The President of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mohamed Abdel Aziz, expressed "deep disappointment" on the content of the last report of the UN Secretary General to the Security Council on the situation in Western Sahara, considering that an embodiment of "the incapability and failure" of the United Nations to face the obstacles of Morocco and to fulfil its obligations to the Saharawi people, in a letter Monday to UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon.
Following is the full text of the letter:
His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-moon
With your election as Secretary-General, the people of Western Sahara saw the potential for a rejuvenation of the UN’s commitment to resolving, once and for all, the case of the last colony in Africa. Your Excellency has on countless occasions reaffirmed the unwavering commitment of the United Nations to the eradication of colonialism, as well as the UN’s responsibility with regard to the protection of human rights. On this basis, the Frente POLISARIO has worked with you to facilitate your mission and that of your Personal Envoy, Ambassador Christopher Ross, to realize the long-awaited, just and lasting resolution to the conflict which will ensure the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.
Having examined carefully your most recent report on the situation concerning Western Sahara (UN Document S/2010/175), circulated to Members of the Security Council on 6 April 2010, I feel a moral and political obligation to write to you to express profound disappointment and frustration at the content of the report.
In the view of the Frente POLISARIO, the report fails completely to reflect in an honest and objective manner the events of the past twelve months, with the unfortunate result that you have presented to the Security Council an unbalanced and distorted picture of both the situation in Western Sahara as well as the factors currently impeding the political process. Indeed, the report is so biased and diluted as to raise serious questions as to the UN’s commitment to playing an impartial and constructive role in finding a solution which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. In the absence of any serious effort or desire on the part of the UN to deliver its promise of a referendum, how will I explain to the Saharawi people the value of continuing our good faith engagement with the UN-led political process?
Of the many deficiencies in your report, there are four areas that demanded particular attention.
First, the report fails to reference or update progress on the implementation of one of the two main elements of the MINURSO mandate: to organize and ensure a free and fair referendum and to proclaim the results. The fact that in Paragraph 78, the report recommends that MINURSO’s presence should be continued only “for the maintenance of the ceasefire”, implies, on the one hand, that the UN has accepted Morocco’s fabricated claim that a referendum is now not possible and on the other, that MINURSO’s role is to be reduced solely to the observation of an illegal occupation. The present stalemate is directly the result of Morocco’s politically motivated obstruction of a referendum, which seeks to render meaningless the common thread that ties every resolution of the Security Council and the General Assembly on the issue of Western Sahara since 1965, namely the sacred right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
Second, the Saharawi people finds abhorrent and shocking your mere “concern” regarding the human rights situation in Western Sahara. In a string of recent letters to you and the Presidency of the Security Council, I have drawn attention to the dangerous deterioration of the human rights situation in the Territory, including the unquestionable intensification by Morocco of its abuses targeting, in particular, known Saharawi human rights defenders. To characterize the human rights situation almost exclusively as one of reciprocal and equal claims and denials between Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO overlooks the reality documented in numerous independent reports by the UN and other internationally respected human rights organizations alike. The most recent example is a report by Amnesty International on April 9 describing six human rights defenders detained by Morocco since October 2009 as “prisoners of conscience imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression”, and now in the fourth week of a hunger strike, with no promise of release or proper medical attention. Today, there are more than 57 Saharawi political prisoners in Moroccan prisons, among them, 39 are on hunger strike, and their state of health is alarmingly deteriorating.
We noted with hope your reference in recent reports on Western Sahara to the UN’s duty to “uphold human rights standards in all its operations, including those relating to Western Sahara.” If such a duty exists, it is incomprehensible that your report does not include a suggestion or concrete recommendation as to how this should occur. To direct the parties to “remain engaged in continuous and constructive dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is utterly insufficient: her Office has no presence in the territory, and itself recommended in 2006 that human rights monitoring be implemented in the context of the MINURSO mandate. Political expediency and Moroccan threats of consequences for the political process should not be tolerated, nor allowed to undermine the UN’s responsibility to protect the Saharawi people.
Third, in this context, it is extraordinary that the report failed to reflect the Frente POLISARIO’s standing offer – made both publicly and in writing to you – to allow UN human rights monitoring in the territory under its control and in the refugee camps near Tindouf. Instead, you have chosen in your report to uncritically reproduce Morocco’s assertion that the Frente POLISARIO is raising the issue of human rights as a political diversion. This is outrageous. It is clear to all that protection of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of movement are prerequisites for the exercise of self-determination by the Saharawi people, which is the ultimate purpose of the process in which we are engaged.
Fourth, your report makes no effort whatsoever to reflect accurately the political dynamic prevalent in the negotiations, leaving the Security Council and the international community unaware of the true extent of Morocco’s intransigence. The report refers to a “series of events” that led to your Personal Envoy operating in “crisis management mode” (Paragraph 15). As Ambassador Ross made crystal clear in his private briefing to the Council on 18 February, all of these ‘events’ were instigated by Morocco, including an incendiary speech by the King, the arrest of seven human rights defenders and their subsequent indefinite imprisonment pending trial in a military court, and the illegal deportation of Aminatou Haidar.
Equally, there is no reference in Chapter C of your report – also confirmed by your Personal Envoy – to the Frente POLISARIO’s serious engagement on the Moroccan proposal during the Armonk talks, and the failure by the other side to engage similarly, in contempt of a previous commitment made directly to your Personal Envoy.
Finally, despite innumerable letters and protests from the Frente POLISARIO over many years, and a previous request from the Security Council to UN Legal Adviser Hans Corell for an analysis of the relevant legal principles, there is not one reference in the entire report to Morocco’s ongoing theft of the natural resources of Western Sahara. As you are aware, this is an issue which clearly undermines confidence between the parties, and must be addressed urgently to restore respect for international law. These resources belong to the people of Western Sahara, and not to Morocco.
After nearly two decades of failing in its duty to implement the referendum allowing for the exercise of self-determination by the people of Western Sahara, as agreed to in the 1991 Settlement Plan, we are fast reaching the conclusion that the UN has neither the capacity nor the fortitude to address Moroccan obstructions and deliver – finally – on its promise of a free and fair referendum. Given the UN’s obvious failures, once again confirmed by your report, and the call from your Personal Envoy for more active engagement and political guidance from the Security Council, we are now calling on the Council to significantly increase the regularity of its debate of the situation in Western Sahara to once every quarter, supported by more frequent and accurate reporting from your office. With this in mind, the Frente POLISARIO will communicate to the Security Council its demand that the upcoming renewal of the MINURSO mandate extend the Mission for a further four months.
I look forward, Mr. Secretary General, to receiving your response to the serious issues raised above. I am also copying this letter to Ambassador Christopher Ross to confirm to him in writing our profound dismay at the UN’s appalling disregard and neglect of the people of Western Sahara.
Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO
Original article published on April 14, 2010
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