WEEKS 13-14 : 26.03.-08.04.2006
Mohamed Sidati, Minister Counselor to the Saharawi Presidency, was received in Brazzaville by Denis Sassou N'Guesso, the President of Congo and current president of the African Union, to whom he handed a message from the SADR President. The new Saharawi ambassador to Kenya Hamdi Bueha, presented his credentials on 2 April.
A delegation from Liberal International, on tour in the region, arrived in the refugee camps en route from El Ayoun. The delegation consisting of Hans Van Baalen, vice-president of Liberal International and spokesman for the shadow government in Holland, Gunnar Nordmark, Swedish parliamentarian and member of the parliamentary Economic Committee, Francis Burstin, adviser to the Belgian Prime Minister and member of the reform movement in Belgium and Alison Hayes, in charge of regional development for Liberal International were received by the Saharawi Prime Minister after a popular reception in Bir Lehlu, in the wilaya of Smara. [SPS]
OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO
of the visit of the King of Morocco to Western Sahara
In his closing address, he declared that "Morocco will not cede a single inch, nor a grain of sand of (its) dear Sahara" and considers that the implementation of the UN settlement plan was impossible. He described the Saharawi refugees on Algerian soil as the "hostages of Tindouf" and the Saharawi question "pure machination". Contrary to general expectation, he only alluded to the autonomy proposal for the Sahara without giving any details. [complete text French]
Mohamed VI announced the "revival" of the Royal Consultative Council for Saharan Affairs (CORCAS), puppet body of 85 members set up in 1981 by Hassan II. The new council is chaired by Khali Hanna Ould Er-Rachid and has 141 members appointed by Mohamed VI. It comprises elected members, notables, tribal leaders, Polisario renegades, Moroccan settlers established in the Sahara, etc. Three of its new members allegedly died a few years ago. Ould Er-Rachid in 1975 was president of PUNS, the party for the national union of the Sahara, set up by the Spanish coloniser, he fled from Morocco at the time of the Green March with the party's funds. Subsequently Minister of Saharan Affairs, member of parliament, business man and Driss Basri's man, he has become immensely wealthy under Moroccan occupation. [read also : Que peut faire le Corcas ? Le journal hebdo, 08.04.06]
Reacting the same day, the Saharawi government condemned Morocco's attitude aiming to "bypass international law on the eve of the next Security Council meeting". It called the king's visit "Moroccan colonial escalation" aiming to "impose the colonial fait accompli by military force and campaigns of repression and terror". For Hamdi Mansour, Front Polisario representative in Spain, the autonomy plan is a "corpse brought out of Hassan II's tomb and a retrograde idea".
On the occasion of his visit, the King of Morocco granted pardon to 216 detainees. In the Black Prison of El Ayoun, 125 persons have been pardoned, mostly Moroccan prisoners of common law. 30 are Saharawi prisoners of opinion, 22 in the Black Prison, one in Smara, one in Kenitra, one in Kalaat Sraghna and 4 in Aït Melloul. At least 37 other Saharawi prisoners of opinion, including Ali Salem Tamek, remain in prison. [more, list...]
Welcome for the released prisoners
The Saharawi political prisoners were welcomed as they left prison by a large number of people. In El Ayoun, the police intervened, causing injuries and proceeded to arrests, forbidding access to the home of certain released prisoners, such as Hammad Hmad, even attacking houses, of which some were searched and ransacked.
