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IV United Nations Commission on the Decolonisation of the Western Sahara

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen Delegates, firstly I would like to express my gratitude to you in the name of the Liga Española Pro-Derechos Humanos for giving me the opportunity to appear before you in this forum dealing with one of the most deliberately obscured and thereby the most shameful of conflicts on the current international political panorama.

It is intolerable that nearly 200,000 Saharans remain as refugees in the camps in Tinduf (Algeria), one of the most inhospitable regions on this planet and helped solely by international humanitarian aid. Their fellow countrymen and women who were unable to escape Western Sahara after the Green March of 1975 are hardly in a better condition.

The extent of the repression by Moroccan security forces in the occupied territories of Western Sahara is such that, according to AFAPREDESA (Asociación de Familiares de Presos y Desaparecidos Saharauis - The Association of Families of Saharan Prisoners and Disappeared), practically every family has someone who has died, disappeared or been tortured. Among these repressive practices one can speak of extra-judicial or summary executions, forced abductions, torture, unjust judicial trials, arbitrary detentions, a state of siege, a block on information as well as a policy of moving in settlers so as to pervert the demographic composition of the territory. It is worth mentioning that these Human Rights violations are being carried out by a repressive apparatus of more than 250,000 Moroccan agents, grouped into the following bodies: the Army, the Territorial Security Authorities, the Judicial Police, the Royal Gendarmerie and the Mobile Intervention Corps.

Despite the deliberate obscuring of information promoted by the attitude of the Kingdom of Morocco, there are figures and data that show the seriousness of the repression being committed. Aside from the 310 Saharans freed in 1991, it is calculated that there are more than 500 who are still missing. Various secret detention centres have been discovered that hold many Saharans along with many other detained opponents of the Moroccan regime. None of these centres has been recognised by the Moroccan authorities except when a detainee has been freed. There are still clandestine detention centres that continue to operate and some sections of the security forces are still licensed to make secret detentions.

With regard to torture, a practice of violation so serious that its prohibition forms part of international Human Rights legislation, we can state that no state official has ever been condemned in court for torturing detainees. No investigations have ever been carried out on cases where the circumstances have been cleared up. Requests from NGOs to carry out investigations have always been denied. Accusations of torture have always been rejected by the Moroccan courts and, even if they are admitted to trial, they are always dismissed immediately even when the victims can show their uncured marks and bruises produced by torture.

The common factor with all this Human Rights violations is none other than that of impunity. The passivity shown by the International Community, justified solely by timid attempts at pressurising Morocco, makes it possible for the Human Rights of thousands of Saharans to be violated daily.

We are aware, however, that even where there are sufficient international mechanisms that could put a brake on these Human Rights violations, these rights will only be completely protected when the Saharan people are granted their right to free self-determination through a free, transparent and just Self-determination Referendum.

As you know, the first article of the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as well as that of the International Agreement on Civil and Economic Rights (both of which the Kingdom of Morocco is obliged to apply), that all peoples have the right to self-determination. It is offensive, therefore, to hear the words of the Moroccan king, Mohamed VI, on the occasion of the first anniversary of his accession to the throne, when he refers to the question of the decolonisation of Western Sahara as an "artificial quarrel".

The current block on the United Nations and OAU (Organisation for African Unity) Peace Plan, caused by the number of appeals presented by Morocco against the electoral census established by MINURSO only has one solution: the proper and strict application of the "Operational directives for the application of appeal procedures" (document S/1999/483, addendum 1, of 13 May 1999), especially its articles 20 and 21, in their section "d" and "i", and thereby reject appeals presented by Moroccan citizens, as these have presented no new evidence on making the appeal, the sole moment (according to article 20 of both Directives) in which new information can be added to support the inclusion of the appellant in the electoral roll. We ask the United Nations, therefore, to review this process and to explain, transparently, the reasons for this decision due to the gravity and importance that this matter has for holding the (always-postponed) Referendum on the Self-determination of the Saharan people. This question of the irregularities in processing appeals against the electoral roll has already been set out in our written communication presented in the 56th Sessions of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations led this year and delivered by me, on behalf of the Liga Española Pro-Derechos Humanos, to the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the UNO, Mrs. Mary Robinson.

It is nothing new to say that all of the stages of the peace proposal have been delayed by Morocco, which persists in its attitude of not collaborating with the United Nations mission, confirming thus that it is not interested in resolving the Saharan conflict. But what is more worrying still is the ineffective and inoperative approach by the International Community in ensuring that international legality is upheld and the Human Rights of the Saharan people are protected. Especially flagrant and shameful has been the attitude of the various Spanish Governments which, far from applying real and effective diplomatic pressure on the Kingdom of Morocco (and emulating Portugal with regard to its ex-colony of East Timor, thus assuming its historic and moral responsibilities), have adopted an apparent neutrality, signing fishing agreements with that country for Saharan waters and selling it arms for an amount, just in the first half of this year, of some thousand million pesetas (according to a report from the UNESCO Chair on Peace and Human Rights at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona).

Currently, following the latest postponement of the Self-determination Referendum, alternative scenarios are being designed outside of the framework of the Peace Plan such as, for example, the so-called "third way". This proposal, sponsored by the USA, France and Spain, would involve converting Western Sahara into a Moroccan province with a "certain degree of autonomy". The argument behind this proposal is none other than considering this third way as being able to avoid the possibility of a new war in Western Sahara. What it hides, however, is that the recent signs of new escalations have been caused by the obstructionist manoeuvres by Morocco and the International Community's consent to such manoeuvres. From the Liga Española Pro-Derechos Humanos we consider that the only legitimate resolution to the Saharan conflict must come from a Self-determination Referendum. We fully reject the third way as it denies the Right to Self-determination as accepted in the "Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples" of 14 December 1960 and in the constitution document of the Organisation of African Unity, which proclaims and defends, in its article II, the eradication of any form of colonialism in Africa.

With regard to the possibility of a new escalation of war, we must point out that a report from the Canary Islands Government (the Spanish community geographically closest to Western Sahara) has been made public and in it, that Government warns that there is an increasing danger of a break in the cease-fire by the Frente Polisario. From the information that we have in the Liga Española Pro-Derechos Humanos we can support that report.

From this platform we ask the International Community and, especially, the United Nations (whose credibility is at stake in this conflict) to apply the diplomatic pressure necessary for the Human Rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara to recognised and repaired and so that the Self-determination Referendum may be held - once and for all - in the shortest day possible.

In a world like today's, in which so many walls have fallen, there still remains - and stronger than ever - the Western Sahara wall. The International Community cannot (and must not) allow such much suffering and so much pain to continue for a people, like the Saharans, who are fully innocent.

Many thanks.

Francisco José Alonso Rodríguez
National Chairman of the Liga Española Pro-Derechos Humanos

Editorial note: the initial digital edition of this document was released on 09Nov00 by the Equipo Nizkor in Madrid.

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