WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 09 - 10 : 27.02.-12.03.2005

original french

 

SADR

29th anniversary of SADR

26.02.05, Visits
The President of the Republic receives the Ministers of the Interior and of Agriculture and Fishing from the Basque Country and gives a lunch in honour of delegations from the Balearic Islands, Italy and Algeria, in the course of which he calls on Spain to play a more active role in the decolonisation of Western Sahara on the model of Portugal in the case of East Timor.

27.02.05, Human Rights situation in Western Sahara
The SADR Minister of Occupied Territories and the Saharawi Community Abroad, Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, attends a reception marking the 29th anniversary of the proclamation of SADR, organised jointly by the Polisario Front representation and the Swiss Committee for Support of the Saharawi People, on 25 February in Geneva. In a speech he declares that the human rights situation in the occupied territories of Western Sahara runs the risk of leading to "an escalation with unforeseeable consequences for the region". Assessing the human rights situation he estimates that "over 3,500 persons have gone missing since 31 October 1975, the date of the Moroccan invasion of Western Sahara, among them 526 civilians and 150 Saharawi combatants whose fate remains unknown". Over 15,000 persons have been subjected to arbitrary detention, over 20,000 persons victim to torture and other physical and mental cruelty, 250 victims of unfair sentences by Moroccan military and civil courts, 115 persons have been assassinated and over 15,000 person deported from the occupied territories to places inside Morocco and over 200,000 persons exiled to neighbouring countries.

28.02.05, Marathon
Over three hundred athletes take part in the fifth Sahara Marathon, coming from Italy, Germany, England, Canada, Norway, Australia, Ethiopia, Algeria, Spain, and the United States of America, alongside several hundred Saharawis. The Italian, Castelleno Villenzo wins the race between the wilayas of El Ayoun and Smara in 3 hours 3 minutes, followed by two of his compatriots and a Saharawi in fourth place. The Spanish woman,  Leire Elosegui wins the women's race, her compatriot Juan José takes the half-marathon, followed by two Saharawis, Mohamed Lamine Oumar and Boujamaa Deihan.  Boutalha Bujari, a Saharawi, is the fastest over 10 km, followed by his compatriots, Oumar Najem and Sid Ahmed Mohamed, while the Spanish woman, Jaione Pene took the trophy for the women.

01.03.05, Sahara Press Service
SPS launches its information service in Arabic:
http://www.spsrasd.info/main3a.html

03.03.05, Luanda
The Secretary General of the National Union of Saharawi Women (UNSW), Fatma Mehdi, during the 4th Congress of Angolan Women, called on her African counterparts to "support the legitimate right of the Saharawi people to self-determination and independence".  [SPS]

03-07.03.05, Parliamentary delegations
A delegation of eight members from the European Parliament visited the Saharawi refugee camps, made up of José Javier Pomes Ruiz, Spain, from the European Popular Party (Christian-Democrat) and from the Democrats, Mrs Karin Scheele, Austria, Ana Maria Gomes, Portugal, and Iratxe Garcia Perez, Spain, from the Socialist group, Miguel Portas, Portugal, Raül Romeva i Rueda, Spain, and Willy Meyer Pleite, Spain, from the Group European United Left / Nordic Green Left. A delegation of six MPs from the Spanish Parliament were also visiting the camps at the same time. [SPS]

03-06.03.05, Sahara International Film Festival
17 films from Spain, India, Denmark, Mauritania and Senegal were screened during this festival, in which over 280 foreign visitors took part including Spanish stars. As well as nightly screenings, workshops on film-making techniques are organised as well as round table discussions between the public, specialists and actors from the films shown. A videotheque is set up at Ausserd wilaya, taking its turn after Smara last year, as a present from the organisers. The "World Cinema" prize was awarded to the Senegalese film-maker, Moussa Sene Absa for his film "Madame Brouette" (Sénégal-Canada-France, 2004). Interviewed on his impressions, Mr Absa declared that "the Senegalese people are with the Saharawis"(...) "people are not affected by the positions taken by their government" (...) "For myself, I want all peoples to achieve self-determination, to be independent, living in their own territory, with a flag, a national anthem and a national culture and getting the benefit of the wealth of their land."

