AWSA joins 116 other associations from 22 countries to plead for human rights monitoring by UN in Westen Sahara

Joint letter from humanitarian organisations working in support of the people of Western Sahara

President of the UN Security Council,
Ambassadors of Member States of the UN Security Council,
New York.

16th April 2014

Mrs. President, Ambassadors of the Member States of the United Nations Security Council,

In 1991 Security Council resolution 690 established the mandate for MINURSO to conduct a free and fair referendum for self-determination for the Sahrawi people. 23 years later the Sahrawi people are still waiting to enjoy that inalienable right which is laid out in United Nations resolution 1514 (XV).

In the meantime, Western Sahara remains a colony of Spain, illegally occupied by Morocco and the largest of only 16 remaining non-self-governing territories identified by the United Nations which have yet to be decolonised. Up to 160,000 Sahrawis remain in refugee camps in the desert of neighbouring Algeria, reliant on diminishing international aid.

The proposal before you requests the extension of the MINURSO mandate to include monitoring and protection of the human rights of the Sahrawi people, which under international law includes their natural resources.

Violations which have been reported by various local and international organisations and which should be impartially verified by MINURSO, include:

  • physical violence towards Sahrawi protesters in the Moroccan-occupied territories
  • 74 political prisoners arrested for expressing their right to self-determination
  • civilians being tried by military courts, as in the case of the Gdeim Izik protest group
  • forced disappearances of some 500 Sahrawi individuals since 1975
  • the discovery of mass graves and evidence of extra-judicial killings
  • the expulsion of various international observers from occupied territories and refusal of entry to others, including the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples of the African Union
  • the exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities, without the consultation of the Sahrawi people
  • the mislabelling and passing off of goods produced in Western Sahara as “product of Morocco” in contravention of international law, EU law and national laws within EU member states
  • the construction of a 2720km wall of sand by Morocco along what has become the de facto border between the occupied and liberated territories of Western Sahara, surrounded by up to seven million mines, ensuring that Sahrawis on either side of this divide are unable to re-join their families, or have access to natural resources
  • the continuing presence of an estimated 160,000 armed soldiers from the Royal Moroccan Army, as well as artillery in the demilitarised zone which is overseen by MINURSO
  • the denial of the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination

More details on some of these violations can be found in the following United Nations reports:

  • Report of the OHCHR Mission to Western Sahara and the Refugee Camps in Tindouf, 15/23 May and 19 June 2006
  • Report of Juan Méndez, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (A/HRC/22/53/Add.2 of 28 February 2013).
  • Report of the working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances (A/HRC/22/45/Add.3 of 1 March 2013).
  • Report of Margaret Sekaggya, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. (A/HRC/22/47/Add.4 of 27 February 2013).

The allegations are further echoed in reports for the European Parliament (in particular the Tannock Report, October 2013), and by the United States Department of State as well as organisations such as the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

While the Moroccan Government denies any wrong doing, the only way to accurately establish the actual human rights situation is through independent investigation and reporting by MINURSO. This is a fundamental part of the process for achieving a lasting solution to a continuing crisis.

Moreover, the United Nations’ own Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions provide the framework whereby all peoples must have their fundamental rights protected.

The International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also guarantee that peoples have the right to freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources as part of their human rights.

It is also vital that the United Nations and its member states recognise the right of Sahrawi refugees to the most appropriate humanitarian assistance, including food aid. 38 years after the refugee camps were first established, many organisations, including UNHCR and the World Food Programme are still delivering first response food supplies which are completely unsuitable as a long-term diet. Combined UN-EU aid to Sahrawi refugees totals around $39 million annually while the yearly cost of running the 503-man MINURSO mission stands at $60 million.

For the Sahrawi people extending the MINURSO mandate is not only about having their human rights protected. After 38 years and despite the lack of progress in organising a referendum for self-determination, the Sahrawi need a clear signal that the international community has not forgotten them and that there is hope for the future.

The co-signatory organisations, all of whom are involved in providing assistance and support to the Sahrawi people, hereby request that the Security Council approve the extension of the mandate of MINURSO to include the monitoring and protection of the human rights of the Sahrawi people and that the Security Council and UN member states redouble their efforts to fulfil the Sahrawi right to self-determination, including the option of independence, which was agreed upon in resolution 690 (1991).

Adala UK, United Kingdom Afrika Kontakt, Denmark

Agir Contre le Colonialisme Aujourd’hui (ACCA), France

Amis du Monde Diplomatique – Belgique, Belgium

Amis du Peuple du Sahara Occidental (APSO), France

Asocación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui (AAPSIB), Spain

Asociación Soriana de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui , Spain

Asociación Venezolana de Solidaridad con el Sáhara (ASOVESSA), Venezuala

Assistance Advocacy Access Serbia, Serbia

Associação de Amizade Portugal-Sahara Ocidental, Portugal

Associació d’Amics del Poble Sahrauí de les Illes Balears, Spain

Bachri Bentaleb, Associación Saharaui para Proteger y Divulgar y el Patrimmonio Saharaui ( ASPDCPS), Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Association de la Communauté Sahraouie en France (ACSF), France

Association de solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui de Lorraine (ASPS), France

Association des Amis de la République Arabe Sahraouie Démocratique (AARASD), France

Association des Anciens Appelés d’Algérie et de leurs Amis Contre la Guerre (4ACG), France

Association des Familles des Prisonniers et Disparus Sahraouis (AFAPREDESA), Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Association des Sahraouis en France (ASF), France

Association Française d’Amitié et de Solidarité avec le Peuples d’Afrique (AFASPA), France

