Hearing of Petitioners on Western Sahara by the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, (Fourth Committee), United Nations,  October 7, 2005

Remarks by  Suzanne Scholte,

President, Defense Forum Foundation and Chairman, US-Western Sahara Foundation

Thank you Chairman Ambassador Yashar Aliyev and members of the Fourth Committee for the opportunity to once again address you about the situation in Western Sahara.  I urge this committee to uphold its purpose and call for the end of the illegal occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco.

While the United Nations can be commended for its intervention in 1991 that brought about a cease fire to this conflict, it has failed to fulfill its promise of a vote on self-determination by the Sahrawi people.  That first promise of a referendum came in 1966 when the UN adopted a resolution calling on Spain to organize a referendum.

By failing to fulfill this promise the very purpose of this committee has been undermined.  The Declaration on Decolonization firmly stated "that all people have a right to self-determination" and proclaimed that "colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end."

Yet, today, the year 2005, a referendum has yet to be held.  Instead the Sahrawi people, who have placed their trust in this body, have seen their country invaded by Morocco, their civilians brutally killed, their families separated for thirty years, and the UN continue to fail year after year in following through on its promises.

Why has there been no referendum?  Because Morocco has reneged on every agreement beginning with the UN-OAU Settlement Plan, the Houston Accords, and the most recent compromise, the Peace Plan, set forth by Former Secretary of State James Baker in 2002.

We are currently at a stalemate: Morocco will not allow a referendum to occur and the Sahrawi people will never give up their dream of returning to their homeland as a free people.

The fact that the Sahrawi people would rather live as free people in one of the most inhospitable places on earth rather than under Moroccan rule is a testament to the human spirit and the ideal of freedom.

It is also a testament to the cruelty of Morocco.   Because while over 180,000 refugees have waited in the Algerian desert for their promised referendum, a large number of Sahrawis live in virtual house arrest in Occupied Western Sahara.  Today, they are jailed, beaten, tortured and killed for peacefully demonstrating for one of the United Nation's principles: the right to self-determination.

Morocco's brutal occupation of Western Sahara has repeatedly led to its being listed as one of the world's worst regimes by Freedom House, the non-governmental organization which measures political rights and civil liberties worldwide.

Because of the failure of the UN to follow through on the promised referendum, it is time now to look for other solutions.  The only solution that is consistent with international law and the promise of this body is to begin now the transfer of Western Sahara back to the Sahrawi people.

It is time to end this stalemate by calling on Morocco to withdraw from Western Sahara.

It is the only viable solution that remains absent a free, fair, and impartial referendum.  The withdrawal of Morocco from Western Sahara will bring about the following :

&endash;the ability of the Sahrawi Republic to flourish as a peaceful, democratic state of Muslim progressives who renounce all forms of terror, something the United States and many other countries are expending tremendous blood and treasure to accomplish for Iraq

&endash;the reunification of families separated for 30 years and the immediate reduction of the refugee population

&endash; the fulfillment of a great goal of the African Union: stability in the Maghreb and the chance to develop the region economically for the benefit of the people

-billions of dollars currently spent on Morocco's occupation force in Western Sahara could be instead utilized to help the Moroccan people, rather than subjugate the Sahrawi people; and

-millions of dollars currently spent on Morocco for lobbyists around the world to try to convince people there is no such thing as a Sahrawi, could be spent building ties between Morocco and other countries for mutual benefit and goodwill

It is interesting to note that despite the long history of cruelty by the Moroccan government against the Sahrawi people, the Sahrawi people have continued to promise to live in peace and literally "turn the other cheek" and work with Morocco as a peaceful neighbor.

Failing to get Morocco out of Western Sahara will mean this continued stalemate and the subjugation of the Sahrawi people in the occupied territory while hundreds of thousands of refugees will continue to live in camps simply because they desire freedom and the right to self-determination.

Failing to get Morocco out of Western Sahara will mean that invasion and aggression and war are the means to achieve one's end.  It will prove to Morocco and other would be aggressors that invasion and aggression are the answer.  It will prove to the Sahrawis that laying down their weapons and agreeing to the cease fire was a terrible mistake.  They will have felt better off fighting a war for their liberty rather than sitting in the desert waiting for the UN.

Failing to get Morocco out of Western Sahara, will show the world that the UN is not serious about its own purpose &endash; that placing trust in the UN was a huge mistake for the Sahrawis that has led to forty years of broken promises.

In 1945, when the UN was established nearly one third of the world lived under colonial rule.  Now, largely because of the work of the UN, less that 2 million are on your list and the largest number of that group are known as Sahrawis.

I urge the Decolonization Committee to aggressively take up this issue and fulfill your purpose.  The UN's past action led Spain to withdraw from Western Sahara, but your lack of follow through has led to an even worse condition for the Sahrawis.  Please free Western Sahara by calling for Morocco's brutal occupation to end.

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