Lord Avebury, Liberal Democrat peer, asked the government to put pressure on the Security Council to uphold the peace plan. In its response the British government confirmed that it fully supported the efforts of MINURSO to put the peace plan in place and continued to act for a fair and lasting solution in Western Sahara by encouraging the parties to seek a mutually acceptable solution.
Respect for human rights has deteriorated in Morocco despite promises made by the authorities, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) notes in its annual report. Police repression has continued in 2000 and several people have died in detention.
Following the prohibition on leaving Morocco, affecting the two human rights activists from Forum Vérité et Justice (Sahara section), numerous protests have been sent to the Moroccan authorities, to the UN, to the Commission on Human Rights and various governments (among others by AFASPA France, the European parliamentary intergroup, the Norwegian parliamentary intergroup, ASDHOM). A petition of the Observatory for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT, is circulating among the NGOs accredited to the Commission on Human Rights.
Two human rights activists, Noumri Brahim and Elhamed Mahmoud, members of Forum Vérité et Justice, Sahara section, were arrested at Casablanca airport on their way to Geneva to take part in the 57th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. They were freed after several hours, their passports and all their documents were impounded.
Noumri Brahim is a former prisoner from Kalaat M'gouna, where he was incarcerated from 1976 until 1991. Elhamed Mahmoud, also a political prisoner in 1992, is now working in the phosphate mines of Bou-Craâ.
The European Bureau for the Respect of Human Rights in Western Sahara, which had invited them, issued a statement which denounced this violation of free circulation of people and called for protests.
In a letter addressed to their colleagues, the European Parliamentary Intergroup "Peace for the Saharawi people" expressed its concern at the rapidly deteriorating situation in Western Sahara. This concern is based on the present rearmament of Morocco (purchase of British arms, plan to acquire canons and hunter aircraft), on the manoeuvres of the Moroccan embassy in Mauritania, which is trying to win support from Mauritanian tribes by selling them fake 'noble' family trees, as well as the political and diplomatic pressure exercised by Spain (cancellation of twinning agreements) and Great Britain (statements made by the British ambassador in Rabat in a Moroccan daily). The intergroup is asking parliamentarians to inform their respective ministers of Foreign Affairs with a view of putting a stop to the mounting tensions in Western Sahara.
Mohamed Boucetta, former minister of Foreign Affairs and former secretary general of the Istiqlal Party, has put forward a proposal for the organisation of a constitutional referendum in Morocco on regionalisation, in order to end the conflict in Western Sahara, he indicated during a colloquium on the question, organised in Rabat by the political and foreign affairs committee of the Parti Istiqlal. (Ach-Chark al-Awsat, quoted by the review of the press by the French Embassy in Rabat)
UN Commission on Human Rights
In a letter sent to the president of the 57th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Union of Saharawi Jurists draws attention to the situation which prevails in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and asks it to force Morocco to put an end to arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances and torture, to lift the state of siege and to guarantee free access to Western Sahara, to supply death certificates to families of the 60 Saharawis who died in secret detention centres and to make Morocco abide by international conventions which it has itself ratified.
Mohamed Benaïssa, Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs, discussed the question of Western Sahara in Amman with Kofi Annan on the occasion of the summit of Arab Heads of State.
Great Britain does not recognise any Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara and continues to support the efforts of the UN, the permanent UK representative at the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, stated in a letter sent to the Polisario Front representative in New York. The British Ambassador in Rabat had told the Matin du Sahara, on 17 March, that "Great Britain will continue to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General and Mr James Baker, his special envoy, to find a political solution to the question of the Sahara in the context of Moroccan sovereignty". (SPS)
Margaret Tutwiler has been appointed US ambassador in Morocco. A member for many years of the administration of Bush senior, she was a close collaborator of James Baker in the Department of State and is well acquainted with the Sahara question.
GRULAC (Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries of the United Nations) has reaffirmed, in a letter to the Secretary General and to the Presidents of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly, its support for the settlement plan and the Houston Agreements. The 33 member states of GRULAC reiterated "their historic calling for the respect of the rules of international law" and reaffirmed the inalienable right of all peoples to self-determination.
Representatives of all the autonomous parliaments of Spain as well as the Congress met in Pampeluna for the 6th Conference of parliamentary intergroups "Peace for the Saharawi People". In the presence of the president of the Saharawi Parliament, they analysed the current situation and the risks of armed conflict. The political declaration approved by the conference will be put to all the autonomous parliaments. The President of the intergroups emphasised the necessity of taking action before the end of April, so that the "Government of Madrid can do what it always should have done, which is to get involved in the United Nations peace plan."
Over 50 MPs signed an "Early Day Motion", which asks:
That this House deplores the issuing of an arms export licence for the refurbishment of Moroccan heavy artillery in occupied Western Sahara; is concerned by the support the United Nations gave for this licence; believes Her Majesty's Government has contravened the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports; and calls on Britain to end all arms licensing for Morocco until the people of Western Sahara achieve self-determination. (57 signatures)
The extraordinary and plenipotentiary Ambassador of SADR in Nigeria, Alien Habib Kentaoui, presented his credentials to the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja. Obasanjo reaffirmed to the Saharawi ambassador the support of his country for the just cause of the Saharawi people and its firm support of the UN/OAU settlement plan and its complete implementation, allowing the Saharawi people to choose their destiny freely. (Saharawi Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
La agencia de noticias de la República Árabe saharaui Democrática (RASD), Servicio de Prensa Saharaui (SPS) ha iniciado la difusión, vía internet, de sus informaciones en español. Desde el primero de Abril, todos sus despachos e informaciones estarán disponibles en su página web: http://www.citeweb.net/spsinfo/
Además, todos aquellos interesados en suscribirse al servicio informativo diario a través de su correo electrónico pueden dirigirse a la dirección: Agencia-SPSemail@example.com
Le pagine dell'Associazione "Ban Slout Larbi" crescono giorno dopo giorno e si arricchiscono di nuovi documenti e iniziative: http://digilander.iol.it/saharawi
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
[Summary Weekly News,] [Western Sahara Homepage]