Mission of the Western Sahara

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Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Plea on Western Sahara

Fighting Is Long Over, but Western Sahara Still Lacks Peace” (Tifariti Journal, Feb. 23) was an all-too-rare account of United Nations hypocrisy and international neglect that have left my people languishing in desert camp exile for nearly 40 years while Morocco illegally occupies our homeland in Western Sahara.

When the Security Council next considers the dispute in April, it is time for it to say “enough.” If the United States is committed to international law and what is right, it will take the lead.

The Security Council can no longer allow France to cover up Morocco’s derailing of negotiations, the abuse of our human rights, and the theft of the precious oil, gas and fishery resources that belong to my people.

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Legality of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement questioned (Euractiv.com)

A respected international lawyer has published an article, claiming that the fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco is illegal, as it doesn’t contain a specific reference to the fishing zone off the coast of Western Sahara, and that the UN Security Council (UNSC) should examine the issue.

Hans Corell, Former Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, writes in the International Judicial Monitor that UNSC should examine the legality of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement.

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The Responsibility of the UN Security Council in the Case of Western Sahara (International Judicial Monitor)

The question is, therefore, how the Council should now address the main issue, namely the question of providing for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. This process has now gone on for decades, and it is obvious that the current negotiation has become a charade that has come to an end. How this should be done is a political issue that the Council simply has to deal with. At the same time, any solution must be in conformity with international law. In this process the Council must now examine more radical options than applied in the past, among them the following three.

One option is to transform MINURSO into an operation similar to the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), which was endowed with overall responsibility for the administration of East Timor and empowered to exercise all legislative and executive authority, including the administration of justice.

Another option is to order Spain to resume her responsibility as administering Power in Western Sahara, a responsibility that Spain relinquished in February 1976.  In Article 73 of the UN Charter this responsibility, which encompasses the development of self-government, is referred to as a “sacred trust”. Precisely because of the fact that Spain abandoned this “sacred trust” this option, although legal, may not be advisable. An additional dilemma in this context is that Spain is now a member of the Council.

The problem with both these options is that they require the organisation of a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara can exercise its right to self-determination. This means that the identification process which has been a constant problem over the years will still be a major complication.

In view of the fact that the issue of Western Sahara has been on the agenda of the United Nations for four decades, the solution may be a third and more radical option, namely that the Security Council recognises Western Sahara as a sovereign state. Also this option should be acceptable from a legal point of view. It would not deprive the people of Western Sahara from seeking a different solution to their self-determination in the future, if they so wish.

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Fighting Is Long Over, but Western Sahara Still Lacks Peace (The New York Times)

TIFARITI, Western Sahara — Ghalla Sid Ahmed and her mother eke out a living in this isolated desert settlement, subsisting on five goats and a war pension. For 40 years they have lived in exile, barred from their land by a heavily patrolled sand berm that runs like a scar for 1,600 miles through this remote corner of the Sahara.

They are the forgotten victims of one of the world’s last conflicts left over from the Cold War. There has been no fighting here for 24 years, since a United Nations-monitored cease-fire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, an anticolonial resistance movement that sought independence.

But there has been no peace, either, despite unfulfilled promises of a referendum to settle the status of the Western Sahara. Today, as change and conflict encroach from the wider region, the people here are once again agitating for a solution, warning of the resumption of war, as patience runs out.

“We like it here,” said Ms. Ahmed, 51, gesturing at their homestead and the desert beyond, “but it is very hard without independence and the rest of our lands.”

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From Deep Within the Sahara Desert Comes a Cry for Freedom and Independence

What follows below is a multimedia collection (text, photos, videos) of reports, interviews, conversations, reflections and observations by the journalists and scholars who joined the delegation. Also assembled below are copies of recent African Union resolutions supporting the unconditional right of Western Sahara to independence and a Human Rights Watch report on the conditions in the refugee camps.

Over the course of several days, the journalists and scholars on our delegation conducted dozens of interviews with government officials, civic leaders, educators, health professionals, as well as with a cross-section of ordinary Saharawis.

They explored the history and structure of the Polisario Front, visited the military museum, examined the constitution and the institutional structures of the “government in exile” (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), delved into the past and present relations with the Moroccan kingdom, dissected the concrete demands of the Saharawi people, investigated the situation of political prisoners in Moroccan prisons and the fate of dozens of disappeared young activists. Their reports have appeared in recent weeks in several newspapers, magazines and Web sites published in the US.

Readers are invited to post their comments and opinions in the feedback section below.

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Africa’s Last Colony (World Policy Journal)


Since 2007, Morocco has been one of the top ten spenders in Washington and the leading Arab country with lobbying operations in the United States. The kingdom has spent more than $20 million lobbying in Washington, employing no fewer than nine American lobbying firms. Morocco-sponsored journalists and think tank experts litter the American press with a triad of false claims: Polisario is an Algerian proxy regime bent on destabilizing Morocco; Sahrawi camps in southern Algeria are terrorist havens and centers of regional instability; Sahrawi refugees are trapped in the camps against their will as “prisoners of the desert.”

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