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Concern and support for the Saharawi people

Statement by Senator Bob Brown: Concern and support for the Saharawi people of the Western Sahara

In the early hours of Monday 8th November the Moroccan army and security forces attacked an estimated 20,000 Saharawi civilian protesters from the makeshift protest camp at Gadaym Izik near Laayoune. The forces killed unarmed men, women, the elderly and young children – reports suggest that about 30 people were killed.

The Saharawi people were protesting about their living conditions in the territory, occupied by Morocco since 1975. Morocco has denied access to the area not only to the UN, but also humanitarian agencies and the international press.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on 16 November 2010 and “deplored the violence in El Aaiun and Gdaim Izyk camp, and expressed their condolences over the deaths and injuries that resulted.” The United Nations has repeatedly promised the Saharawi the right to self-determination, but Morocco has blocked efforts to hold a referendum that includes the option of independence.

The Australian Greens strongly condemn this act of aggression against Saharawi civilians. We call for the immediate cessation of violence against the people of Western Sahara.

The Australian Greens call on the Moroccan Government:
• To immediately release all the Saharawi detainees;
• To respect the Saharawi people’s human rights and allow them to exercise their rights to self-determination;
• To allow the media, NGOs and international observers full access to the camp;

The Australian Greens urge the United Nations to send an urgent fact-finding mission to investigate the violence, report back on it and the steps needed to protect the Saharawi people in the future.

Letters sent by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to the Australian Foreign Minister, The Moroccan Ambassador and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Ref: GK/GB:dd
2 December 2010
The Hon Kevin Rudd, MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Dear Kevin,

Re: Western Sahara

The ACTU is gravely very concerned about the continuing serious human rights abuses in the occupied Western Sahara.

On 8 November 2010 the Moroccan army and security forces attacked an estimated 20,000 Saharawi civilian protesters from the makeshift protest camp known as Gdeim Izik where they had been living for a month. The army moved in using live bullets, helicopters, tear gas, and high pressure hoses to clear the protesters. Between 30 to 60 people are reported dead.

Journalists and independent observers were banned from entering the camp. Spanish, French and European MPs attempting to visit the camp have been refused entry to the country and some of them deported from the airport

The UN Security Council met in an emergency meeting on Tuesday 16 November to discuss the situation in Western Sahara following the attack on the camp.
The Council members “deplored the violence in El Aaiun and Gdaim Izyk camp, and expressed their condolences over the deaths and injuries that resulted.”
We believe that Australian should raise its voice loud and clear against the massacre and oppression of the people of Western Sahara, and call on the UN to send a fact-finding mission to the region as soon as possible Australia should also request the UN to include human rights monitoring in the mandate of its mission in the Territory (MINURSO).

We respectfully urge you to bring this urgent issue to the attention of the Moroccan authorities as well as to the attention of the UN Secretary General.
The ACTU believes the Sahawari people must be allowed to participate in an act of self-determination under the auspices of the United Nations.

We strongly urge you to make Western Sahara part of your agenda for Australia’s renewed international engagement.

We also urge you to ensure that Australia deals with the issue of Western Sahara in a positive manner particularly during the regular yearly debate at the UN General Assembly. We look forward to hearing from you on these important issues.

Yours sincerely,
Ged Kearney
President


2 December 2010
His Excellency Mr Mohamed MAEL-AININ
Ambassador
Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

Re: Statement of solidarity with the Saharawi people following recent attack on civilians

Dear Ambassador,

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), being a long-standing supporter of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and justice, was alarmed to learn of the recent attack on Saharawi civilians.

The ACTU has been informed that in the early hours of Monday 8th November the Moroccan army and security forces attacked an estimated 20,000 Saharawi civilian protesters in the makeshift protest camp where they had been living for a month. Western Sahara is now under siege and a state of emergency is declared.

The Sahrawi citizens set up a tent camp outside the capital of Western Sahara, El Aauin to protest peacefully their treatment and demand the respect of their basic rights. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on 16 November 2010 and “deplored the violence in El Aaiun and Gdaim Izyk camp, and expressed their condolences over the deaths and injuries that resulted.” The United Nations has repeatedly promised the Saharawi the right to self-determination, but Morocco has blocked efforts to hold a referendum that includes the option of independence.

The ACTU, which represents two million workers and strongly supports of democratic rights, abhors this aggression against Saharawi civilians and calls on the Kingdom of Morocco to fully respect the basic human rights of the Sahawari people and allow them to exercise their rights to self-determination.
The ACTU also calls on Morocco to immediately release all the Saharawi detainees and to allow the media, NGOs and international observers full access to the camp.

I hope that you will pay prompt attention to this very serious matter and look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely,

Ged Kearney
President

Cc: The Hon Kevin Rudd, Foreign Affairs Minister
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

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