Akhbar Es-Sahra

(News of The Sahara)

Western Sahara Mission Newsletter. N°2, 10 January 2002

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CONTENTS

- Editorial : Moroccan Terrorism in Western Sahara

- Sahrawi prisoners on hunger strike : Moroccan Terror in Occupied Territories must stop !

- Sahrawi authorities released 115 Moroccan prisoners of war as a gesture of good will

- Sahrawi Government allows Paris-Dakar rally to cross its territory

- Spain welcomed the POLISARIO decision of releasing 115 Moroccan POW'S

- 56th UN General Assembly and Western Sahara issue

- President Abdelaziz holds talks with the UN Special Representative in Western Sahara

- President Abdelaziz in South Africa

- Algeria : "one and unchangeable position"

- Sweden : "Morocco should restrain from deliberate provocations"

- M'hamed Khadad : "Alignment of Paris with Morocco affects the - settling down of the Conflict ",

-"Framework on the Status of Western Sahara: A Moroccan Plan", by Yahia Zoubir.

 

 


EDITORIAL


Moroccan State Terrorism

in Western Sahara

Broadly speaking there are two kinds of terrorism : one kind is executed by individuals (or groups of individuals) and the other one is sponsored by the State. The occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco is an example of the latter.

Terrorism is defined by the aim to kill, oppress, punish and intimidate innocent people. That is exactly what Morocco has done &endash; and is still doing - in Western Sahara since 1975. Indeed, in that same year, Morocco prevented the UN from holding a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara when it invaded the latter militarily and committed atrocities against its people. The Moroccan army used napalm to bomb the Sahrawis who fled their cities. Since then, Morocco has occupied a large part of this territory by means of force and violence. It continues to oppose the holding of the referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people.

During the Moroccan occupation, thousands of Sahrawis were assassinated and then thrown by the tens and hundreds into mass graves. Thousands were arrested and tortured before being released. Hundreds were in jail for five, ten, fifteen years or more. After being released thanks to the international pressure from human rights organisations, they underwent all sorts of intimidation. Like the rest of the Sahrawis in the occupied territories, they cannot enjoy their fundamental rights of freedom of movement and expression. From a small prison, they simply ended up in a big one. And so far, there is no news about hundreds of disappeared Sahrawis arrested in 1975-76 and deported to Morocco.

The Moroccan army and the security forces &endash; about 200.000 men &endash; control the Sahrawis in the Occupied regions. They are forbidden to talk about politics. Forbidden to get a passport to travel abroad. Forbidden to gather or meet between more than two people. Any one of these actions will arouse suspicion and lead to arrest. These conditions do not apply to the Moroccan settlers, who exceed seven fold the Sahrawi population. The latter cannot speak their own language, Hassaniya, or wear their traditional clothes. Those who do become a target for the Moroccan security forces. Sooner or later they are arrested, under any pretext, and put in jail.

At this moment, there are 131 Sahrawis imprisoned by Morocco, at the Lak'hal prison in the Western Saharan occupied capital city of Al- Aauin. Since December 25th of 2001, they have been observing an unlimited hunger strike. Twenty three of the prisoners are political detainees who were arrested and detained without trial following demonstrations in El Aaiun and Smara, last November, to protest against the visit of the King of Morocco to the Sahrawi Occupied Territories.

It is good that International media has mentioned the release of 115 Moroccan POWs by Polisario, but it would be even better if it had also mentioned the plight of the Sahrawi detainees in Morocco, in particular those who are on hunger strike.

The occupied regions of Western Sahara remain closed to international observers and journalists. The Sahrawis have been fighting for 27 years against the Moroccan occupation for their freedom and right to self-determination. Their struggle is not known by the world. Their demonstrations are repressed without witnesses. They fight and suffer in silence.

What can we call the terror practiced by Morocco in Western Sahara? If it is not terrorism, then what is terrorism ? Terrorism is above all an act of terror, a horrible practice that is illicit, illegal and morally rejected in the eyes of the law and all civilized peoples. What Morocco has done and is still doing in Western Sahara is nothing but terror through its occupation and repression of the Sahrawis. The denial of their internationally recognised right to self-determination is yet one more act of terrorism.

Will the international community address this situation or will it adopt a double standard position and remain indifferent? (Akhbar Es-Sahra)



131 Sahrawi detainees
on unlimited hunger strike

Moroccan Terror in Sahrawi Occupied Territories Must Stop !

