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Security Council accused of hypocrisy over Western Sahara

Security Council accused of double standards over human rights in Western Sahara

Western Sahara Campaign

Press release

UN Security Council Resolution 1979 on Western Sahara passed yesterday by the Security Council for the first time recognises the need to improve human rights in the disputed Territory, but failed to respond to South Africa and Nigeria’s calls to establish human rights monitoring, leaving the UN mission (MINURSO) the only contemporary UN mission without a human rights mandate.

South Africa and Nigeria had proposed amendments to the text, all of which were rejected but they eventually voted for the resolution drafted by the UN’s “Group of Friends of Western Sahara” renewing the mission's mandate 15-0.

This failure to monitor human rights comes in sharp contrast to the Security Council’s position on human rights in other resolutions such as 1970 on Libya. In November Western Sahara was the scene of mass protests and violence. The Secretary General’s recent report on Western Sahara notes that unrest in the region brings increased urgency for efforts to resolve the 36 year Western Sahara conflict.

South African Ambassador Baso Sangqu addressing the Security Council said: “This double standard creates an impression that the Security Council does not care about the human rights of the people of Western Sahara." He called the lack of human rights monitoring in Western Sahara a “travesty”.

Natalie Sharples from the Western Sahara Campaign, part of a Network of organisations in 35 countries campaigning for the protection of human rights in Western Sahara said:

“The Security Council has expressed concern over human rights abuses in Moroccan occupied Western Sahara but failed to implement anything tangible to address them. The fact that France the UK and US have been so keen to highlight their support for human rights in Libya and Ivory Coast, yet are prepared to deny these rights to the Sahrawi people is shameful. It is clearly time for an African member to be included in the UN’s Group of Friends.”

Francesco Bastagli the former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Western Sahara said:

“Whether it's conflict prevention, basic human rights or responsibility to protect, Western Sahara is the long-neglected obligation of the international community. The Security Council can hardly be credible in its concern over Libya and other countries in the region while continuing to ignore the tragic plight of the Saharawi people.”

Noam Chomsky has said that the mass protests that took place in Western Sahara in November last year marked the starting point of the North Africa/Middle East protests.

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

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

France is thought to be the main country to oppose human rights monitoring and in previous years threatening to veto the resolution if it included any reference to human rights

The resolution fails to establish any mechanism to monitor human rights instead the preamble states: “Welcoming the establishment of a National Council on Human Rights in Morocco and the proposed component regarding Western Sahara, and the commitment of Morocco to ensure unqualified and unimpeded access to all Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The UN’s “ Group of Friends of Western Sahara” is the UK, US France, Spain and Russia. No African member is included.

Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco for 36 years in violation of international law and numerous Security Council Resolutions.

The UN Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) was established in 1991 to oversee a referendum in which the people in Western Sahara would choose between independence or integration with Morocco. Despite the previous publication of UN approved voter lists Moroccan objections to voter lists has meant the referendum has never taken place

Francesco Bastagli was UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative for Western Sahara from 2006 – 2006. He resigned in protest over UN inaction on Western Sahara.


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