpetrators, and is in constant fear of more attacks.
She also described how, during two of these raids, the attackers injected her with unknown substances, and that they have also thrown toxic liquids into the house, stripping the walls of paint and affecting her health. She says the poison has made her hair fall out and her teeth brittle.
Sultana appears to be in serious danger, in declining health and vulnerable to further attacks. She has been held like this for 400 days.