The Western Sahara Mission for UK and Ireland (POLISARIO Office) draw the attention of the British and the international communities to the 131 Sahrawis imprisoned by Morocco, who have been on unlimited hunger strike since December 25th, 2001 at the Lak'hal (black) prison in the Western Sahara occupied capital El Aaiun. 23 of the prisoners are political detainees who were arrested and detained without trial following demonstrations in El Aaiun and Smara organised last November to protest against the visit of the King of Morocco to the occupied territories. The situation of these political prisoners is deteriorating. So far, seven of them have already been taken to hospital, 25 others are presenting serious health problems but remain without care, and until now their families have been denied the right to visit them

The Sahrawi hunger strikers have been forced to take such desparate measures as the only way to protest against the worsening incarceration conditions they face and the deliberate human rights abuses by the Moroccan authorities. Mothers of the detainees have been demonstrating since 26 December in front of the

Court of Appeal and the civil prison. Seventy of them gathered the 2nd of January in front of the governor's office in El Aaiun, demanding the immediate release of their sons, the hunger strikers. Anti-riots Moroccan forces intervened brutally and violently disperse them. 27 demonstrators were wounded.

This is taking place while POLISARIO and Sahrawi Government released 115 Moroccan Prisoners of War on January 2nd, 2002 as a gesture of goodwill on the occasion of the new year. We call on the International community, the British opinion and in particular Her Majesty Government, the British parties, Human Rights Organisations, Trade Unions and NGOs to urgently intervene and press the Moroccan Government to release these prisoners. Morocco should also be asked to release the hundreds remaining Sahrawi Prisoners of War and political detainees imprisoned in Morocco and to put an end to the policy of terror carried out with impunity in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. (Western Sahara Mission for UK & Ireland press release, London, Monday 07.01.2002)

 

56th General Assembly
and Western Sahara issue

The situation in the Western Sahara was addressed among other decolonisation issues (…).

As the Committee took up decolonisation issues, two different approaches marked the debate over the best way to resolve the Western Sahara question. Most speakers underlined that both Morocco and POLISARIO had agreed on the existing Settlement Plan for Western Sahara, pointing out that it enjoyed widespread international support. Algeria's delegate described the recently proposed alternative draft framework agreement as an effort to initiate a parallel track, saying it was in reality a programmed integration of Western Sahara into the territory of the occupying Power. (…) Morocco's delegate said the Settlement Plan was inapplicable, as the parties could not agree on a list of voters for a self-determination referendum. (United Nations, Mon 24 Dec 2001. Extract from an article published by Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara )

Polisario releases
115 Moroccan POWs

The Sahrawi authorities had decided to release 115 Moroccan POWs in response to a request by Spain on the occasion of the new year. The POWs release was in response to a request by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who is the current EU president. Meanwhile, the Sahrawi Government and Polisario Front call on the European Community to show interest in the fate of the Sahrawi POWs and political prisoners in Morocco.( SADR, Ministry of Information,02January)

Algeria: "one and unchangeable position"

''Algeria has never changed its position vis-à-vis the question of Western Sahara'', indicated Thursday 27.12.2001, M. Abdelaziz Belkhadem, State minister and the minister of Foreign affairs. Talking during a press conference devoted to the accord for association signed on 19 December between Algeria and the European Union, Belkhadem indicated that the problem of Western Sahara is a problem of decolonisation dealt with for many years by the United Nations''. Recalling the accord signed between the two parts (POLISARIO front and Morocco) on the basis of Houston negotiations has been adopted by UN, the minister said ''we are siding and defending international justice through the application of peace'' as regard this issue, M. Belkhadem concluded. (Algeria Press Service, 27/12/01)

Sahrawi government allows Paris-Dakar rally to pass by its territory

Sahrawi government authorised the passage of the Paris-Dakar rally through its territory. The officer for external relations of TSO (the company which is organising the trial) Roger Kalmanovitz met the Minister of Defence, Mohamed Lamine Bouhali in the Sahrawi refugee camps. The stage Tan-Tan-Zouerat, which crosses Western Sahara on 4 January, will be replaced by a simple liaison stage at night without any breaks. (21.12.01, SPS, Arso)

President Abdelaziz
holds talks with UN envoy, US diplomat

President Mohamed Abdelaziz (POLISARIO leader) yesterday held talks with the special representative of the UN secretary-general in the Western Sahara and the US diplomat William Swing. Swing, whose visit coincides with the announcement the 2nd January of the release of 115 Moroccan detainees by the POLISARIO, described this initiative as a humanitarian gesture which is supported by all. (SPS, Jan 3, 2002)

President Abdelaziz
in South Africa

President Mohamed Abdelaziz participated on the 6th January 2002 in the celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the African National Congress [ANC] in South Africa. The Sahrawi President met South African President Thabo Mbeki, who gave a luncheon in honour of the Sahrawi delegation.

