Prisoners of war
Two delegates from the International Red Cross (ICRC), one of whom is a psychiatrist, visited Moroccan prisoners of war in the hands of the Polisario Front. From a total of 1,477 prisoners still in captivity, the delegates saw 680, among whom 35 civilians. One prisoner had died and another escaped since the last visit in May. The ICRC is extremely concerned by the very long periods these men have been held, which for 1,028 of them exceeds 20 years. The oldest of the prisoners has begun his 27th year of captivity. In view of the age and health of the prisoners, the time for which they have been held, and the requirements of international humanitarian law, the ICRC repeats its call for all prisoners to be released immediately, starting with the most vulnerable. (ICRC statement engl.)
The magistrate's court in Goulimine (southern Morocco) sentenced the young Saharawi, Danfour Ahmed Salem, to two months imprisonment and a fine of 1000 dirhams. Danfour was arrested on 27.11.01 and accused of "insulting the Moroccan state" for having participated in a demonstration of protest against the transfer to Casablanca of El Moutawakil Mohamed, secretary general of the municipality of Assa, former political detainee and member of the Truth and Justice Forum, Sahara branch. Danfour had also taken part at the beginning of October in a hunger strike at the headquarters of the trade union CDT in Assa, to demand a job. (statement from BERDHSO 09.12.01 english)
The secretary general of the PSOE will undertake a controversial visit to Morocco from 17-19.12, planned a long time ahead, but postponed following the recall of the Moroccan ambassador to Madrid at the end of October. In an interview with a Moroccan weekly, Zapatero declared that his party supports a solution accepted by the interested parties which takes account of "human rights and the historic rights of the Saharawi people", but in which Morocco would have central involvement "because no solution could be successful without the support of Morocco". What is essential for the Spanish socialist leader is that Spain should not be an obstacle to the final solution of the problem. The Spanish government considers this visit - a meeting with Mohamed VI is also on the agenda - as a "serious interference" in the external politics of Spain. The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs has asked the secretary general of the PSOE to reconsider his intention of visiting Morocco, as diplomatic relations between the two countries have not yet returned to normal.
In an open letter to Zapatero, José Taboada, coordinator of solidarity associations with the Saharawi people, emphasised the necessity of a special relationship between Spain and Morocco, which should not, however, harm the legitimate right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.
A Spanish exchange doctor on a mission to the refugee camps died as a result of a car accident. His name is Dr Juan Antonio Gonzales Caraballo, a cardiologist from the Hospital ''Virgen del Rocio'' in Sevilla. Two other passengers were injured. The paediatric hospital of Chahid El-Hafed will now carry the name of the late Juan Antonio Caraballo, the SADR government decided.
Morocco human rights
Nearly 400 activists from the Moroccan Association of human rights (AMDH) took part in a sit-in in the centre of Rabat on the occasion of the International Day of human rights, calling on the authorities to throw light on the abductions, torture and political assassinations perpetrated in the years 1960-1990. High ranking officials from the army and police figure on a list of 45 people which has just been published by AMDH, which claims to hold "strong presumptions" of responsibility on them for these cases of assassination, abduction and torture. It calls for the opening of judicial inquiries on the question. The weekly magazine, Demain, which published this list as a front page headline on 8 December, was seized.
The UN General Assembly adopted without a vote resolution A/RES/56/69 on the question of Western Sahara following the proposal of the Fourth Committee..
In the events surrounding the award of the Nobel Prizes in Oslo, the question of Western Sahara was raised on several occasions.
On the day of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10.12.01, earlier Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchú and José Ramos-Horta addressed the traditional Peace Prize March in Oslo. Both Laureates used the opportunity to mention the case of Western Sahara as one of the main challenges to the UN's credibility. The third speaker was Jan Egeland, under- secretary-general of the UN and Annan's personal envoy & negotiator in Colombia.
In an interview in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen, the Coordinator of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Mr. Ronny Hansen warned that if the UN abandons the referendum it could lead to renewed war in Western Sahara and would be in breach of international legality. "Kofi Annan is playing a risky game and could spark a wider, regional conflict", he said. "Kofi Annan grew up in the the first African country to be decolonised. He is now on the verge of impeding the decolonisation of the last colony on the African continent. [...] The original Settlement Plan is still in force and it is depressing that Mr. Annan and the UN haven't shown enough will and steadfastness to honour their own promises and commitments".
