In a 12-point press release published in Rabat, representatives of six Sahrawi associations, former disappeared or victims of repression in Morocco, expressed their anger at the lack of seriousness with which human rights violations in the Western Sahara are addressed by Moroccan authorities. They characterized the "compensation" given by the Human Rights Consultative Council as "dangerous" and constituting a "stalling tactic," and demanded clarifications on the fate of disappeared Sahrawis, what they called "an absolute precondition for definitively closing the book on human rights violations in the Western Sahara."
On behalf of the King, the Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Benaïssa, submitted a memorandum to Kofi Annan on the question of the Western Sahara. "The document addresses the candidates' criticisms of how the Settlement Plan was implemented, in violation of the established rules and in disregard for the Security Council's resolutions and the Houston Agreement." Mr. Benaïssa stated that "by agreeing to this referendum, Morocco remains forever attached to the integrity of its territory and sovereignty." (Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb, Rabat)
Mauritania has expelled Polisario's representative to Mauritania, Hamotti Ould Rabani, according to the weekly Le Calame. "We continue to have excellent relations with Polisario and it still has representation in Mauritania," M'Hamed Khaddad told the BBC, and denied accusations that Ould Rabani had interfered in Mauritania's internal affairs.
The three Sahrawis imprisoned at Inezgane appeared once again before the trial judge. Their health has raised serious concerns. However, a medical examination to determine the effects of torture and their poor treatment in prison was not authorized. In Tan-Tan, the families of Sahrawi prisoners and disappeared organized a demonstration on February 8, in front of the provincial administrative headquarters, to demand the immediate release of the three prisoners and information on the fate of disappeared Sahrawis. The next day, Sahrawi students assembled in front of the Inezgane prison, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., to make the same demands. (AFAPREDESA)
Referendum – European Union
The European Parliament's ad-hoc committee "Peace for the Sahrawi People" met in Strasbourg with Mr. Sidati, the Minister Counsellor to the Sahrawi Presidency and Pierre Galand, President of the Coordination of European Sahrawi support committees. Mr. Galand reminded the parliamentarians that "the referendum calendar cannot be postponed. Holding the referendum within a reasonable period of time is the only way Morocco will be able to avoid an Indonesia-type situation when East Timor became independent."
Mohamed Sidati stated "the (appeals) procedure must respect the rules proposed by the UN Secretary-General in May 1999, and accepted by both Morocco and the Polisario Front. Only applicants who can introduce new evidence to support a review of their claims will be accepted." This is clearly not the case for "tens of thousands of individuals on whose behalf Morocco is demanding a review."
The President of the ad-hoc committee, Margot Kessler, stressed the "urgent need for Europe to support the peace plan and the organization of a free and democratic self-determination referendum." She added that it was time take an unambiguous stand since the chances of restoring peace and stability to the region are now weakened. To do so, the referendum must be held according to the agreed-upon timetable.(SPS)
A delegation of Moroccan deputies visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg from February 15 to 17, to raise awareness among the members of the European Parliament of the question of the "Moroccan" Sahara, with the goal of countering "the campaign" being waged by the pro-Polisario lobby in Europe and European Polisario support committees. (Le Matin du Sahara et du Maghreb, Rabat)
Secretary-General's report on the Western Sahara, S/2000/131
The UN on the verge of abandoning the peace plan!
After nine years of difficulties, delays, concessions, etc, voter identification has been completed and the electorate has been determined. Stumbling block: a massive number of appeals submitted by Moroccan candidates (close to 140 000).
In his report Annan expresses «doubts about the possibility of achieving a smooth and consensual implementation of the settlement plan».
His assessment is that the «timetable envisaged is no longer valid (..) and the date for the referendum, (...) can still not be set with certainty at this juncture». The problem of the appeals «could eventually prevent the holding of the referendum as provided by the plan».
The referendum option may thus be abandoned and the UN will look for other solutions. For even if a referendum does take place, Mr. Annan points out that :« if the result were not to be recognized and accepted by one party, it is worth noting that no enforcement mechanism is envisioned by the settlement pal, nor is one likely to be proposed, calling for the use of military means to effect enforcement». he ask his personal envoy , James Baker, to resume mediation and explore ways and means of a rapid, lasting and acceptable resolution to the conflict. Mr. Baker has three months to complete his mission.
We notice that Morocco finally accepts the return of the prisoners of war liberated last november as a sign of goodwill by the Polisario. (see week 47 / 99)
Annan in Australia
During UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's visit to Australia, the Australian Western Sahara Association (AWSA) sent him a letter expressing its concern about the successive postponements of the referendum. The letter states that given that voter identification is now complete, there is no reason to further delay the vote. AWSA denounces Morocco's tactics and calls on Mr. Annan to not abandon the Sahrawi people and to organize a free and fair referendum without further delay. (Press release )
February 24 : meeting of the UN Security Council concerning Western Sahara
25-26.02.00, Sydney, Australie: fundraising concert for the Western Sahara, organised by AWSA, at St. Andrews Church, Darling St. Balmain. Various artistic groups will take part.
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
For a full overview of the Spanish media see on the website of the Polisario Front , Madrid, (daily updated) : http://www.nodo50.org/fpolisario/Prensa.htm
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