Association Havraise Solidarité et Echange avec Tous les Immigrés (AHSETI), France

Association Ibsar des Handicappés au Sahara Occidental, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Association of Artists and creators Sahrawis, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Association Sahraouie des Victimes des Mines (ASVIM), Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Association Vierzonnaise de Solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui (AVSPS), France

Associazione di Solidarieta’ con il Poplo Saharawi “Al Awda” , Italy

Association Sahraouie des Victimes des Violations Graves des Droits de l’Homme Commises par l’Etat du Maroc (ASVDH), Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Australia Western Sahara Association, Australia

Australian Unions for Western Sahara, Australia

Belgian Parliamentary Intergroup, Paix pour le Peuple Sahraoui, Belgium

Blain Accueil Enfants Sahraouis (BAES), France

Capsolidaire, France

Collectif des Défenseurs Sahraouis des Droits de l’Homme (CODESA), Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Collectif Midi-Pyrénées de Soutien au Peuple Sahraoui (COMIPSO), France

Comitato “Selma”, Italy

Comité Belge pour le Soutien au Peuple Sahraouis, Belgium

Comité de Jumelage de Gonfreville l’Orcher, France

Comité de Soutien au Plan de Résolution Onusien et pour la Protection des Ressources Naturelles au Sahara Occidental, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Comité Limousin de Solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui (CLSPS), France

Comité National Algérien de Solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui (CNASPS), Algeria

Comité pour la Défense du Droit à l’Autodétermination pour le Peuple du Sahara Occidental (CODAPSO), Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Comité pour le Respect des Libertés et des Droits Humains au Sahara Occidental (CORELSO), France

Commission Nationale Sahraouie des Droits de l’Homme, Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Coordination of the Families of Saharawi Political Prisoners in Dakhla, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Danish United Nations Association, Denmark

Dialogue des Peuples, Belgium

Droit Solidarité, France

Enfants Réfugiés du Monde, Pays de Loire (ERMPL), France

European Coordination of Support for the People of Western Sahara (EUCOCO), (international)

Euro-Med Movement (Malta), Malta

European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Germany

European Parliamentary Intergroup, Paix pour le Peuple Sahraoui, (international)

Fédération des Associations de Solidarité avec les Travailleurs Immigrés (FASTI), France

Federation du Reseau Italien de Solidarité avec le Peuple Sahraoui, Italy

Federacion Estatal de Instituciones Solidarias con el Sahara (FEDISSAH), Spain

Femmes Solidaires, France

Forum Nord Sud, Belgium

Freie Westsahara, Germany

German coordination, Sahara Marathon, Germany

Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker, Germany

Groupe Non-Violence Active Sahara Occidental (NOVA SAHARA OCCIDENTAL), Western Sahara

Hungarian Western Sahara Association, Hungary

Institute for Western Sahara Studies (Institut za studije Zahodne Sahare), Slovenia

Institute for Social Creativity (Institut za druzbeno kreativnost), Slovenia

International Association of Jurists for Western Sahara, Spain

International Platform of Jurists for East Timor, Portugal

l’Association pour un Référendum Libre et Régulier au Sahara Occidental (ARSO), Switzerland

La Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie (CNAPD), Belgium

Le Carrefour Sahraoui des Initiatives Culturelles et Mediatiques, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Le Centre National de Coopération au Développement (CNCD), Belgium

Le Comité Suisse de Soutien au Peuple Sahraoui, Switzerland

Le Mouvement de la Paix, France

Ligue des Étudiants Sahraouis en France, France

Medico International, Germany

Moroccan Association for Human Rights in Dakhla, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Mouvement Contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP), Switzerland

Not Forgotten International, United States of America

Pax Christi International, Belgium

Plateforme pour la Solidarité avec le Peuple du Sahara Occidental, France

Projektgruppe Westsahara, Germany

Quand l’Occident Rencontre le Désert (QORD), France

Sahara-Japan Journalists Association, Japan

Sahrawi Association of Victims of Mines in Dakhla , Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication, Western Sahara

Service Civil International, Belgium

Social Democratic Youth, Denmark

Socialist Youth Front, Denmark

Stichting zelfbeschikking WS, The Netherlands

Stockholms FN-förening, Sweden

Strategic Conflict Resolution Group, USA

Survie, France

Swedish Western Sahara Committee, Sweden

The Committee Against Torture in Dakhla, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

The Group Shoumoukh, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

The Sahrawi Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in Glaimim, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

The Sahrawi Observatory for Child and Woman, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

The Sun of Freedom to Protect Sahrawi Human Rights, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Um Draiga, Spain

Union des Étudiants de Seguia El Hamra y Rio de Oro, Western Sahara

Union des Journalistes et Écrivains Sahraouis (UPES), Western Sahara

Union des Juristes Sahraouis (UJS), Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Union General des Travailleurs de Seguia El Hamra y Rio de Oro (UGTSARIO), Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Unión Nacional de la Juventud de Saguia el Hamra y Rió de Oro (UJSARIO), Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Union Nacional de Mujeres Saharauis, Western Sahara (refugee camps)

Volkshilfe, Austria

Vrede, Belgium

War on Want, United Kingdom

Western Sahara Action Forum, United Kingdom

Western Sahara Campaign UK, United Kingdom

Western Sahara CEE Alliance, Hungary

Western Sahara Fisheries Association, Western Sahara (occupied territories)

Western Sahara Human Rights Watch, Spain

Western Sahara Resource Watch (Spain), Spain

Zain Atfaak, Belgium

Zentrum für Europäische und Orientalische Kultur, Germany

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