56th session of the UN Commission of Human Rights, Geneva
Following Morocco's demand for an inquiry into the refugee camps (see Week 12 ), the Algerian delegate, Mr Mohamed Salah Dembri pointed out that «the Saharawi refugee camps are open to the UN and its agencies, to NGOs as well as the press and media. The UNHCR has a permanent representation on the ground. In conformity with its mandate, it assures the international protection of the refugees.»
The Secretary-General of the Union of Saharawi Jurists sent a letter to the president of the session (in french). Abba Salek El Haissen requests the creation as soon as possible, of a monitoring mechanism for human rights in Western Sahara, in order to prevent a worsening of the situation.
Referendum - Spain
The parliament of the autonomous region of Castilla-La Mancha approved a declaration of support for the rapid holding of a free and transparent referendum in Western Sahara. The declaration, which emphasises the «more than evident» responsibility of Spain in the Saharawi conflict, requests the United Nations to reinforce MINURSO in order to accelerate the start of the transition phase preceding the referendum.
Referendum - Portugal
Mhamed Khaddad, Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO, visiting Lisbon, had talks with Portuguese political leaders. They expressed, in a declaration, their support for a rapid implementation of the UN peace plan.(SPS)
Saharawi workers at Fos-Boucraa denounced, in a press release, published in El Ayoun, the practice of «intimidation procedures» against them by the OCP, (l'Office chérifien des phosphates), to force them to give up their rights to compensation for the five years during which the company stopped production. (SPS)
The General Workers Union of Saguiat el-Hamra et Rio-de-Oro (UGTSARIO) appealed to all trade union organisations, regional, national and international as well as to human rights organisations to «intervene to protect Saharawi workers in El Ayoun against arbitrary justice». (SPS)
Saharawi National Secretariate
The collective management of the Polisario Front met in an ordinary session chaired by its Secretary-General, Mohamed Abdelaziz. The development of the situation since the 10th congress was reviewed and an appeal launched «to the international community, to the European Union and particularly to France to do everything to lead Morocco to cooperate with the strict and complete implementation of the peace plan (...)» (SPS)
The conference «A referendum for peace - the rights of the Saharawi people» organised by the National Association of Solidarity with the Saharawi People (ANSPS) and the Italo-Saharawi parliamentary intergroup, brought together deputies of government and opposition parties, the Polisario representative in Europe, Mohamed Sidati, local administrators and associations of solidarity. The parliamentarians expressed without reservation their support for a commitment by the Italian government for the immediate implementation of the peace plan. The conference drew up a letter to the president of the Council, Massimo D'Alema, to ask him, on the occasion of the forthcoming visit to Italy of the King of Morocco (early April), to convey this to him.
Barcelona - demonstration
About fifty members of the Catalan Association of Friendship with the Saharawi People demonstrated by throwing eggs at the building where a meeting was taking place on changes in Morocco, attended by the Moroccan Ministers of Communication and of Justice. One demonstrator managed to introduce a streamer in the room at the moment that an agreement of collaboration between Morocco and Catalonia was being signed, obliging the two Moroccan ministers to leave the room under police protection.
Barcelona - demonstration
Members of the Catalan Association of Friendship with the Saharawi People chained themselves outside the Moroccan consulate to denounce the repression to which the Saharawi people in the occupied territories are victim. Young Moroccans, brandishing knives and shouting insults, encouraged by the staff of the consulate, attacked them, grabbing their placards and flags. Spanish Security forces intervened to separate the protagonists.
Referendum - Balearic Islands
Parliamentarians from all political groups of the Balearic Islands met with the theme «Peace and Liberty in the Sahara», in order to debate for two days on the various aspects of the forthcoming referendum on the future of the Saharawi People.
Referendum - UN - France
The French Section of the International Observers to the Referendum in Western Sahara (SFO) sent a mission to New York to call for the respect of the peace plan and the implementation of a free and fair referendum of self-determination in Western Sahara by an early deadline. The mission, led by M. Jean-Claude Boulard, Député of Sarthe and Chair of the Urban Community of Le Mans, was composed of M. Jean Deshayes, deputy mayor of Hérouville Saint Clair, Mme Afifa Karmous, lawyer of the Foundation France Libertés and Mme Sophie Caratini, anthropologist with the CNRS, met Mr Bernard Miyet, in charge of UN peace missions, and with the French permanent mission to the United Nations. The mission presented messages to Mr Kofi Annan and to the French Ambassador to the UN from Mme Danielle Mitterrand, president of the Foundation France Libertés, and from M. Robert Jarry, the mayor of Le Mans.
Referendum - USA
Replying to several members of the Congress, President Clinton reaffirmed in a letter the firm commitment of the United States to an implementation of the Houston agreements aiming for a just and lasting solution in Western Sahara. He also expressed the growing frustration of his administration with the many postponements of the settlement plan. (aps)
Germany: Urgent action 3/2000 by the Society for Threatened Peoples was devoted to Western Sahara, in the form of postcards, telephone calls, faxes, emails addressed to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, demanding increased support by Germany of the peace plan, greater pressure on Morocco and also on France, to the effect that it should require Morocco not to impede the holding of the referendum. (Kampagnen)
Munich, Germany, 29.03.00: The pupils of the Willi Graf High School wrote a letter to the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, President of the Council of the EU. They expressed their concern about the new report on the referendum in Western Sahara and about the risk of war which could be entailed. They asked him to take action so that the EU had a firm attitude towards Morocco in order to pass quickly to the final stage of the UN peace process, which consists in a fair plebiscite for the population of Western Sahara.
Cáceres, Extremadura, Spain, 25.03.00: An association of students of Extremadura, Aunex, launched a campaign in Cáceres for «101 bursaries for Saharawi students».
Sabadell, Catalonia,Spain, 22.03.00: screening of the short film "Laila" made by the actress Silvia Munt, Goya Prize for the best short film. It is the vision of the Sahara and life in the camps seen through the eyes of a child. The screening was followed by a lecture by Carme Aris on the present situation of the Saharawi people. (Carme Aris has edited two collections of Saharawi stories). Organisation: Ajuntament de Sabadell and Solidaris amb el poble sahraui
Albacete, Spain, 24-25.03.00: workshops (on making Saharawi clothes, learning about the tea ceremony, henna painting, Saharawi dances, present political, economic and social situation of the Sahara. (Asociación de Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui de Albacete).
Mantua, Italy, 30.03.00: exhibition and showing of the film «Una storia sahrawi», made by A. Martone, organisation: the province of Mantua and the provincial branch of the General Confederation of Workers, CGL.
Cinisello Balsamo, Milano, Italy, 30.03.00: opening of a photo exhibition «The courage of being a people», about the struggle of the Saharawi people.
02 - 04.04.00, Cairo: Euro-African Summit 2000.
08-11.04.00, Baker mission
James Baker will go to Algiers, Tindouf, Rabat and Nouakchott in the context of his mission of mediation in the conflict in Western Sahara, the UN announced. Mr Baker will be on 8 April in Algiers, the same day he will travel to Tindouf, on 9 April to Rabat and on 11 April to Nouakchott.
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