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The use of chemical weapons in the Rif : Madrid responds to an Amazigh NGO's request

The Amazigh World Assembly (AMA) has just won a decisive victory in Spain regarding the use of chemical weapons during the Rif war.

A photo from the Rif war that took place between 1921 and 1927./Ph. DR
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The Amazigh World Assembly, a Non-Governmental Organization that defends the rights of indigenous Amazigh people, confirmed that the Spanish government is willing to respond to a request the association filed regarding the use of chemical weapons by King Alfonso XIII’s troops during the Rif war.

AMA, which was created by a group of Amazigh activists in 2011 in Brussels, said in a statement sent to Yabiladi that the announcement was made by Foreign Minister, Alfonso Dastis while responding to a question asked by a member of the Republican Left of Catalonia, a Catalan nationalist and democratic socialist political party.

In fact, the Amazigh World Assembly sent on February the 12th, 2015, a letter on the same subject to King Felipe VI. In their message, members of the NGO asked the Spanish monarch to «compensate for the past and present consequences caused by the chemical warfare» led by Spain in the Rif between 1921 and 1927.

In June 2015, the king pointed out in a letter to AMA that he submitted its request to the Foreign Ministry, which he said was entitled to deal with such issues, the same communiqué added.

A crime from the past

This case is relaunched again thanks to the support of the Catalan political formation. In 2017, the Republican Left of Catalonia filed a proposal inviting the Spanish state to recognize the systematic use of chemical weapons after being defeated at the Anoual battle. The initiative was rejected at the time by 33 votes from the People’s Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE).

As much as Alfonso Dastis’ announcement is promising, predicting that it would truly take place is hard to be believed. The Spanish 1977 Amnesty Law, a law promulgated in 1977, two years after caudillo Francisco Franco's death, prohibits any Francoist Spain crime from being put under trial. Unfortunately, the law is still in force, and has been used as a reason for not investigating and prosecuting Francoist human rights violations.

However, for the Amazigh World Assembly, Dastis' declaration is a symbolic victory that marks the objective it decided to fight for alongside other amazigh bodies in Morocco and Europe.  

In 2015, AMA was sent a letter by the former French President, Francios Hollande, who responded to the same file. France is also involved in the chemical weapons’ scandal in the Rif. After Marshal Lyautey was defeated in the Urgha battle in July 1925 by El Khattabi’s army, Paris got engaged in gassing operations in the region.

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