In Boujdour reception for Daagui Mohamed; in Tan-Tan, Goulimine and above all, Assa, reception for Larbi Messaoud, Moutawakil Mohamed and Lidri Hossein saw an impressive demonstration [link and photos]. The Saharawi president sent a long message of congratulations to the released detainees. [photos]
It was in Smara, as El Othmani Hamoudi alias Loud was being welcomed, that on 27 March the most serious excesses took place. After barricading the quarter, the police forces directed by the governor Lemtouni, attacked the crowd assembled inside houses for several hours, also destroying dwellings. Over 130 arrests are reported and injuries, including 80 hospitalised locally and 15 transferred to El Ayoun. Many went without medical care, fearing they would be arrested. A dozen homes were ransacked. Numerous detainees were also subjected to bad treatment in the police station. Three who were wounded needed surgery subsequently in El Ayoun hospital. [SPS] [photos] <http://www.arso.org/Smara270306/> [+ photos] [HR Report]
appeal to the UN
In a letter to the Secretary General, the Saharawi president asks insistently, "that the UN should take on its full responsibilities in protecting defenceless Saharawi citizens". The Polisario Front representative at the UN asked the Security Council to send a mission from the High Commission for human rights. [full text see SPS]
The terrible events of Smara unleashed a series of demonstrations in the occupied territories, in southern Morocco and in the Moroccan universities of Agadir, Marrakech and Rabat. Practically every day gatherings are reported, followed by brutal arrests, (on 29 March in El Ayoun 4 people are questioned, the night of 31 March over 40 persons, the night of 3-4 April four students &endash; in Dakhla two arrests on 31 March &endash; in Boujdour school pupils and students demonstrated for several days, some were arrested and treated brutally, protest of their mothers who are also brutalised &endash; in Smara a young Saharawi is arrested and tortured on 4 April. On 6 April young Saharawis from El Ayoun's Inaach quarter succeeded, after bloody confrontations, to prevent the arrest of the sister of a political prisoner, Ait Abilou Brahim Houcine. The Urban Security Unit, GUS then arrested Mohamed Ait Abilou and Milinin Lakhfawni). [photos of victims 31.04.06]
Even Saharawi citizens of Mhamid el-Ghizlan (Southern Morocco) denounced the blind repression unleashed upon them and in a statement, expressed their "unconditional solidarity" with the victims of Smara. The inhabitants of this region had demonstrated in February last against the arrest of Dr Labbas Sbai, a Saharawi with dual Swiss and Moroccan nationality, sentenced to 6 months' imprisonment and released on 10 March, thanks to an international campaign. [lire aussi Le Journal Hebdo sur Mhamid]
Demonstration in Madrid of about a hundred people outside the Ministry for Foreign Affairs calling for respect of human rights in Western Sahara, organised by the Asociaciones amigos del pueblo saharaui and la Plataforma civica proreferendum en el Sahara. Demonstrations also in Vittoria/Gasteiz and Rome.
Sidi Mohamed Dadach, 2002 Rafto prizewinner for human rights, denounced, in a letter sent to the UNHCR official in El Ayoun, the fact of being prevented by the Moroccan authorities from participating in the Saharawi family exchange visits. Dadach, who says he fulfils all the criteria, wishes to pay a visit to the refugee camps, to see his elderly mother who is incapable of travelling. [SPS]
Aïchatou Ramdane,wife of Ali Salem Tamek, sent a letter to the President of the European Parliament, to ask him to intervene in favour of her husband's release and all the Saharawi prisoners of opinion. [lettre] <http://www.arso.org/intifadaaichatou020406.htm>
El Mokhtar Benjelloun, human rights activist, sentenced on 27 February, to a year in prison [see account] appears on appeal before the court in Agadir. The accused refuted all the accusations, explaining that he had been sentenced for his opinions and declaring that he was Saharawi and not Moroccan. The sentence handed down on 6 April 2006 confirmed the one year of prison and 1000 DH of fine [details]. Human rights activists, trades unionists and representatives of the association of Saharawi unemployed travelled from Guelmim. Khadija Moutik, regional secretary of the Moroccan Labour Union (UMT) and member of the executive of AMDH, was arrested at 5am, at the entrance to Agadir, plain clothes police stopped the bus on which she was travelling and obliged her to get out. She was led away handcuffed and blindfolded to a place which she could not determine. After two hours and a half of interrogation she was dropped off by her abductors in Inezgane, a suburb of Agadir. [corr.]
04.04.06, El Ayoun, trial of Brahim Dahâne, president of the Saharawi Association of victims of serious human rights abuses by the Moroccan state, of Sidi Sayeli, human rights activist and fifteen other prisoners of opinion. [list]
The accused, the majority dressed in traditional clothes, left the Black Prison shouting pro-independence slogans. They were immediately attacked by policemen, who crammed them in by force into three vehicles. During the trip and even in the court building, they were hit. They presented numerous injuries (wounds, multiple bruises, even fractures) on their arrival before the court. The 17 accused, appearing on 9 charges, appeared before the penal court encircled by police, also very numerous in the public gallery. As the first accused appeared, covered in blood, the defence lawyers called for immediate hospitalisation and an inquiry. The accused denounced the bad treatment they had received during their transfer to prison. Their injuries were interpreted by the president of the court as the result of a car accident. The accused denied committing the acts with which they were charged on the basis of the fabricated statements made by the police and proclaimed themselves to be political prisoners. The defence asked for the conditional release of the accused and for the sentence to be postponed. The court refused to release them on conditions and put off until 25 April the rest of the deliberations. [account from the audience. Details in French] or [Spanish] [Public Declaration by Amnesty International, 03.04.06] [Arabic]
Saharawi human rights defenders denounced in a statement the attacks on human rights in the occupied territories, in southern Morocco and in Moroccan universities. The defenders call for solidarity, for pressure on Morocco, for the enlargement of the MINURSO mission, for the opening of the territory to observers as well as the establishment of an international commission of inquiry.
The five defence lawyers of the 17 accused before the court on 4 April also published a statement condemning the attacks on their clients, considering them to be illegal acts which do not respect either Moroccan laws or international conventions on the treatment of prisoners.
