Western Sahara Resource Watch Responds To UN Secretary General's Report On Western Sahara

"It is inconceivable that MINURSO should remain the only contemporary UN peace mission lacking a mandate to monitor human rights", WSRW stated in a letter to the Security Council yesterday. WSRW asked for the UN to monitor both the human rights violations and the illegal plundering of natural resourecs in the territory.

On 6 April 2010, the UN Secretary General gave his report to the Security Council on the situation in Western Sahara. The report has not taken into account the international appeals to monitor the human rights violations in Western Sahara. Nor does the report mention the ongoing plunder of the territory. Yesterday, on 10 April 2010, Western Sahara Resource Watch sent the below letter to the members of the Security Council.

Western Sahara Resource Watch, an international NGO aiming to ensure the proper application of international justice to the Western Sahara, has examined the Secretary General’s report on Western Sahara and wishes to convey the following remarks.

First, the Secretary General’s failure to include a clear statement supporting the addition of a human rights monitoring capacity to the MINURSO mandate is extremely unfortunate. We take note of His Excellency’s concern for the human rights situation in Western Sahara (§76), but fail to see how this state of affairs will improve if no UN monitoring mechanism is instituted, as was recommended by the OHCHR in 2006.

Over the last 6 months, while Morocco and the Frente Polisario were officially engaged in a political dialogue under UN auspices, we have witnessed a serious deterioration of the human rights situation in the Moroccan occupied part of Western Sahara. The King of Morocco’s provocative speech on 6 November 2009, labeling as ‘traitors’ those working to protect the Sahrawi people’s legitimate right to self-determination, triggered a severe crackdown against all Saharawi activists and human rights defenders. While the Secretary-General’s observation that building further on the exchange visit program (§75) is laudable, it has been amply documented that those Saharawis who have taken initiatives in this direction have met with an extremely hostile reaction upon their return to Morocco. Particularly worrying is the case of the 6 Saharawi civilian prisoners in Salé prison, who are to face a military trial accused of treason for having simply visited the refugee camps in Tindouf. In these circumstances, it is inconceivable that MINURSO should remain the only contemporary UN peace mission lacking a mandate to monitor human rights.

Second, we find it incomprehensible that the report makes no mention of Morocco’s ongoing and illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources. We repeat that these activities are carried out in contravention of numerous UN General Assembly Resolutions and Morocco’s international obligations pursuant to Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In 2002, the UN Legal Counsel declared these activities to be “in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories” if they “were to proceed in disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara”. As demonstrated by the Frente Polisario’s frequent protests against the exploitation of the Territory’s resources, the issue is one which continues to undermine confidence between the parties and as such is a key obstacle to the resolution of this long-standing dispute.

It is clear that recent events have led to a further deterioration of whatever confidence remains in the political process. WSRW is convinced that the establishment of a human rights monitoring capacity and the instigation of a Mission of Observation on the exploitation of the territory’s natural resources would go a long way towards rebuilding trust between the parties and facilitating renewed engagement in the negotiations. We call on the UN Security Council to take action to address both of these issues when drafting this month’s resolution to extend the mandate of the MINURSO mission.

Yours Sincerely,

Sara Eyckmans
International Coordinator Western Sahara Resource Watch

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