WESTERN SAHARA

WEEKLY NEWS

 

WEEK 14

04.-10.04.1999

 

07.04.99
The UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, 55th session, 22.0.3.-30.04.99

Interventions on item 9 (issues of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms):
Fernando Marino of the Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (Spain) stated concern for the situation in the Western Sahara.
The USA Humanitarian Law Project in its sixth annual "Armed Conflict in the World Today: A Country by Country Review" states: "We note yet again that the UN mandated referendum for Western Sahara is postponed."

07.-08.04.99
Referendum

Moroccan minister of the interior, Driss Basri, began a tour of Southern Morocco and Western Sahara with the objective of "mobilizing the Sahrawi tribes for the referendum." In Assa, Goulimine and El Ayoun he met with various local officials to announce resumption of the identification process and to call for mobilization in favour of unity with Morocco. A dispatch from SPS (Sahara Press Service) reported criticisms expressed during the meeting in Assa. Participants were critical of Moroccan policy, charging that it accorded special privilege to individuals who do not originate from the province. They denounced the fact that "ministers only visit the region when they have objectives other than those of meeting the redisents' needs."

08.04.99
Morocco and human rights: case closed?

Just before expiry of the 6-month extension granted by the King to the Moroccan Human Rights Advisory Council (CCDH) to resolve the issue of human rights, the CCDH has announced that Hassan II has accepted the conclusions of its report (see Week 42/98 + 51/98).
The King wants the case closed for once and for all by compensating most of the victims or their relatives within the next three months. A royal pardon has been given to the 112 people on the CCDH list as well as their torturers, designated by the euphemism "concerned authorities and their assistants" at the service of the "peace of the State." ( full text of the memorandum, french)
The families of the victims, however, have not been informed, no list of names has been published and the numbers, which were already controversial, are different than those published six months ago. No mention is made of Abraham Serfaty or Cheikh Abdessalam Yassine. Compensation to the families of the other disappeared is not addressed.
Relatives of the victims have expressed their outrage at the way the issue has been handled.
The president of the Moroccan human rights organization (OMDH) has stated that the case is still not closed as other lists of disappeared persons exist.
AFAPREDESA pointed out that at least 526 Sahrawis are still disappeared and that political prisoners are still wallowing in Moroccan jails, for instance the Sahrawi Mohamed Daddache. The Sahrawi human rights association is drawing attention to the fate of some ten former Sahrawi disappeared who have no papers or passports and for the last 7 months, from a hotel in Rabat, have been demanding recognition of their rights (see Week 10/99).

08.04.99
Morocco, new minister of foreign affairs
King Hassan II has appointed Mohamed Benaissa as Morocco's minister of foreign affairs and cooperation in replacement of Abdellatif Filali. Benaissa, 62, who held the portfolio of cultural affairs from 1985 to 1992, was ambassador to the United States since 1993.

08.04.99
MINURSO-POLISARIO agreement

An agreement on mine clearing was signed on 5.4.99 between MINURSO and the Polisario Front. The agreement stipulates exchange of information, identification of the locations of landmines, their destruction by Polisario where possible and a clean up of the surrounding area. Following the accord signed Morocco on March 12, 1999, its does not include a buffer strip along the Moroccan wall.
Regarding the resumption of identification, the UN has announced that meetings are scheduled next week in New York. The Secretary-General's report is expected on April 23 and the date of the resumption of voter identification will be known by the end of April.

09.04.99 The US under-secretary of state responsible for the Maghreb, Mr. Indyk, is in Rabat for talks concerning the Western Sahara conflict and the resumption of the peace process.

News from the camps and SADR liberated zones

As usual, the Easter period saw hundreds of visitors from Spain, Italy, Switzerland and elsewhere to the Sahrawi refugee camps.
A 100-strong delegation from Navarre, lead by the head of the government, inaugurated a new hospital on April 10 in Tifariti in the liberated zones.
The facility, designed by SODEPAZ and largely financed by the Navarre government, was built upon the ruins of a hospital destroyed by a Moroccan air raid just prior to the 1991 cease fire. The 80-bed hospital, including two operating arenas and various healthcare services, is destined for repatriated refugees.

Visit
Visit of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Spain. Sahrawi support organizations launched a letter-writing campaign calling for a free and fair referendum in the Western Sahara.

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