Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón has ordered the opening of an inquiry into allegations of genocide in the Moroccan-administered territory of Western Sahara.
The Western Saharan plaintiffs are also looking for accountability for the 542 Sahrawis that Morocco made "disappear" during the war with the Sahrawi pro-independence movement Polisario Front from 1975-1991, according to the group "Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State" (ASVDH).
The file also highlights crimes against humanity committed by Morocco since its invasion of Western Sahara, "notably the frequent use of torture by Moroccan authorities against Western Saharan nationalists," according to ASVDH.
These charges reach the highest levels of the Moroccan security establishment, even into the royal palace, according to the Spanish daily 'El Pais'. The paper says 13 top police chiefs are under Judge Garzón's inspection.
Further, Morocco's late and often criticised Interior Minister, Driss Basri, is named, as is Yassine Mansouri, a close advisor to Morocco's King Mohammed VI. The head of Morocco's armed forces, Housni Benslimane, and head of National Security, Hamidou Lanigri, are also accused.
In a statement referred to by official Sahrawi sources, the Spanish judge said he had "decided to accept the competence to judge on claims of genocide crimes, torture and assassinations."
Spanish laws allow the national judiciary to investigate and try alleged crimes against humanity committed outside Spain if not investigated in the country where they were committied. Mr Garzón earlier made international headlines when he tried to get Chile's ex-Dictator Augosto Pinochet arrested and sent to Spain for alleged crimes against humanity when in charge in the Santiago presidency.
The decision by Mr Garzón to investigate possible genocide in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara was hailed by Sahrawi organisations. The Association of the Families of Sahrawi Prisoners and Disappeared (Afapredesa) said it was satisfied by the decision, which could "give justice to the Sahrawi people and the victims of the Moroccan genocide in Western Sahara."
Official sources in Morocco yet have to react to the decision. The Rabat government claims that Western Sahara is an integrated part of its territory, referring to it as the "Southern Provinces" or "Moroccan Sahara", claiming the same human rights standards are implemented here as in the rest of Morocco.