U.N. REQUESTS GOVERNMENT OF MOROCCO TO COMPLY WITH ITS INTERNATIONAL LEGAL OBLIGATIONS
- The Spokesman said that the United Nations had sent a note verbale to Morocco’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, in reply to the note verbale sent by the Government of Morocco on 16 March.
- The note made clear that the Secretary-General is deeply concerned that the recent actions taken by the Government of Morocco are contrary to Morocco’s legal obligations as agreed under the Status of Mission Agreement for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
- That agreement includes a legal obligation for Morocco to ensure that the members of MINURSO “shall whenever so required by the SRSG have the right to enter into, reside in and depart from the Mission area.”
- The Executive Office of the Secretary-General strongly requests the Government of Morocco to comply immediately with its international legal obligations under the UN Charter, the General Convention and the MINURSO Status of Mission Agreement and to work together in a spirit of cooperation.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is accusing Morocco of violating the U.N. Charter in ordering the withdrawal of U.N. civilians from the peacekeeping mission in the disputed Western Sahara and says the Security Council must take action.
U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq warned Monday that without an effective peacekeeping force, there is a risk of a return to heightened tensions “and even conflict.”
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The United States is declaring its support for the threatened U.N. peacekeeping mission in the disputed territory of Western Sahara after Morocco took steps to reduce its size and terminate $3 million in funding.
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Sahrawi Political Prisoners Continue Open-Ended Hunger Strike Over Detention Conditions and Due Process Violations
Thirteen of the Gdeim Izik prisoners remain on open-ended hunger-strike more than two weeks after having begun on March 1, 2016 to protest their sentencing and detention conditions and demand that their appeal be heard. The Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), among other Sahrawi human rights groups, have demanded the release of the Gdeim Izik prisoners or their immediate and fair retrial in a civilian court. Moroccan authorities refused to address the demands of the prisoners.
On February 17, 2013, a Moroccan military court sentenced 25 Sahrawi civilians for their alleged involvement in the Gdeim Izik protest camp that was forcibly dispersed by Moroccan authorities in November 2010. Two of the 25 men were sentenced to time served and released, a third sentenced in absentia, and a fourth provisionally released due to health conditions. The remaining 21 detainees continue to serve prison terms between 20 years and life imprisonment. The men have reported being tortured and forced to sign false statements.
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Morocco’s foreign minister on Monday he was angered and disappointed by a demonstration in Rabat he said was a personal attack on him over remarks he made about the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Tens of thousands of Moroccans marched though the capital on Sunday to protest Ban’s position on Western Sahara and rally support for the king.
Ban “conveyed his astonishment at the recent statement of the government of Morocco and expressed his deep disappointment and anger regarding the demonstration that was mobilized on Sunday, which targeted him in person,” Ban’s press office said in an unusually tough statement.
Readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with H.E. Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco
The Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, to exchange views on the state of efforts to settle the Western Sahara dispute, as well as his recent visit to the region to explore ways to intensify the negotiating process.
The Secretary-General took note of the misunderstanding related to his use of the word “occupation” as his personal reaction to the deplorable humanitarian conditions in which the Sahrawi refugees have lived in for far too long.
The Secretary-General also conveyed his astonishment at the recent statement of the Government of Morocco and expressed his deep disappointment and anger regarding the demonstration that was mobilized on Sunday, which targeted him in person. He stressed that such attacks are disrespectful to him and to the United Nations.
He also requested a clarification regarding the reported presence of several members of the Moroccan Government among the demonstrators. The Secretary-General asked the Foreign Minister to ensure that the United Nations enjoys respect in Morocco.
NOTES TO CORRESPONDENTS
Note to correspondents in response to questions on Western Sahara
New York, 9 March 2016
We have seen the statement of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The status of the Western Sahara territory remains to be decided, as it is a non-self-governing territory. All UN member States, including Morocco, agree with this in yearly General Assembly resolutions adopted without a vote. The Security Council has called on the UN to facilitate negotiations aiming at a “mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”. Clearly, the issue at stake is the final status of the territory.
Last Saturday, the Secretary-General personally witnessed a desperate situation in a Western Sahara refugee camp resulting from decades of life without hope in the harshest conditions. He stressed that the Sahrawi refugees deserve a better future. He referred to “occupation” as related to the inability of Sahrawi refugees to return home under conditions that include satisfactory governance arrangements under which all Sahrawis can freely express their desires. The Secretary-General reiterated his call for genuine negotiations in good faith and without preconditions. The objective of restarting these negotiations in a more positive spirit is to provide hope to these people and enable them to return home.
Once again, the Secretary-General calls on the parties to seriously engage in negotiations.