MOSCOW- Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Mikhail Bogdanov underlined Thursday, in Moscow, the need to increase the international community’s coordinated efforts to reach a fair resolution to the conflict in Western Sahara.
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, who is the special representative of Russia’s President to the Middle East and Africa, received Thursday a delegation of the Polisario Front on visit to Moscow, led by Mhamed Khaddad, Sahrawi coordinator at the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
During this meeting, the two sides exchanged views on the situation relating to the settlement of the conflict in Western Sahara, particularly in the light of the preparations for the examination, in April in the UN Security Council, of the issue of the renewal of MINURSO mission in Western Sahara, according to a communiqué of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry.
On this occasion, the Russian side pointed out the “immutability of the Russian position, based on the need to reach a mutually acceptable political solution to this long-standing issue, on the basis of UN relevant resolutions,” added the document, underlining Moscow’s willingness to “continue working in this regard, in collaboration with all the stakeholders, notably with the partners of the Group of friendship with Western Sahara.”
During these talks, the two sides underscored the need to increase the efforts of the international community to reach a fair settlement, taking into consideration the fundamental interests of the peoples of the North African region and contributing to the improvement of the situation in the Maghreb.
ALGIERS- The ambassador of the Sahrawi Democratic Republic (SADR) to Algeria, Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoune called on the African Union (AU) to invest more in the resolution of the Sahrawi cause, considering that Morocco’s absence from the meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council is “a failure for a first test” following its accession to the African Union.
“The United Nations has still not been able to find a just solution to the Sahrawi conflict, which has been going on for 40 years,” said Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoune in a press conference organized by the Sahrawi Commission on Human rights.
“The Sahrawi authorities are ready to negotiate again with the Moroccan occupier to get the Sahrawi conflict out of the impasse,” he added. A situation which led the Sahrawi leaders to demand an acceleration of Western Sahara’s decolonization process, said the ambassador.
Bayoune said that the UN Security Council is responsible for the Human Rights violations in Western Sahara and the despoilment of its natural resources because of France’s right of veto that prevents any resolution of the conflict in order to protect its own interests and those of Morocco.
According to the ambassador, the Sahrawi authorities consider that the Sahrawi cause is now an “African” rather than a UN one, which requires an increased involvement of the African Union in the resolution of the conflict.
Considering Morocco’s absence from the AU Peace and Security Council, Bouchraya Hammoudi Bayoune said that it is a “failure” for its first test following its accession to the Pan-African organization, and that is shows its unavailability to cooperate for the resolution of the conflict out of fear of the pressures that the AU could apply.
LONDON- The freedom of expression in Western Sahara is muzzled by Morocco which attacks journalists and human rights activists, denounced the British organization for human rights defence in Western Sahara, Adala UK.
The NOG wrote on its website this week that the Moroccan regime persecutes and imprisons journalists because of their political opinions, the same false charges for which human rights defenders are accused.
Journalists in Western Sahara are particularly victims of human rights violations and often suffer from arbitrary detention and torture, according to the organization.
It underlines that the reports it receives show an alarming increase in restrictions on the freedom of expression exerted by Morocco and its human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
Adala UK cited the example of journalist of the Sahrawi city of Smara, Salah Labsir, who is still in prison, after being accused, wrongly, of premeditated violence against police and the destruction of public goods in 2013.
BRUSSELS- Sahrawi deputy minister for Europe Mohamed Sidati urged Wednesday the European Union (EU) to intervene to contribute to the “immediate and unconditional” release of the Sahrawi political prisoners of Gdeim Izik group.
“We call on EU to intervene to contribute to the immediate and unconditional release of these Sahrawi political prisoners, by referring to human rights clauses enshrined in the partnership agreements with Rabat,” he told APS, underlining that such an action is likely to “contribute to the relaunch of UN peace process concerning Western Sahara, blocked by the Moroccan occupier so far.”
Pointing out the worrying circumstances in which their trial is taking place, Mohamed Sidati affirmed that EU “cannot remain indifferent” as it emanates from Morocco, a State related to EU by association and good neighbourhood agreements.
In this regard, the Sahrawi minister dubbed “illegal” the trial of the Sahrawi political prisoners of Gdeim Izik for more than one reason, insofar as it takes place outside Western Sahara, “non-self governing territory according to UN, separate from Morocco according to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
He underlined, in this regard, that “only an impartial body, respecting the rule of procedures, meeting equity and law criteria, in the presence of international observers and guaranteeing the rights of defence, will legitimately be able to judge them,” regretting that it is far from being the case.
