A national conference brought together, in the wilaya of Ausserd, the Committee of External Relations, Saharawi representatives in Europe, staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government and local officials to discuss international humanitarian aid, international solidarity and the program of annual holidays of Saharawi children abroad. (SPS)
First session of the new National Council (Parliament) in the wilaya of Ausserd, devoted to discussion of the annual program of the government of Mr Abdelkader Taleb Oumar. (SPS)
Moroccan Lobbying in Washington
The Moroccan Prime Minister Driss Jettou went to Washington on a working visit during which he had talks with the American Vice-President, Dick Cheney, President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Deputy Secretary of State for North Africa and the Middle East William Burns, as well as the representative for external trade, Robert Zoellick.
Jettou took part in a forum organised by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he reiterated Morocco's attachment to a "peaceful, negotiated, consensual and lasting solution to the "artificial conflict" of the Sahara, a solution which would save the area from becoming "a fertile ground for terrorism".
Coming out of the meeting with Powell, the American spokesperson declared that "the question of the Sahara was also brought up, the Western Sahara where we're all looking for the opportunity to make progress towards resolving that dispute".
The death was announced of Jaime de Piniés, who was ambassador of Spain at the UN for 30 years, where he played on several occasions a determining role for the Saharawi people. He is also the author of two important works: "La descolonización del Sáhara: un tema sin concluir" (Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, 240 p.), and "La descolonización española en las Naciones Unidas : Guinea Ecuatorial (Fernando Poo y Rio Muni), Ifni, Sahara Occidental y Gibraltar y las Naciones Unidas" (Centro de Estudios Políticos y Constitucionales, Madrid, 2001, 860 p.)
Goulimine - Saharawi unemployed
Work for the unemployed provided by National Self-Help in the region consists of street cleaning, tree-planting etc. Saharawis feel themselves discriminated against. To obtain such a job, you must either originate from North Morocco, or bribe an official. The wali of the region of Goulimine-Smara, Ali Kabiri, offered young Saharawis without a job to join the army, a solution they refused. He then decided not to give any more certificates of family responsibilities which allow exemption from military service.
A group of these young Saharawis, called the "Group of the victims of Ali Kabiri", have been demonstrating since 19 November outside the Ministry of the Interior in Rabat. The suspended their action on 25 December following the intervention of the member of parliament for Tata, who promised the delivery of exemption certificates from military service for young Saharawis. In a letter to the king, the group accused the wali of corruption, financial manipulation and falsification of elections in favour of non-Saharawis.
Former Saharawi disappeared, who were in Moroccan prisons from 1976 to 1991, have formally denied the allegations of the Moroccan Consultative Committee of Human Rights (CCDH), which claim they have all been compensated. (SPS, communiqué de l'Association Française d'Amitié et de Solidarité avec les Peuple d'Afrique (AFASPACommuniqué AFASPA du 06.01.04 french)
The King of Morocco, on the occasion of setting up the Committee "Equity and Reconciliation", pardoned thirty-three people, including the two murderers of Omar Benjelloun, symbolic figure of Moroccan opposition, seven journalists including Ali Lmrabet, 12 Saharawi political prisoners (including Ali Salem Tamek, Moussaoui Dkhil and Bazeid Salek, members of the former Forum for Truth and Justice Sahara branch, >> see list ), as well as Mohamed Rachid Chriî, vice-president of AMDH, seven arms dealers and islamic terrorists.
If this gesture has been generally welcomed positively, human rights organisations recalled that Morocco has still many cases of political prisoners to deal with, including a dozen Saharawis. They point out, on the other hand, that these releases are the result of battles waged by the prisoners themselves, their families and human rights organisations and activists in Morocco, Western Sahara, and on an international level. Greeted as a step in the right direction, the aim of this measure is to take the blot off Morocco's escutcheon so far as human rights are concerned, to give some standing to the body Equity and Reconciliation, strongly criticised for its limited powers, and to give a good impression on an international level on the eve of the Security Council discussion. >> Triumph for Human Rights Protesters in WS, Statement of the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA) and >> special page with other comments and reactions.
"Equity et Reconciliation"
The body "Equity et Reconciliation", officially inaugurated by Mohamed VI, aims to bring closure on past human rights abuses on the basis of justice and equity. Within a time-frame of 9 months, which could be extended if need be by a maximum of 3 months, the body will proceed to a global evaluation of the settlement process of the dossier of past human rights abuses; it will search for cases of forced disappearance not already elucidated and determine the places of burial of the victims of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention, carefully side-stepping the question of impunity of the guilty.
The FIDH, in partnership with the Monitoring Committee (Moroccan Association of human rights AMDH, Forum of Truth and Justice FVJ and Moroccan organisation of human rights OMDH) decided to put in place as soon as possible an umbrella group to monitor and evaluate this body.
[Other statements of position on the body "Equity and Reconciliation", see week 48-49/2003, Comité préparatoire des Sahraouis victimes de la disparition forcée et de la détention arbitraire rescapés des lieux marocains secrets de détentions, Communiqué de l'Association marocaine des droits humains relatif à l'instance dite Equité et Réconciliation du 14 novembre 2003, Communiqué de la famille du disparu marocain Omar El Ouassouli, 21 novembre 2003 ,]
The liberated Saharawi detainees were welcomed triumphally. In the course of a meeting in El Ayoun in the courtyard of the house of one of them, Salek Bazeid, Mrs Aminatou Haidar, former political detainee paid tribute to "the courage and self-abnegation of these valiant fighters for freedom". Several former detainees considered that terror and repression "will in no way affect the determination of the Saharawi people to pursue their struggle for self-determination and independence".
Ali Salem Tamek was greeted on leaving prison by hundreds of people, before taking part in a meeting organised on the university campus of Agadir by Moroccan and Saharawi students. Commissioner Hariz El Arbi, a well-known torturer, and the deputy governor of the Moroccan administration in Western Sahara had exerted strong pressure on the families of the released prisoners to prevent any public expression of their joy. (SPS)
The European Commission approved a series of decisions in the domain of humanitarian aid, including 5.14 million euros destined for the Saharawi refugees.
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