In Western Sahara , as elsewhere in the region, politically motivated administrative impediments have been used to prevent human rights groups obtaining legal registration and curtailing their scope of activities. Thus, the authorities in Layoune have repeatedly refused to acknowledge receipt of the registration application filed by the Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (Association Sahraouie des Victimes des Violations Graves commises par l’Etat Marocain, ASVDH), leaving it in a precarious legal situation. As it is not officially registered, its members are vulnerable to arrest and detention for belonging to an “unauthorized” organization. Brahim Sabbar, the Secretary General of ASVDH, was sentenced to a two-year prison term on this ground among others before his release in June 2008.
Another human rights network, the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders, was unable to hold its founding congress on 7 October 2007 because the local authorities refused to acknowledge their request for authorization of a public meeting.
Sahrawi human rights activists also face direct harassment by the Moroccan authorities. For example, activists and friends of Brahim Sabbar were prevented from visiting him by a heavy security presence around his house following his release from prison in June 2008. On a separate occasion he was warned against visiting the Layoune neighbourhood where other ASVDH members reside. Several Sahrawi human rights defenders have been prevented from travelling abroad to attend international human rights conferences and meetings.