ALGIERS- Minister of Maghreb Affairs, African Union and Arab League Abdelkader Messahel expressed the hope that the new Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres will give a new impetus to the decolonization process in Western Sahara.
“The UN process for the peaceful settlement of the Sahrawi cause is currently at a deadlock,” said Messahel, the guest of the National Television programme “Hiwar Essaa.”
In this regard, he expressed the hope that the new UN Secretary General, well informed about the issue as he was UN High Commissioner for Refugees, will bring “a new approach to relaunch dialogue.”
Underlining an “international consensus” on the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, Messahel said that all the international decisions are for a “settlement allowing the Sahrawi people to exercise their right to self-determination.”
BRUSSELS- The Polisario Front calls on the European Commission to open discussions to make legal the presence of the European economic players in Western Sahara in accordance with the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), warning that if not, the Front will act with determination to impose the full implementation of the law.
“The European Commission should respect CJEU’s decision and ask for the preliminary consent of the Sahrawi people,” wrote the representative of the Polisario Front in Belgium Jamel Zakari in a letter sent to the agricultural and rural development commission at the European Parliament.
In this regard, he underlined that the Polisario Front has always been in favour of Western Sahara’s economic development, provided that the economic activities are conducted in compliance with the principle of the peoples’ permanent sovereignty over their natural resources when they are under foreign occupation, “a fundamental element” of the right to self-determination.
The Polisario Front, which hopes to reach a “satisfactory solution” with the European Commission which will meet the mutual interests of the Sahrawi people and the European Union, reaffirms its commitment to following, on behalf of the Sahrawi people, “all the legal ways to ensure the full implementation of CJEU’s decision.”
WASHINGTON- The Moroccan authorities continued in 2016 imposing restrictions on the civil and political rights of the Sahrawis in the occupied territories, according to the US Department of State in its annual report on human rights practices in the world.
“The most significant human rights problems in the territory of Western Sahara were Moroccan government restrictions on the civil liberties and on the political rights of pro-independence advocates,” US Department of State said in its report.
The document reports the increase in the inhuman treatment of the Sahrawi prisoners. Based on the observations of several sources, the Department of State affirmed that the mistreatment of the Sahrawi prisoners continued in 2016.
“Pre-trial detention conditions were especially a concern due to overcrowding and detention periods were often prolonged,” said the source, underlining that the judicial power “weakened by corruption and extrajudicial influence” is not independent and refused the right for a fair public trial to the accused.
The restrictions imposed on international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local human rights associations continued in 2016, said the report, underlining the ongoing violations committed by the Moroccan security forces encouraged by the widespread impunity.
NGOs continued to receive reports about the mistreatment of the Sahrawi prisoners, said the source, adding that the United Nations Human Rights Committee remains concerned about the continued use of torture.
LONDON- The Moroccan Authorities continued to repress the peaceful demonstrations in Western Sahara in 2016, and to expel journalists, foreign activists and human rights activists and to bar them entry to this territory, said the latest annual report of Amnesty International, published on Tuesday.
In its assessment of the world’s human rights in 2016, Amnesty International underlined that the Moroccan forces initiated criminal proceedings against the Sahrawi activists who called for the organization of a referendum on Western Sahara peoples’ self-determination and denounced the human rights abuses, and submitted these activists to “restrictions.”
Human rights defenders were questioned upon their return from abroad by the Moroccan authorities who also expelled from Western Sahara journalists and foreign activists as well as human rights defenders, according the report.
The non-governmental organization cited the expulsion of a delegation made up of a Belgian jurist, a Spanish judge and French and Spanish lawyers who went, in April, to Rabat to make representations on behalf of Gdeim Izik prisoners.
The report also underlines that Sahrawi people, arrested by the Moroccan security forces for peaceful demonstrations, were victims of torture and ill-treatment.
CHAHID EL HAFED (Sahrawi refugee camps)- Secretary General of Polisario Front expressed his concern about United Nations Security Council’s “inertia” in the face of the “violation by Rabat” of the international law, calling on the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to continue the decolonisation process in Western Sahara.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the 4th meeting of the Polisario Front Secretariat General held Monday, under the chairmanship of Brahim Ghali, Sahrawi President and Polisario Front’s Secretary General, the Polisario Front expressed its concern about “the Security Council’s inertia in the face of the repeated Moroccan violations of the international law.”