06.03.05, Sit-in at Ausserd
The Union of Saharawi Writers and Journalists (UPES), the Association of families of Saharawi prisoners and disappeared (AFAPREDESA) and the Union of Saharawi Jurists (UJS) organise a sit-in on the last day of the festival, and circulate a petition. This calls on European governments, civil society and community institutions and "principally Spain",  to "support the just cause of the Saharawi people". MEPs and Spanish MPs, as well as numerous artists and intellectuals, present at the festival, sign the petition, which condemns the "Moroccan media campaigns, which spread lies and counter-truths about the Saharawi refugees". [
Petition of solidarity UPES, AFAPREDESA and UJS]

08.03.05, International Women's Day
On the occasion of International Women's Day, the National Union of Saharawi Women pays tribute to "all the women of the world who are fighting for equality, social justice and peace". The External Relations Officer for the Union, Zahra Ramdan, takes part in conferences and debates in Tenerife and in Madrid. [
Spanish]

09.03.05, Prisoners of war
Speaking on Algerian radio's Channel II, the Saharawi President, Mohamed Abdelaziz, declares that only dialogue can settle the question of the detainees "which has been dragging on for years". He welcomes the fact that "the Moroccan government recognises finally the existence of the prisoners of war and thereby the adverse party". [L'Expression, Alger]

11.03.05, Prisoners of war
The Ambassador of the Polisario in Algiers, Yslem Baysat, makes a statement to Ach-Charq Al-Awsat that the Polisario Front "is disposed to release the Moroccan prisoners on condition that Rabat undertakes to release Saharawi prisoners held in Moroccan prisons".

NATURAL RESOURCES

27.02.05, Shareholder focus of campaign to end Kerr-McGee's involvement in occupied Western Sahara. New Stage
Western Sahara Resource Watch - WSRW, which embraces about twenty organisations on four continents, has written to the biggest shareholders in Kerr-McGee, the last company still active on the ground. The activity of KMG violates international law and prolongs the conflict. Involvement in a conflict zone represents a risk for investors. Shareholders were invited to put pressure on the company, not to renew its contract which runs out in May. [
Press release, 27.02.05 - Letter to shareholders - Background Report [PDF] etc ]

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

28.02.05, Saharawi political prisoners
Urgent appeal by the wife of Saharawi prisoner, Mustafa Afilal, Mrs Elbatoul Elmoutawakil (in
Arabic).

Report on the dramatic situation of the Saharawi prisoner, Mustafa Afilal (in Arabic)

02.03.05, Saharawi political prisoners
Statement by the Saharawi political prisoner Lakhfaouni Abdallahi (
in Arabic)

02-11.03.05
"Dignity for the prisoners of the Black Prison"
International campaign for the improvement of the situation of Saharawi prisoners
Participants in this campaign include the El Ayoun Committee for the protection of Saharawi prisoners, the Dakhla Committee against torture and the Committee for victims of events in Smara, in collaboration with the French Association for friendship and solidarity with African peoples AFASPA. Collection of signatures and sending of numerous letters to international organisations, to Moroccan officials and human rights organisations are being planned. The Saharawi prisoners of the Moroccan prisons of Kenitra, Settat, Boulmhars in Marrakech, Ait Melloul, Tiznit are planning 24 hour fasts, a protest takes place outside the black prison on 8 March, as well as a peaceful protest action in Dakhla on 10 March. [
communiqué + photos]

05.03.05, Ali Salem Tamek
According to a Moroccan weekly, "the Saharawi activist Ali Salem Tamek returned mid-week to Morocco... His different medical examinations confirm, however, that his state of health has worsened. In Belgium, the young opponent had a meeting with officials from Amnesty International..." [Telquel 165]

05.03.05, Women's Sit-in at El Ayoun
Over 600 Saharawis take part in a sit-in outside Hotel Nagjir in El Ayoun on International Women's Day, but also women from the Moroccan campaign on "Moroccans imprisoned by the Polisario Front in the camps of Tindouf". The demonstrators demand improvement in the conditions of Saharawi women, truth on Saharawi disappeared, that Moroccan torturers should be brought to justice, respect for human rights in Western Sahara and a free and fair referendum. Moroccan forces of repression tried to prevent the meeting, in which the following speakers addressed the crowd, Aminatou Haidar, Saharawi former disappeared, Sidi Mohammed Daddach, the senior Saharawi prisoner and Rafto prizewinner, Ali Salem Tamek, Saharawi former prisoner of conscience, and Ghalia Id Jimmi, former disappeared Saharawi. [
Info] + [Photos]