The families of the 17 accused in a statement ask Kofi Annan to "guarantee the protection of their sons". [documents in Arabic on Cahiers du Sahara ]
Following an appeal by OMCT, which takes up the issue of the police violence in Smara, El Ayoun and Boujdour during the receptions for the liberated prisoners, MEPs Raül Romeva i Rueda, Verdes/ALE; Iratxe García-Perez, PSE; Karin Scheele, PSE; Antonio Masip Hidalgo, PSE; Willy Meyer Pleite, GUE laid down three questions in the European Parliament. [Acción Urgente OMCT: Caso MAR 050406, Excesivo uso de la fuerza policial / malos tratos / tortura /detenciones arbitrarias, 05.04.06]
Tifariti, liberated territories
The Saharawi president ratified agreements signed between SADR and eight oil companies, in the presence of representatives of these companies. They also had the opportunity to visit the refugee camps. They declared "their satisfaction with the agreements reached and their commitment to do everything so that their implementation may take place as soon as possible."
European Union &endash; fishing
Debates on the ratification of the fishing EU-Morocco agreement continue, among other things, on the inclusion of Saharawi waters.
The Moroccan ambassador in Brussels refused to reply to the invitation of the fishing committee, who planned to hear from Morocco and the Polisario Front as part of the discussion of the fishing agreement. On 26 April, the Polisario Front will be heard by the GUE/NGL group. Sweden and four other countries (Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom and the Netherlands) have asked that the fishing agreement should include a declaration in favour of the respect of the economic rights of the population of Western Sahara. [Campaign: Fishelsewhere in English and French ]
The Secretary General of the Polisario Front demanded, in a letter to the European Parliament, that it should refuse the implementation of the fishing agreement.
The European Parliament, to which the Council asked that the question should be treated as a matter of urgency, refused, by 127 votes to 53, to accord the urgency procedure to the ratification of the agreement. Only the Socialists were favourable. With this vote, the implementation of the fishing agreement is postponed, the subject is expected to come up again at the end of April. The agreement should have become operational on 1 March 2006.
The discussions continue within the Fishing Committee, where the Greens propose that the territorial waters of Western Sahara should be excluded from the fishing zones delimited in the agreement. The Committee and the Austrian president are working actively to accelerate the discussions, in order to arrive at the ratification by the twenty-five in May. [lire aussi le compte rendu dans l'Economiste, Maroc, 07.04.06]
"Our approach remains unchanged: we encourage all parties to work towards a resolution in the context of the United Nations that is mutually agreed to and accepted by the parties. The Government of Morocco recently expressed a willingness to lay out a plan for autonomy for the Western Sahara and we have encouraged them to put forward a strong proposal so that all parties can subsequently examine and discuss it." Statement by spokesman of the Department of State after a meeting in Washington between the Moroccan Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tayeb Fassi-Fihri and the Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and David Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. [declaration]
The Minister for Foreign Affairs repeats his position in favour of a political agreement between the parties concerned, under the aegis of the United Nations, but does not express a view on the autonomy proposal, this not having been "made official".
Questioned by a journalist about Western Sahara, Kofi Annan replies that " the Moroccan position has been for quite some time that autonomy is what they are prepared to offer. The Western Saharans have insisted on self-determination and autonomy and independence, and of course they refer to the agreement that was signed, and this is something that the Security Council is struggling with, and I think the Council will be guided by its own resolutions and the discussions that are going on between the two of them. I don't think a proposal by one side automatically negates all other understandings, or all other aspects of the "
The Minister Counselor to the Presidency, Mohamed Sidati describes the autonomy proposal referred to by the King of Morocco as "specious" and "a clear step backwards in the search for a solution which will put an end to the conflict". The Saharawi people reject it, they are the ones to decide. Mohamed Sidati asks the European Union to support the efforts of the UN to bring into force the right of self-determination of the Saharawi people.
President Chirac received the Moroccan Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tayeb Fassi-Fihri, emissary of the King of Morocco, who handed him a message from the latter "concerning the process in progress on Western Sahara". He reiterated the support of France for a mutually acceptable political solution and made clear that France supports the extension of MINURSO's mandate on 30 April next. [déclaration]
The United Nations Secretary General received in New York the Secretary General of the Polisario Front. Mohamed Abdelaziz expressed his deep preoccupations concerning the deterioration of the situation in the occupied territories. He asked that MINURSO should protect the Saharawis and denounces to the Security Council the attacks on human rights. He also asked that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, diplomats, parliamentarians, NGOs and the media should be able to go to Western Sahara. A visit from HCHR was stopped three times by Morocco, Abdelaziz pointed out. He also considered that an extension of MINURSO's mandate could not be justified unless it is organising a referendum, MINURSO should accomplish its mandate or else pack up and leave.
