12 February 2015
To the Board of Crans Montana Forum
I am writing on behalf of the Australia Western Sahara Association to condemn your decision to hold the annual Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and to urge you to reschedule the forum in an appropriate location.
As a Swiss-based organisation the Crans Montana Forum should be concerned that its international conference is to be held in a country where there is ongoing conflict over sovereignty, breaches of international law and ongoing reports of abuses of human rights by the occupying Moroccan administration. It violates fundamental ethical norms and is surely contrary to the commitment of the Crans Montana Forum to building a better World, more humane and impartial and to its forum aim to consider Africa’s major concerns and to foster its hopes and ambitions http://www.cmf.ch/events/upcoming-events.
Crans Montana Forum would be aware that Western Sahara is a non-self-governing territory, and that in 1975 the International Court of Justice found that the indigenous Saharawi were overwhelmingly in favour of independence and that Morocco had no legal right that would prevent â€œself-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the Territoryâ€. It is over 20 years since the United Nations Security Council established a UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara under the terms of a ceasefire between Morocco and the Frente Polisario, representing the Saharawi.
Morocco’s continuing occupation of Western Sahara and resistance to the referendum has had severe consequences for the Saharawi. More than half of the indigenous population live in tented refugee camps in the harsh conditions of the Sahara desert near Tindouf in south-west Algeria. Exploitation of natural resources, including Western Saharan phosphate, fish and oil exploration, does not conform to international law concerning non self-governing territories. Those who protest or who advocate independence suffer restrictions on their civil liberties and political rights which, together with more serious abuses of human rights, have been reported regularly by foreign governments and NGO’s.
Crans Montana Forum should also be aware of the efforts that the international community has made to resolve the conflict and recognise that your choice of Dakhla for the 2015 forum undermines these efforts and can only increase tension in Western Sahara.
I look forward to your response.