It cited, in this regard, the hindrances to the process of the organization of a referendum on self-determination, interruption of negotiation process, the rejection of human rights monitoring and the expulsion of the political and administrative staff of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), in addition to the ceasefire violations in the region of El Guergarate.
The Secretariat General of the Polisario Front attributed to Morocco the responsibility of this situation and its effects, launching an “urgent call” to the UN Secretary General to continue the decolonisation process in Western Sahara.
It also called on “Spain to fully play its role in the completion of the decolonization process as part of the international law,” with regard to “its legal, historic and moral responsibility vis-à-vis the Sahrawi people.”
The National Secretariat called on France “to contribute positively to a fair and definitive settlement instead of hindering UN’s efforts and encouraging Morocco in its intransigence.”
The Polisario Front expressed “the Sahrawi side’s willingness to continue the cooperation and its actions with UN and the international community to preserve the possible peaceful opportunities on the basis of justice and law, underlining SADR’s willingness to negotiate with its neighbour as members of the African Union to establish peace while respecting their territorial integrity and turning the page of the war for the progress of the peoples of the region, continent and preservation of international security and peace.”
LONDON- Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) denounced the illegal oil exploration by the Swiss company Glencore off the coast of the occupied territory of Western Sahara.
WSRW underlined in a communiqué that “Glencore” is accelerating the oil exploration off the coast of occupied Western Sahara, underlining that the company conducted other seismic surveys and concluded a renewable agreement on a block offshore the occupied territory.
Glencore has already been involved in similar illegal activities when it signed an agreement with the Moroccan occupier in 2016, said the source.
WSRW also reported that the seismic study vessel BGP Prospector, owned by a subsidiary of the Chinese oil company CNPC, has undertaken seismic studies off the coast of occupied al-ayun, the capital city of Western Sahara, and has done similar studies twice in the past.
UN Security Council to meet on February 22 on Sahrawi issue
WASHINGTON- The Security Council will hold on 22 February a meeting on the situation in Western Sahara whose peace process is at standstill since 2012, the representative of the Polisario Front at the United Nations Ahmed Boukhari told APS on Thursday.
The meeting, to be held behind closed doors, was scheduled at the request of Uruguay, non-permanent member of the Security Council, he said.
The Security Council invited, in this regard, the department of peacekeeping operations to assess the situation in occupied Western Sahara, a meeting which will take place in a context of blockade by Morocco of any initiative to reach a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The representative of the Polisario Front called on the UN Secretary General Antonio Guteress to “work, as soon as possible, for the settlement of this conflict to ensure the respect of UN resolutions and its Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).”
ALGIERS- French human rights activist Claude Mangin-Asfari denounced Wednesday, in Algiers, the “blackout” imposed by the western media, notably French, on the Sahrawi issue, calling them to shed light on the Moroccan abuses and violations against the Sahrawi people.
Speaking in the Forum of El Mujaheed, the pro-Sahrawi activist underlined that this cause, “forgotten by the western media, can restore to it (media) its lost credibility through a larger and fairer international media coverage and by shedding light on the human rights violations committed by the Moroccan occupying forces against the Sahrawi people for more than 40 years.”
To illustrate the Moroccan abuses, she pointed out “the tragic conditions” in which the operation of the dismantling of the Sahrawi peaceful protest camp of Gdeim Izik in 2010 and the arrest of Sahrawi human rights activists, including her husband Naama Asfari.
Claude Mangin-Asfari called on the international community, human rights organizations, media, trade unions and legal authorities to step up visits to the Sahrawi political prisoners, in order to uncover the serious human rights violations perpetrated by the Moroccan occupier.
These Sahrawis sentenced during the trial of Gdeim Izik are protected persons in accordance with the article 4 of the fourth Convention of Geneva and should, therefore, enjoy all the rights that the international humanitarian law gives to them, she affirmed.
BRUSSELS- European MPs called Thursday, in Brussels, Morocco to respect its international commitments and to comply with the international law concerning the issue of Western Sahara, denouncing the latest warnings to the European Union (EU) on the implementation of the agriculture agreement signed in 2012.
