Editorial Commentary | Republic Underground
May 4, 2021
Polisario Gate: Brahim Ghali caught red-handed evading justice
How the Polisario leader sneaked into Spain using a fake Algerian diplomatic passport and what implications this breach has on international justice and security
The notorious Brahim Ghali’s hospitalization in Spain became the fulcrum of a teetering policy debate and the catalyst of protest, as victims demanded justice, in an overwhelming chorus against the Polisario leader. Ghali stands accused of rape, torture, and numerous human rights violations in Tindouf, an Algerian territory where the Polisario militia is based.
Following a wave of resentment and exasperation caused by the clandestine hospitalization of the Polisario leader in Spain, a judge issued a warrant for Ghali to appear before the Madrid Court this week and respond for accusations of “genocide and torture”, wrote Spanish News Agency EEF.
Ghali’s subpoena came after a video of former Tindouf translator Khadijatou Mohamoud, a Spanish citizen, went viral as she exposed the details of her rape by the Polisario leader. Mohamoud’s story made international headlines as she called on Spain to serve justice on her behalf, and many others who fell prey to the human rights abuses of the Polisario leadership. Khadijatou was a mere 18-year old virgin at the time of the crime against her.
Others have accused Brahim Ghali of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and his victims stepped out of obscurity to expose his human rights violations. Fellow plaintiffs, including Spanish citizen Fadel Breika, a dissident of the Polisario Front, accuse Brahim Ghali of “human rights violations” and “torture”. The Sahrawi Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADEDH) has also demanded that Spain explains why Ghali was allowed impunity in its territory.
A chorus of commentators questioned Ghali’s “suspicious” hospitalization, which was described as a “political farce”, inquiring how Spain admitted an accused torturer and rapist under a fake name to their hospital to help him avoid scrutiny. While Brahim Ghali and other Polisario members received subpoenas to stand trial, this legal matter certainly has political implications. This is a real test for the Spanish democracy and for the principle of justice independence.
Let’s first shed some light on the circumstances of Ghali’s Spain clandestine trip.
According to Jeune Afrique (April 22, 2021), Brahim Ghali entered Spain using a fake Algerian diplomatic passport under the name of “Mohammed Ben Battouche”, after Germany refused to host him, possibly to avoid tensions with Morocco. Polisario’s patron Algeria handed Ghali the fake document to allow him to evade lawsuits in Spain.
On April 25, 2021, the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Madrid for clarifications on the incident, as mentioned in a public statement. The Ministry also expressed exacerbation over Spain hosting a leader of a separatist militia under a false passport and identity, accused of war crimes and grave violations of human rights, calling it “contrary to the spirit of partnership and good neighborliness.” video May 2, 2021, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs told EFE that Madrid has not yet provided satisfactory and persuasive responses to the questions Morocco had asked:
Why Ghali was admitted into Spain on the sly using a fake passport? Why Spain had not informed Morocco? Why he entered Spain with a fake identity? Why the Spanish judiciary did not respond to the complaints filed by the victims?
Nonetheless, the “Ghali gate” may have broader international law and security ramifications that go well beyond the Moroccan-Spanish relationships. As both Spain and Morocco are our strategic allies, it is critical that the US keeps a close eye on the diplomatic rift between the two nations.
The fact that Spain knowingly admitted Brahim Ghali on its territory with a fake Algerian diplomatic passport sends a warning to US security agencies that clandestine transnational travel is far from impossible, including entry to the territory of some of our most trusted allies. This undoubtedly raises the question of mutual trust and transparency between partners, namely regarding the threats coming from international terrorism and transnational organized crime.
Such a miscalculated move, motivated by short-term political gains, could jeopardize the US national interests and those of its allies in the mid and long term. This recent development also demonstrates that some countries could be tempted to issue fake diplomatic passports to bypass lawsuits as well as misuse the diplomatic immunities and privileges granted under the Vienna Convention. It is also crucial that accountability for rape and war crimes, one of America’s deep-rooted and sacred principles, be pursued to the fullest extent, regardless of political considerations.
The “Ghali gate” should also question our protection from foreign threats. If Algeria issued a diplomatic passport to a rapist and a torturer like Brahim Ghali and could get away with it, other states may have done the same with wanted individuals, including enemies of the USA, such as Hezbollah and Al-Qaida members as well as other non-state actors and armed terrorist groups, knowing that the Polisario militia has been accused of hosting and having direct links with members of such groups in operating in the Sub-saharan and Sahel regions of Africa.
Now that Ghali’s fake identity has been unmasked, a key question is yet to be answered, how many “Ben Battouches” are still roaming around