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Tensions run high as UN begins Western Sahara negotiations

Australia Western Sahara Association

Press Release: For immediate release 17.04.11

Tensions run high as UN Security Council begins Western Sahara negotiations

High tension is expected during Monday’s negotiations on the renewal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara over the controversial issue of human rights in the disputed territory, and the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) has joined with international Western Sahara support groups to demand that the UN mission in Western Sahara be given a mandate to monitor human rights when the whole Security Council meets next Monday.

The mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) is the only contemporary UN mission without a mandate to monitor human rights. Despite strong support from other Council members, for the last two years France has threatened to veto the resolution if it contained any reference to human rights monitoring, and there are allegations that Morocco had lobbied to have an earlier version of the text watered down to remove any reference to human rights monitoring.

This year’s advocates for human rights are thought to include the UK, South Africa and Nigeria. Over the last 18 months human rights violations have grown increasingly severe. Questions have been raised as to how the Security Council can include human rights in recent resolutions such as 1970 on Libya but leave MINURSO without this mandate.

Francesco Bastagli former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Western Sahara said:
Past experience shows occasional assessments by special rapporteurs do not suffice to address the grave and deteriorating human rights situation of the Saharawi. The UN must not fail to establish a robust, continuous and dedicated capacity to monitor, protect and advocate the human rights of the Saharawi people

AWSA totally supports the position of the international Western Sahara support network that the Security Council cannot selectively protect human rights, choosing to focus on the rights of civilians in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire yet denying them to the Saharawi said Cate Lewis, AWSA vice president. The Security Council must implement human rights monitoring by mandating the UN mission to do so to ensure the extensive rights abuses are reported and acted upon.

Notes:
• Human rights abuses in Western Sahara are reported widely by International human rights organisations who have repeatedly called for human rights to be monitored by UN mission (MINURSO).

• On Thursday 14 April three high profile Western Saharan prisoners of conscience were finally released along with 92 others after spending more than 18 months in prison without sentencing.

• MINURSO is the only UN mission established since 1978 without a human rights mandate.

• For the last two years France has been the only country to oppose human rights monitoring, threatening to veto the resolution http://bitly/fEFjZ9
• See report from Inner City Press that Morocco was allowed to influence a leaked version of the report. http://www.innercitypress.com/unws5morocco041311.html
http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/04/15/idINIndia-56370120110415

• This is the first full meeting of the whole Security Council on the mandate of MINURSO this year. The final resolution is due to be passed on the 27th April.

• Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco for 36 years in violation of international law and numerous Security Council Resolutions. http://www.wsahara.org.uk

• Secretary General’s report on Western Sahara is attached.

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