Rigoberta Menchú (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1992, Guatemala) and José Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace Prize laureate 1996 and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, East Timor) participated in a panel together with Pedro Pinto Leite, of The International Association of Jurists for Western Sahara, at a joint press conference under the heading "The UN's credibility at stake in Western Sahara". (11.12.01)
The speakers expressed concern for the UN's unfulfilled promise to decolonise Western Sahara. Rigoberta Menchú said "it's time to break the wall of silence and complicity surrounding Western Sahara and put and end to the illegal and brutal Moroccan occupation." Ramos-Horta highlighted his admiration for the courage, steadfastness and dedication shown by the Saharawi people in their struggle for a free homeland. Ramos-Horta has visited the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria twice, in 1997 and in 2001. He said: "The Morocccan occupation has caused enormous suffering, exile and loss of life for both the Saharawi and Moroccan peoples, and scarce resources have been squandered through war and occupation." He called on the Moroccan king to show flexibility and statesmanship and do what's right: allow international legality to take its course through a free, fair and transparent referendum. Pedro Pinto Leite spoke on "Western Sahara: The legal imperative of self- determination and lessons learnt from East Timor". He said: "If the UN decides to follow the path of the "Framework Agreement", violating thus the principle of non-discrimination and its own norms on self-determination, it will [...] lose credibility and weaken its ability to solve other conflicts through peaceful means."
In attendance were several MPs, national and international press and specially invited NGO representatives. The conference was organized jointly by Norwegian MP Marit Nybakk, The Norwegian Humanist Association and The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.
former Nobel Peace Prize Laureates signed an appeal
to the Secretary-General
of the United Nations Mr. Kofi Annan and the President of the UN
Security Council entitled "Western Sahara referendum is the only path
to peace". The appeal states that " The credibility of the United
Nations is at stake in Western Sahara.", and that: "An abandonment of
the referendum plan in Western Sahara would constitute a betrayal of
the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self- determination."
In the statement, the laureates refer to the contracts between
Morocco and companies TotalFinaElf and Kerr McGee for oil exploration
in occupied Western Sahara as "illegal" and call on the UN to
intervene. If not, the UN "could be interpreted as legitimizing
Morocco's occupation of the territory". The Laureates urged the UN to
"defend the integrity of the United Nations by continuing to strive
for the strict implementation of the referendum". They also voiced
concern for serious human rights abuses in occupied Western Sahara
and shortages of food and other necessary supplies in the Saharawi
refugee camps in Algeria.
The appeal was signed by: José Ramos- Horta (1996, East Timor), Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992, Guatemala), Oscar Arias Sánchez, (1987 Costa Rica), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980, Argentina), Máiread Maguire (1976, Northern Ireland) and Cora Weiss for the International Peace Bureau (1910).
Pierre Galand, in the name of the Belgian Committee of support for the Saharawi people and of the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people, sent a message along the same lines to Kofi Annan.
The International Committee of the Socialist Peoples Party of Denmark sent letters to the Danish UN-Association (FN-forbundet) and to The UN-Information Office for the Nordic Countries, asking the UN to bring about the referendum in Western Sahara and to renounce any other solution which does not respect the right to self-determination.
The Western Sahara Campaign UK also sent a letter to Kofi Annan saying that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize should strengthen the moral authority of the UN to champion just causes such as the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.
Meeting in an ordinary session, the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front once again noted that "any solution to be viable, fair and lasting in Western Sahara must respect the choice of the Saharawi people". It appealed to the European Union to "commit itself in an active way for a fair and lasting solution to the Moroccan-Saharawi conflict" so as to contribute to the "reinforcement of stability and the development of cooperation" in the Maghreb region. (Saharawi National radio, SPS)
During his visit to Morocco, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns said Washington fully supported the efforts of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special envoy James Baker to find a solution to the Western Sahara dispute.
European Parliament - visit cancelled
The delegation of the EP, which went to Algeria and to the Saharawi refugee camps at the beginning of November, was to continue its mission to Morocco and to the occupied territories from 18-22 December. Although the date had been confirmed and six MEPs had their tickets ready, the leader of the delegation, Mrs Catherine Lalumiere, received on 13 December a letter from the president of the Moroccan parliament, which cancelled the visit, giving the excuse of obligations relating to Ramadan. He suggested postponing the visit until the third week of January, which coincides with a session of the European Parliament, a period when it would be impossible for the MEPs to be traveling abroad. The visit was to begin in El Ayoun, where meetings with members of civil society had been arranged, and was to continue in Rabat.
Morocco shows itself to be singularly selective in its choice of guests...
14.12.01, Extremadura: "Mañana en el Sáhara", a book of photographs of the Saharawi refugee camps by Juanma Gil Señorón et Holok, will be shown to the public in two exhibitions. It was put together by Mortirolo, a business in Caceres specialising in publishing works of art photography. www.mortirolo.com
18.12.01, Viareggio: alle ore 21,30 presso il circolo culturale "I Fenicotteri", via pucci, 15, incontro con il rappresentante in Italia del Fronte Polisario, Kandoud Hamdi. FRIG, Associazione Versiliese di Solidarietà con il Popolo Saharawi. Info: <email@example.com>
28.02.-02.03.02, Fourth Congress of the National Union of Saharawi Women, refugee camps near Tindouf. Informations: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
To receive the Weekly news by e-mail
Click here to subscribe