Sweden :
Morocco should restrain from deliberate provocations

The Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh said on 12 December : «We are still calling for the right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination, whichever way they choose to reach a solution. We do not consider Morocco to have the right to negotiate on the Sahrawi fishing or to grant oil or other concessions. Both parties and above all Morocco should restrain from deliberate provocations in whatever form they occur.»(Arso, 12.12.01)

Spain welcomed the Polisario decision to release 115 Moroccan POW'S

According to a statement of the OID (Diplomatic Information Bureau of the Foreign Ministry), "the release of the 115 Moroccan POW's will lead to bring together and to dialogue the parts of the Western Sahara conflict, which oppose Morocco to Polisario since 1975". "The Spanish government reaffirms its disposal to continue working during the six months EU presidency, with the other EU partners and the international community to find a solution to this conflict". (SPS, Madrid 04/01/02)

Alignment of Paris with Morocco
affects the settling down of the Conflict

"The alignment of France with the expansionist thesis of Rabat affects negatively the settling down of the political conflict in Western Sahara", declared to SPS the co-ordinator of the POLISARIO front with the United Nations Mission for the organisation of a referendum on Western Sahara, M'hamed Khaddad. "This attitude reiterated during the recent visit paid by Jacques Chirac to Morocco extends the suffering of the Sahraoui people and consequently, negatively affects the positive dénouement of the humanitarian problems emerging from this conflict", he added. (Algerie Presse Service, 06/01/02)

"Framework on the Status of Western Sahara:
A Moroccan Plan"
(By Yahia H. Zoubir)

Although Morocco officially denied proposing any alternative to the peace plan, it did in fact submit to Sahrawis, through James Baker, an autonomy plan for Western Sahara. Before dealing with the plan, one should point out that in the year 2001 the UN made intense efforts to impose the so-called "third option." Subsequent to the crisis of the January 2001 Paris-Dakar Rally, when POLISARIO suspended at the last minute resumption of military hostilities due to Algeria's crucial intervention (along with UN and US interventions), Kofi Annan, in his February 2001 report still mentioned the possibility to expedite the appeals procedures. At the same time, he set out to legitimise the mission of his personal envoy James Baker to find an alternative solution to the conflict that would be acceptable to both parties. The reference to the appeals procedure is crucial because the UN itself admitted in its own words that it COULD do something about the issue, what's more, quickly, thus opening the way again to the holding of the referendum of self-determination for the Sahrawi people. However, while doing so, Annan also sought to legitimise Baker's attempts to find an alternative solution to the 1991 UN Peace Plan. The momentum towards the legitimation of the abandonment of the Peace Plan accelerated in Annan's 24 April 2001 report in which there is no longer any reference to possible efforts to expedite the appeals procedure. Instead, the conclusion stressed that the only progress registered was made in seeking a possible "3rd way" out of the conflict. The crisis triggered by the 20 June 2001 Secretary General's report was therefore quite predictable and well prepared: despite the repeated and explicit rejection of any 3rd way expressed by the POLISARIO Front, despite the fact that a few months before the UN had recognized that it could deal rapidly with the problems of the appeals to the identification procedure&emdash;thus removing the last obstacle to the implementation of the referendum of self-determination&emdash;Annan now openly infringed upon international legality and fundamental principles of the UN Charter by attempting to impose as the only solution to the conflict in Western Sahara the "3rd way" now renamed "the framework accord."

The plan submitted to POLISARIO on 5 May 2001 would simply consecrate the integration of Western Sahara into Morocco. The leadership of POLISARIO regarded this Plan as a carbon copy of the Moroccan views. They believed that should the content of the plan be known, Baker's reputation as a negotiator would be damaged: POLISARIO immediately and totally rejected the plan, but agreed to keep silent about its embarrassing content. They sent one of their emissaries to New York with counter proposal from POLISARIO that they thought would overcome the stalemate while remaining within the framework of the 1991 UN Peace Plan. No doubt that Annan was decided to impose in his report to the Security Council the Baker Plan as the only solution to the conflict in Western. Details of the plan were leaked to the Spanish press. On 14 and 15 June 2001the Spanish daily EL PAIS commented that under Moroccan autonomy, as conceived in the Baker Plan, Sahrawis would enjoy a level of autonomy much smaller than the autonomous regions of Spain. This is how public opinion discovered even before the Annan's report was made public, that under the Baker Plan, Sahrawis would be offered some elusive executive and legislative powers. The legislative assembly would be elected by Sahrawis but also by Moroccan settlers! The most outrageous proposition is that anyone residing for more than a year would be eligible to vote for the assembly. In the proposed scheme, Morocco would retain full sovereignty over the Territory, including money, flag, custom, foreign affairs, national defence, justice, communications, interior affairs, and police. Objectively, one could hardly distinguish the proposed plan from French and British colonial rule in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though the proposal does not totally reject the referendum, it would have to wait for a five-year interim period. Given that Moroccans control the interregnum, there is no doubt that Western Sahara would ultimately be simply integrated into the Kingdom of Morocco. In other words, Morocco would allow a referendum on self-determination under the condition that Western Sahara remain Moroccan!