08.03.05, Rabat
Demonstration of Saharawi students in Rabat
About a hundred male and female students gather on the "Al Irfane" university campus in Rabat on International Women's Day. The students demand the right to self-determination for the Saharawi people and the release of Saharawi prisoners and political detainees in Morocco. The anti-riot police intervene brutally to disperse the demonstrators, and pursue them through various campuses to their rooms. Many are wounded and some are hospitalised. The Saharawi Minister for the Occupied Territories publishes a list comprising 22 students and 7 injured students. [
Rapport et liste des blessés - en arabe] [Photos]

09-10-11.03.05, Chain reactions
Reacting to the attitude of the Moroccan authorities, Saharawi students in Marrakech and Agadir organise a demonstration of solidarity with their compatriots in Rabat. Various human rights organisations in the occupied zones likewise express their solidarity with the students in Rabat. The next day in Smara, hundreds of citizens organise a sit-in outside the offices of the Moroccan colonial administration. Students from the "Saguiet El Hamra" high school from the same town hold a strike for several hours. In Tan-Tan, the police disperse violently a gathering in favour of Saharawi students in Rabat, six are wounded, including mothers with families. Four persons are arrested. On 11 March, Saharawi students from Smara, Marrakech and Agadir get mobilised again, this time in favour of the victims in Tan-Tan. [
Photos of the demonstration in Marrakech] [Communiqué AARASD, 11.03.05]
Several solidarity press releases in arabic: [
PR of activists and militants of HR in Western Sahara, 08.03.05] [PR of Ali Salem Tamek 09.03.05] [PR of Saharawi Women, 09.03.05] [PR of the Movement of saharawi students 09.03.05] [PR from Tantan, 10.03.05] [PR from Assa , 11.03.05]

10.03.05, Saharawi political prisoners
Ali Salem Tamek, Saharawi former prisoner of conscience, launches an appeal for Saharawi detainees, in particular, Lakhfaouni Abdallahi, who started a hunger strike on 2 March 2005.

10.03.05, aggression of a Human Rights and trade union militant
The Saharawi jurist and coordinator of the Phosbucraâ workers (phosphates) Mr Eddia Sidi Ahmed Moussa was victime of a brutal et arbitrary aggression at his home near El Ayoun. Agents of the auxiliary forces and policemen of the regional police have sacked his factory and home and rubbed some objects. [
communiqué]

REFERENDUM

01.03.05, UK
A long animated debate in London took place between a Moroccan parliamentary delegation, led by Radi, President of the Parliament, and members of the Western Sahara Campaign UK. The Moroccan MPs were in England at the invitation of the British branch of the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU). [
Western Sahara Campaign UK meet Moroccan MPS to discuss Western Sahara, Press release 01.03.05]

07.03.05, USA
Under-secretary of State, John Bolton, is appointed US Ambassador with the United Nations. Bolton is familiar with the question of the Sahara, he took part between 1997 and 2000 at James Baker's side in the development of his peace plan and in several meetings between Moroccans and Saharawis.

08-10.03.05 Madrid, "International summit on terrorism, democracy and security"
On the occasion of this conference organised by the Club of Madrid, meetings are planned between the President of the Spanish government, the UN Secretary General, the head of the Algerian government and the King of Morocco, arriving in Madrid on 10 March to take part the next day in the anniversary of the Madrid bombings. Annan and Rodriguez Zapatero, during their meeting are believed to have agreed that the solution to the conflict in the Sahara must "go through negotiation".

The CEAS, la Coordinadora estatal de asociaciones solidarias con el Sáhara, expressed their concern at the prospect of abandonment by Spain of its responsibilities on the question of the Sahara. The Polisario Front representative in Spain, for his part, asked the president of the government to "play a more active role" with Annan and Mohamed VI.