The European deputy Maria Gimenez Barbat, who spoke in a meeting of the delegation for the relations with Maghreb countries, said she is “convinced” that Morocco, which recently joined the African Union, “will be able to meet the objectives and principles of the Constitutive Act of the African Union,” notably to the points B of the articles 3 and 4 of this Act.
In an exchange of views with Morocco’s ambassador to EU Ahmed Reda Chami, the Euroepan MP reminded Morocco of its obligations in accordance with the provisions of AU Constitutive Act that it signed to join this African body.
In this regard, she underlined that AU Constitutive Act stipulates clearly that the Union’s objectives are to “defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member States.”
While broaching the issue of Western Sahara’s natural resources management, Gimenez Barbat called for the implementation of the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which excludes definitively the territory of Western Sahara from the scope of the association and liberalisation agreements concluded between EU and Morocco.
For her part, Euro MP Marie Christine Vergiat called for the implementation of CJEU’s decision, made on 21 December 2016.
“I totally agree with what Barbat said,” she underlined, affirming that she “shares” with her “cautions about the statements of the Moroccan minister of Agriculture.”
“I think that the words (used by Moroccan minister) were a little strong compared to the serenity necessary to debates, notably concerning issues of peoples,” she said.
Calling for the respect of the international law, Vergiat expressed her support to the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Canete.
Canete affirmed, few days ago, that EU will, from now on, take into account the “distinct and separate” status of the territory of Western Sahara in its exchanges with Morocco in terms of renewable energies.
LONDON- Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) welcomed the European Union's decision to respect "the separate and distinct status" of the territory of Western Sahara, when considering its energy imports from Morocco.
The non-governmental organization (NGO) underlined in a statement the "shift in the EU Commission's position vis-a-vis Western Sahara, where before, the Commission would consistently state that Western Sahara is de facto administered by Morocco."
In his response to EU deputies on how does the EU Commission plan to ensure that its renewable energy trading with Morocco complies with the EU obligation to uphold international law and United Nations principles, the European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Canete said that the EU would henceforth "take into account the separate and distinct status of the territory of Western Sahara under international law."
Canete's written reply includes a reference to the 21 December 2016 ruling by the EU Court of Justice, concluding that the EU-Morocco Association and Liberalization Agreements cannot be applied to Western Sahara, as it is not part of Morocco, said the NGO.
WSRW underlined that this "first on-record recognition" of the "separate and distinct status" of the territory of Western Sahara, comes from Miguel Arias Canete, who in his previous position as Spain's Minister for Fisheries campaigned tirelessly for the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which is applied in the waters of Western Sahara.
However, the NGO expressed concerns over the implementation of the decision for future Morocco's energy projects in the Sahrawi occupied territories.
In this regard, WSRW said "it is not clear from the Commissioner's statement how energy developed in occupied Western Sahara could be avoided in practice, if Morocco would connect the territory's energy plants to its own national grid."
"By 2020, more than a quarter of Morocco's entire green energy production will be located in Western Sahara," said the NGO, adding that this would "further complicate an already arduous peace process."
LONDON (U.K.)- The representative of the Polisario Front in the United Kingdom Mohamed Limam Mohamed Ali said Thursday, in London, that Morocco’s accession to the African Union and the abandonment of the conditions previously issued, and which were the source of its withdrawal in 1984 from the Organization of African Unity, were a “victory for the Sahrawi cause.”
Morocco’s accession to the African Union “following a laborious process without preconditions, is a victory for the Sahrawi (SADR) cause because it recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is a full founding member,” Limam told APS.
MADRID- The association of Zamora (Spain) of friendship with the Sahrawi people announced the sending, in March, of a specialized medical delegation which will provide treatment and perform consultations and surgical operations to the Sahrawi refugees.
This health cooperation project will comprise gynaecologists, paediatricians and doctors who will, for two weeks, perform medical examinations to the Sahrawi population living in difficult conditions in the refugee camps.
The gynaecologists participating in this humanitarian cooperation project will, added the source, conduct screenings of various breast diseases.
In this regard, Emilia Alfageme who coordinates this project said that the Sahrawi women in the camps “don’t have any breast cancer prevention programme, since their settlement in these camps, more than 40 years ago, hence the importance of this project.”
This project of solidarity comprises among other sections, the training of the Sahrawi nurses, added the coordinator who pointed out that this paramedical staff will benefit from training provided by doctors in some fields such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
ADDIS ABABA- Sahrawi President Brahim Ghali underlined, in Addis Ababa, that time has come to organize the referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara, regretting the fact that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is the only UN mission without human rights monitoring component, according to the Sahrawi news agency SPS.