During his stay in New York, Mohamed Abdelaziz met the president of the Security Council and the ambassadors of member countries, as well as a group of ambassadors from African countries. In Washington he had talks with American parliamentarians and politicians as well as with representatives of civil society and members of associations of friendship and support for the Saharawi people.
The Moroccan party, the Democratic Way and the Spanish party Izquierda Unida los Verdes (United Left-Greens) made a joint statement published in Rabat, "to defend a democratic solution for Western Sahara, in accordance with United Nations resolutions".
The Polisario Front asked the Finnish government and political officials to take the opportunity of the visit of the Moroccan Prime Minister on 6 and 7 April to ask Morocco to "respect international law in Western Sahara".
In Sweden, several members of the parliament published a statement entitled "Recognise Western Sahara!" on the occasion of the visit of the Moroccan Prime Minister. They are asking their government to recognise the Saharawi Republic [Svenska Dagbladet, 04.04.06: Tala klarspråk med ockupanten Marocko] http://www.svd.se/dynamiskt/brannpunkt/did_12304856.asp
Socialist members of parliament ask their government to question the Moroccan Minister for Foreign Affairs, on a visit to Vienna, on the human rights situation in Western Sahara. [Der Standard, 06.04.06] <http://derstandard.at/?url=/?id=2405442>
Benaissa had been first to Bratislava, Slovakia being a member of the Security Council. Moroccan diplomacy has therefore been very active, at the approach of deliberations in the Security Council. To the trips of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, we must add that of Tayeb Fassi -Fihri, who travelled this week to Russia and China.
Responding to a Senator calling for recognition of SADR by Spain, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Moratinos, declared that "the creation of SADR was contrary to the principle of self-determination". This curious argumentation aroused anger in the Saharawi government, who protested and replied that the creation of SADR could be considered as de facto self-determination. "It is the occupation of the territory by Morocco, which is in contradiction with the right to self-determination of peoples."
On a visit to Madrid, the UN Secretary General was received by the Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero. The conflict in Western Sahara was on the agenda of the talks. During a press conference, Annan declared that his objective was to find a solution acceptable to both parties.
Visit of the responsible for foreign affairs of the Saharawi Womans Union with meetings with several members of regional and local authorities of Florence, Prato and the Val di Bisenzio where she participated to an event about the "Womens for Peace" (Donne di pace).
La première Journée de coopération sanitaire entre l'Andalousie et le peuple sahraoui s'est déroulée à l'hôpital "Virgen de las Nieves" de Grenade, en présence des ministres sahraouis de la santé et de la coopération. L'objectif est de "coordonner les programmes de coopération sanitaire". Plus de 140 personnes, médecins, infirmiers, responsables de l'hôpital ont pris part à ces journées.
Changing Climate, Exhibition by Ron Guy
Cusp Gallery, 238 High Street Northcote, Phone (03) 9482 2731
Ron Guy is an artist and a shift worker, as well as the union representative on his job. He is a passionate supporter of civil rights, Western Sahara, East Timor and Green Left Weekly. This exhibition of his works will be opened by Terry Hicks, the father of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, and Australian Workers Union secretary Bill Shorten. From Vannessa Hearman, Green Left Weekly, April 5, 2006.
Asociación Um Draiga junto con Ayuntamiento de Zaragoza -
Concejalía de Acción Social y Cooperación al
Desarrollo organiza las jornadas «Los
derechos humanos en el Sahara
l día 8 por la noche concierto solidario con el pueblo saharaui
Saharauis, Reise durch eine Nation, Fotoausstellung in Wien, im Foyer
der Wiener Urania, Uraniastr. 1
Org.: Oesterreichische Saharuische Gesellschaft, Frente Polisario und die Wiener Urania. Eröffnung am 10.04.06, 19 Uhr. U.A.w.g.: firstname.lastname@example.org
Viernes 21 de abril de 2006, Horario: 18 - 21h: Por la
Descolonización y la Independencia del Sáhara:
conferencia de solidaridad con el pueblo saharaui, el derecho
del pueblo saharaui a la independencia
Salón de Actos del Ateneo Literario de Madrid. C/ Del Prado, 21
Coordinadora estatal de asociaciones solidarias con el Sáhara, ceas-sáhara.
Madrid, Sábado, 22 de Abril de 2006, 12 horas: Por la Descolonización y la Independencia del Sáhara - Concentración por la descolonización y la independencia del pueblo saharaui,luego: Embajada de Marruecos - C/ Serrano, 179 de Madrid Metro: República Argentina (línea 6). Coordinadora estatal de asociaciones solidarias con el Sáhara, ceas-sáhara
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