11.03.05, Germany
The Deputy Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Kerstin Müller, replying to a written question from a member, underlines that the German federal government "continues, as before, to support all the efforts of the United Nations aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict based on all the resolutions adopted by the Security Council on the subject of this conflict." She adds also that her country, "will continue to be involved and particularly in the humanitarian domain".

MOROCCO

06-07.03.05, Visit of the King of Morocco to Mauritania

06.03.05, March in Rabat
Organised by an NGO created a few weeks ago, Our Homeland (Watanouna), this "national march" was to express the "national unanimity" in favour of the release of Moroccan prisoners of war held by the Polisario Front, long denied and ignored, then marginalised on their return. The organisers widened their demand to include the "Moroccans detained in the camps of Tindouf", terms which designate the refugee Saharawi population.

"A real fiasco".
The Association for the "Moroccan Sahara", favourable to the integration of the Sahara to Morocco, considers that the march was a "real fiasco"... "Over a million people turned out for earlier marches of solidarity with the Palestinian people or the Iraqis", they continue, while for the "national cause, between 15,000 and 20,000" assembled, "especially as to ensure its success, considerable human and financial means were put to use as well as the entire logistics of a country."

In a statement, the Saharawi government deplored that Morocco, at a moment when it is organising "a mascarade of a demonstration" in Rabat, still refuses to give the least information on the Saharawi prisoners of war.

11.03.05, Human rights
The Body, Equity and Reconciliation announces the organisation on 16 March in Marrakech, the  27 March in Al Hoceima and in El Ayoun at a date yet to be fixed, a new series of sessions of public hearings on human rights abuses committed during the period from 1956 to 1999. The stages at Casablanca, Tan-Tan, Smara, Fès and Tétouan have been cancelled.

MOROCCO-EUROPEAN UNION-NETHERLANDS

27.01.05, European Union
The MEP Erik Meijer demands, in a written question to the Commission, explanations on the subject of an exhibition, "Morocco, 5,000 years of culture", which is being held at Amsterdam until April, in which a map includes Western Sahara as part of Morocco. He inveighs against the presence of objects coming from the occupied territories. He asks the Commission to warn member countries to resist Moroccan pressure and to conform with international law. [
Written questions by Erik Meijer (Socialist Party, NL - Group European United Left / Nordic Green Left) to European Commission on Morocco exposition and pressure of Moroccan government].

SOLIDARITY

Associazione Fadel Ismail, Mantova: "Per una soluzione giusta e non violenta nel Sahara Occidentale".
Dal 10 al 20 Marzo presso il circolo Arci "Immagina", esposizione di fotografie scattate nei campi profughi sahrawi da Paolo Cattani, dal titolo: "Il coraggio è vivere per la libertà"
Giovedì 17 Marzo Ore 21, presso il Cinema Mignon Via Benzoni, 22 &endash; Mantova, Venerdì 18 Marzo Ore 21, presso Comune di S.Giacomo delle Segnate : Proiezione del film di Mario Martone "Una storia sahrawi" (30') Seguirà relazione di Umberto Romano, poeta e scrittore, autore di libri sul popolo sahrawi sul tema "La cultura per la libertà dei popoli: Sahrawi, un popolo in esilio".

COMING UP...

15.03. Opening of the 61th session of the UN Human Rights Commision, Geneva

18 mars - Geneva
International Action Day
30 years are enough ! Self-determination for the Saharawi people. Referendum now !
10h - 12h : Meeting on Place des Nations
13h - 15h: Conference: The Morrocan "Wall of Shame" and the problem of landmines (speachers: Carlos Ruiz Miguel, Elisabeth Reusse-Decrey, Oubbi Bouchraya, Jean Lamore), at Centre de l'Organisation Météorologique Mondiale. Info: Comité Suisse de soutien au peuple sahraoui
NouvellesSahraouies@arso.org

22-23.03.05, Meeting of the head of State of the Arab Ligue in Algiers, Mohamed VI will participate.

30.04.05, End of MINURSO mandate.

INTERNET

RASD TV, website of Saharawi Television
New videos realised from the new Rabouni studio in the camps ( news and a message from Mohamed Abdelaziz} to see at
http://www.rasd-tv.com/

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