The Committee for an effective international criminal law, CoEICL, held its first international conference in Constance, Germany, on the topic "Replacing the law of force with the force of law, African Conflicts and the International Criminal Court ". Specialists in international law, members of the international court for Rwanda and the representatives of several countries discussed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Africa. A Saharawi delegation, made up of Mr. Mohamed Sidati, member of the Polisario National Secretariat, Counsellor to the presidency and Mr. Abba Salek El Haissen, secretary-general of the Union of the Saharawi Lawyers, presented the conflict of Western Sahara in its historical and legal dimensions as well as the problem of human rights in the occupied territories.
Several hundred people met in Madrid in front of seat of the United Nations to denounce Moroccan repression in the occupied territories and to demand the organization to hold, without delay, a referendum in Western Sahara. The demonstration, convened by the national Coordination of Saharawi support associations and FEDISSAH, Federation of the Spanish solidarity institutions with the Saharawi people, proceeded without incidents, in heavy rain.
The Council of the Socialist International, meeting in Brussels, adopted unanimously a resolution about Western Sahara in which it offers its full cooperation to the UN in order to speed up the implementation of the peace plan and supports steps that might be taken by Mr James Baker. It expresses its deep concern at the constant postponement of the referendum on self-determination and urges the parties to start a political dialogue on the future of the region.
Mohammed VI in Italy
During his official visit to Italy, the king of Morocco affirmed that regional integration constitutes, for Morocco, the most adequate way for the reinforcement of peace and stability, and the guarantee of economic and social development.
The Italian Association of solidarity with the Saharawi people (ANSPS) organized a press conference in Rome, followed by a march in the streets of the capital with banners claiming an immediate referendum for Western Sahara. Regional associations sent letters and petitions to the head of the government and the president of the republic asking them to bring up the problem of the Western Sahara in their discussions with the Morrocan king. Italy «supports the process undertaken by the United Nations for the organization of a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara and wishes that Mr. James Baker should be able to re-start dialogue between the parties», indicated an official statement published at the end of the meeting between the heads of the Italian and Moroccan diplomacy.
Appeal of Saharawi students in Cuba
Saharawi university teachers and students living in Cuba appealed to all countries of the world and all Human Rights organisations to support James Baker's mission in order to settle definitively the Western Sahara conflict by a free and transparent referendum.
The Baker mission: Reflections in the medias
Meeting with Mr Ahmed Ouyahia, Minister for Justice, Ahmed Benbitour, head of the government and Bachir Boumaza, president of the Senate.
Baker's declarations: " We will examine the possibility of implementing the agreements concluded by the two parts (Morocco and Front Polisario) in London and Houston ". His mission has as its aim " to take note with the various parties of their approaches and the possibilities of seeing what can be done to overcome certain problems blocking the application of the peace plan ", in order to report to the Secretary General of the United Nations. On the holding of the referendum before the end of the year, Mr. Baker affirms: " no, I am not optimistic ". " In fact, I am absolutely sure that it will not take place before the end of the year "(APS).
Discussions with the executive of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front, then with president Mohamed Abdelaziz for over an hour.
Baker's declarations: " I was not very optimistic in 1997 and we sorted out problems which at the time were much more serious than those that we experience today ".
Declarations by Mohamed Abdelaziz: Polisario is ready for a dialogue with Morocco at "any time, with anyone and anywhere ", on the condition of respecting the UN-OUA peace plan and conforming with the agreements of Houston. The appeals process can be completed in seven months at the most (Baker expressed later in Madrid his «respectful disagreement» with the Saharawi president on this point). The Saharawi delegation expresses its concern vis-a-vis the repression in the occupied territories. James Baker raised the release of Moroccan prisoners held by Polisario, Mr. Abdelaziz indicated, adding that the Saharawi leadership is " sensitive to this humanitarian question " and that it will soon take an initiative, in particular for the " old and sick " prisoners. Polisario will not require any " condition " for the humanitarian cases. (SPS, APS).
Talks on Monday April 10 for nearly three hours with king Mohammed VI, together with prince Moulay Rachid, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Interior.
Working session in the evening with the Moroccan Prime Minister, in the presence of the Foreign Minister, of the Secretary of State of the Department of the Interior, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the permanent representative of Morocco to the United Nations, the coordinator with MINURSO, major general Hosni Ben Slimane, chief of the Royal Gendarmerie, major general Abdelhak Kadiri, director general of headquarters of investigation and documentation (counter-espionnage), political leaders of parties and several personalities.
The visit to Mauritania is cancelled.
Baker's declarations: the problems encountered by the UN plan are serious and complicated. The solution must promote peace and stability in the area and consolidate the unity of the Maghreb. He will consult Mr. Kofi Annan on the " possibility of holding one or more direct meetings between the parties involved, as was done in 1997 in London, Lisbon and Houston ". He adds that " we have not yet issued any invitations ", considering that " it is only after these invitations are sent that the parties can accept them or not " (AFP, Le Matin du Sahara, El Pais)
Working breakfast with Mr. Abel Matutès, Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Baker's declarations: "The settlement plan is not dead. It is very much still alive, but it is in a ditch.. ". "It has problems, serious problems"; "there are many other problems in addition to that of the appeals." Before the United Nations take an initiative, there must be a consensus between the parties and it is this consensus which is extremely difficult to reach" (EFE).
Meeting with president Jacques Chirac for more than one hour. No comment on both sides.
«France supports the efforts of the United Nations for the organization of a referendum in Western Sahara», declares later the assistant spokesman of the Quay d'Orsay. «Observers wonder which kind of referendum does Paris support?, writes SPS. A free, regular and transparent referendum, as the Polisario Front wants, or a referendum confirming the 'Moroccanness' of the Sahara, according to the wishes of Rabat?» (AFP, SPS).
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