Following his talks with the new UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres in Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of the 28th AU Heads of State and Government Summit which kicked off Monday, the Sahrawi President said that MINURSO “must be able to carry out its mission properly to enable the Sahrawi people to freely determine their future.”
The Sahrawi President, also Secretary General of the Polisario Front, denounced “the continuing Moroccan human rights violations in the occupied areas of Western Sahara,” calling on UN to take an action in the face of this “unacceptable” situation.
Last Friday, Sahrawi Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Salem Ould Salek affirmed that this summit will hold Morocco accountable for its historical and judicial responsibilities as it is a force which occupies illegally a member country of the pan-African organization, underlining that it is the only African country which doesn’t respect its internationally recognized borders.
GAND (Belgium)-The Sahrawi Diaspora in Belgium organized a protest rally at the port of Gand (northwest of Brussels) where the key Bay ship docked after unloading at the port of Fecamp (France) marine oil imported “illegally” from Western Sahara.
The participants in the rally chanted slogans denouncing the “plundering” of Western Sahara’s natural resources and carried banners demanding the respect of the principle of permanent sovereignty of peoples on their natural resources.
They also condemned the flagrant violation of European law and international law committed by the Moroccan occupation authorities and by this ship which loaded oil marine from the port of al-ayun without any valid document issued by the Sahrawi authorities,” according to the representative of the Polisario Front in Belgium Djamel Zakari.
“A letter of protest was given to the staff of the ship Key Bay with whom we held constructive discussions to protest against the shipping of this cargo of fish oil, imported illegally from Western Sahara,” he said.
However, no complaint was lodged in Belgium against this ship which docked at the end of the day at the port of Gand after a stop Saturday 14 January at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in Spain, and last Friday in Fecamp (France ) where it unloaded its entire cargo.
BRUSSELS (Belgium) - Paloma Lopez, a member of the European Parliament, denounced the “arbitrary detention” of Sahrawi students in Moroccan prisons, outraged by their detention conditions, particularly the torture they are subjected to.
In a written question addressed to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, the Spanish MEP urged her to take all the necessary measures to protect the fundamental rights of these Sahrawis, detained in the prison of Oudaya (Marrakesh), considering them as political prisoners.
Paloma Lopez urged Mogherini to take all the appropriate measures to ensure that their rights as political prisoners are fully respected, calling for a medical examination “to verify the allegations of torture made by these prisoners.”
In this regard, the eurodeputy wondered about the measures to be taken by the European Union (EU) so that these prisoners are examined by doctors of international and independent medical organizations, in order to document the abuse and torture they suffered. In addition, she asked the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini to pressure Morocco to avoid another postponement of the trial of the Sahrawi students, who are detained “arbitrarily” in the Oudaya prison for nearly a year now.
“They (the students) consider being arbitrarily judged as a reprisal for their activism, in universities, for the Sahrawi cause,” said the Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH).
MADRID- Tens of Sahrawis and Spanish of the movement of solidarity with the Sahrawi people demonstrated Monday before Morocco’s embassy in Madrid to require the “release of the Sahrawi political prisoners” and “cessation of the Moroccan repression in the occupied territories.”
Chanting “release political prisoners,” “the struggle will continue and Polisario Front will overcome,” “Morocco is guilty and Spain is responsible,” and “We are with Gdeim Izik’s prisoners,” tens of Sahrawis and Spanish, including two Euro-MPs from the Spanish party izquierda unida namely Willy Meyer and Paloma Lopez, responded to the call launched by the Spanish coordination of associations of friendship with the Sahrawi people to demand the release of the political prisoners whose trial will be in Rabat and to denounce the repression exerted by the Moroccan occupying forces.
In a statement to APS, the Euro-MP Willy Meyer lamented “the tragic situation of Western Sahara following the continuing repression by the Moroccan police and army.”
“This situation deprives the Sahrawi people of their basic rights notably their right to self-determination and we insist, as European deputies, on the withdrawal of the colonial forces so that to hold a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara.”
For his part, Paloma Lopez said that “the trial of Gdeim Izik’s prisoners is illegal and doesn’t include any guarantee or respect of the international law and this is why we insist on the immediate release of these prisoners.”