The Moroccan proposal should not have come as a surprise; however, the most astounding fact is that both Baker and Annan championed it. In truth, Annan submitted the Moroccan proposal as a UN "Framework Agreement on the Status of Western Sahara." In order to better convince the Sahrawis and other parties concerned in the conflict (Algeria, and Mauritania) to accept the UN/Moroccan proposal, Annan emphasized in his report to the Security Council that except for the ceasefire, the main provisions of the UN Settlement Plan have failed. Oddly enough, in paragraph 22, Annan adopts Javier Perez de Cuellar's view in his 19 December 1991 report concerning the difficulty of identifying Sahrawi voters, even though it is common knowledge that de Cuellar had made that observation as a concession to the Moroccans just a few days before leaving office. Once again, Annan questioned the feasibility of the referendum because of its "winner-take-call," zero-sum game character. A close analysis of Annan's report demonstrates unmistakably his willingness to reject the UN peace plan because Moroccans would not accept defeat and because the UN allegedly "lack[s] an enforcement mechanism for the results of the referendum." In sum, from Annan and Baker's perspective, given that Morocco would not accept the almost certain loss in the referendum, the UN must do away with the possibility of Sahrawi independence and offer Sahrawis limited autonomy, or rather forced integration, under Moroccan sovereignty. Worse still, the Secretary-General argues that the proposed framework for the "population of Western Sahara"&emdash;thus denying the existence and identity of Sahrawi people&emdash;"offers what may be the last window of opportunity for years to come. Annan insisted that this opportunity ought to be seized by all parties concerned…as well as those of the countries in the region."

Algeria rejected the Framework proposal and accused the UN of having violated its neutrality in the conflict and Annan of blatantly championing the Moroccan option. Algeria was not alone in rejecting the Framework proposal. A number of US Senators, such as Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and John Kerry, expressed their concern that the UN would "abandon the referendum and support a solution that proposes integrating the Western Sahara into Morocco against the will of the Sahrawi people."

Opposition from POLISARIO, Algeria, members of the US Congress, and many members of the United Nations, including Russia, forced the Security Congress to weigh carefully the implications of the Secretary-General's controversial and manifestly biased report and proposal. The report indubitably deviates from the agreed upon 1991 UN/OAU Peace Plan, aimed at decolonisation of Western Sahara, and openly violates international legality. This explains why, despite France's unashamed push for the Moroccan position, American and British support for Baker's approach, and China's alignment with Morocco, a compromise resolution was voted unanimously at the Security Council. This compromise resulted from the resolute stance of countries such as Jamaica, Russia, and Ireland, among others. Apparently, though not part of the UN Security Council and despite its multifaceted interests in Morocco, Spain played a positive role and opposed the Framework Agreement. In UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/1359/2001, the Council simply states that it has considered the report of the Secretary-General but does add further comment about it let alone adopt it, as is customary. The Council renews MINURSO's mandate until 30 November 2001, "supports" direct or proximity talks between the parties in conflict, and "encourages" POLISARIO and Morocco to talk about the draft Framework Agreement. The resolution also negates the "third way" as the only other alternative to the referendum since it urges the parties to "discuss any proposal for a political solution, which may be put forward by the parties, to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement." Though not rejecting the draft Framework Agreement, the resolution "encourages" the parties to discuss it and "to negotiate any specific changes they would like to see in this proposal." Clearly, Annan's attempts to impose the Moroccan "solution" failed. Furthermore, the Council rebuffed him since the Council decided to examine the proposals that POLISARIO submitted to overcome the obstacles to the holding of the referendum, proposals that Annan had refused to consider. The resolution clearly maintains the referendum as an objective.

Conclusion

In addition to being a violation of internationally sanctioned agreements, the "third way" option in Western Sahara is a factor of instability in the Maghreb region. While normalization between Algeria and Morocco is necessary for regional integration, offering Western Sahara to Morocco on a silver platter would aggravate tensions between the two countries. Algerian policymakers would perceive such action as a reward for Moroccan irredentism and a threat to their national security and would prepare for yet another conflict with Morocco.

One can hypothesize that France is opposed to Maghreb integration and thus encourages the rivalry between the two key regional actors in order to prevent the United States which has been calling for such integration from penetrating what could prove to be a lucrative market and constitute real competition for France in the region. A united Maghreb, representing a larger market would definitely be more attractive to US investors.

Whether one looks at the "third way" from a realpolitik perspective or from the standpoint of international law, it remains a dangerous proposition. Furthermore, whatever one's point of view, denying the Sahrawi people the right to self-determination is an injustice that will forever haunt world conscience. (Yahia H. Zoubir, Arso, November 2001)


Sahrawi People and Frente POLISARIO

wish you a Happy New Year !


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