Western Sahara and human rights

The mandate of MINURSO was renewed this week for Western Sahara, a territory abandoned by Spain and annexed by Morocco. Morocco has pledged to the UNO to hold a free referendum in which the citizens of Western Sahara can vote on integration, autonomy or independence. So far, Morocco has failed to deliver.

Morocco: illegal annexation of Western Sahara, repression of the Saharawi people, allegations of abduction, torture, disappearance of over 500 human rights activists. Morocco continues to refuse to hold a referendum on the country's status and commits human rights outrages by the day, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye.

The Moroccan Army invaded Western Sahara in 1975 when the Spanish left their North African colony and after the annexation (the Green March), the Moroccan government started repopulating it with Moroccans, trying to create an imbalance by which the Saharawi people would be in the minority in their own country. In 1991 the United Nations Organization brokered a peace treaty between the Moroccans and the Polisario Front, under which Morocco pledged to organise a referendum on self-determination.

Morocco has refused to live up to its promise and has repeatedly blocked and stalled, while it tightens its grip on the country it invaded - against every fibre of international law - and over 165.000 Saharawi refugees are forced to brave the inhospitable Algerian desert where they live in exile.

This time around, as the mandate of MINURSO is renewed for Western Sahara, Spain has declared that a proposal by the USA to include the monitoring of human rights within MINURSO's mandate "infeasible".

Saharawi activists Sahara Thawra point out that Spain is supposed to be among the Friends of Western Sahara: "The Government of Spain and the Popular Party have said many times that Spain, as a member of the Group of Friends of Western Sahara has traditionally defended the need for mechanisms to protect human rights in the mandate of MINURSO. However, news of yesterday's El Pais newspaper reported April 20 that Spain, within the Sahara Group of Friends of the UN, of which it forms part, has made it clear that the U.S. proposal is "unworkable", adding that Spain is seeking legal arguments to prevent the U.S. proposal prosper".

Activists are sending out a question to all the members of the Spanish parliament requesting their position on the matter. Surely the international community cannot sit back and watch as Morocco violates international law and refuses to live up to its obligations.


Timofei BELOV




Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey