WEEKS 11 - 12 : 11.03. - 24.03.2007
The Council of the SADR government met presided by the Prime Minister, Abdelkader Taleb Oumar, in the presence of ministers, walis and national officers “to review large-scale future events". [SPS]
15.03.07, Bir Lahlou
In Bir Lahlou (liberated territory) the Association of Saharawi Engineers for Development was founded. [UPES]
08.03.07, New York
Mohamed Abdelaziz had talks with Dumisani Kumalo, President of the Security Council and Permanent Representative of South Africa and met the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, China, Slovakia and Russia as well as the United Nations Secretary General. He was also received by ambassadors and representatives from the group of non-aligned countries who are members of the Security Council, Ghana, Panama, Indonesia, Congo, Qatar, South Africa and Cuba, which is the present chair of the group. [SPS]
The President of the Saharawi Parliament, Mahfoud Ali Beiba, as special envoy of the president, had meetings in Cuba with several political officials. He announced that his country will present to the Security Council next April, a proposal to resolve the conflict. He later travelled to Nicaragua.
TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO
05-11.03.07, Norway, Denmark
The Saharawi human rights activist and former political prisoner, Aminatou Haidar, carried out a visit of Norway and Denmark. [Statement + photos]
Hamma Adda, 1990 and Ismail El-Bardi, 1991, were arrested in Foum El-Oued by policemen, who obliged them to get into a police car where they were beaten. They were then brutally interrogated by the CID in El Ayoun, about demonstrations, those responsible and those taking part. They were released the next day, after being threatened with prison if they demonstrated again. [ASVDH]
07.03.07, landmine accident
A 4x4 car belonging to two French tourists, returning from Mauritania, set off the explosion of an anti-tank mine 200km south of Dakhla. The car spun around in a half-turn and was two metres off the track. The two tourists, sitting in the front were not injured.
08-11.03.07, El-Ayoun and Smara
Several demonstrations took place on the occasion of the anniversary of the first martyr of the Saharawi cause, El Bachir Lehlaoui, fallen on the field of honour on 8 March 1974. Seven Saharawi students were arrested in El Ayoun and one person in Smara. [SPS]
During the First “Sea and Desert” Festival, organised from 10-13 March by the Moroccan authorities, four young Saharawis were arrested for having distributed leaflets denouncing human rights abuses in Western Sahara. Three of them were taken to hospital after having been brutally interrogated.
The next day, violent confrontations took place outside the hospital. 33 people were injured. Among them several notables, such as the deputy and president of the commune of Lagouira, Mohamed Boubakar, and Cheikh Banan, president of Ausserd commune. A former deputy and member of CORCAS, Hayat ment Elmokhtar, who was looking for her son who had taken part in the demonstration was insulted.
Several organisations came out in solidarity with the victims and condemned the attitude of the police: the Dakhla Committee against Torture, the Boujdour Committee of the ASVDH, Sidi Mohamed Daddach and Saharawi citizens, M'hamid El Ghizlan, etc. [SPS] [ASVDH]
The court of appeal confirmed the sentence of one year and a half in prison for the Saharawi political detainee, Laaroussi Choubeida, for contempt of court.
Choubeida was transferred on 16 March against his will and that of his family to Tiznit prison in Morocco, 500 km north of El-Ayoun. [ASVDH]
About thirty Saharawi students from the Qadi Ayad University organised an exhibition about self-determination in Western Sahara. The police brutally disperse visitors, creating over 10 casualties and proceeding to dozens of arrests, 20 according to CODESA. Among the wounded there are a colonel in plain clothes who was directing the intervention as well as two policemen. Two students were apparently referred to a court. (AP, presse marocaine)
The collective of Saharawi defenders of human rights (CODESA) denounced these events. [Arabic]
Mohamed H'lioua and H'mimid Boueh, two young Saharawis, were sentenced to a year in prison and to fines of 1000 euros each. The two young men are accused of having burnt a Moroccan flag and of being the source of distribution of SADR flags and leaflets in favour of independence for Western Sahara. [Cahiers du Sahara]
Eleven Saharawi political detainees appeared before the court of appeal, in the presence of their lawyers and two observers from the Canary Islands, sent by the General Council of the Spanish Bar. The trials took place under heavy police protection and several of the accused, who were chanting independence slogans, were violently expelled from the courtroom. The accused were sentenced to punishments going from one and a half years to three years’ prison. For three of them, the sentence was adjourned until 17 April. A minor accused was sentenced to five months’ prison and released for having served his sentence. [--> ASVDH]
AFAPREDESA strongly protested against these sentences, underlining that no investigation had been undertaken on the bad treatment suffered by the accused. [comunicado]
The families of those sentenced also denounced in a statement the heavy penalties handed down by the court.[SPS]
Aminatou Haidar continued her European tour in Italy. She addressed on 22, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Parliament and launched an appeal to the government asking it to uphold the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. [comunicato stampa ANSPS]
She also spoke during a meeting in the International Women’s House in Rome on the situation of Saharawi women.
The Moroccan group, Miloud Chaâbi - Ynna Holding announced a new investment of 3 billion DH (300 million euros) in Foum El-Oued near El-Ayoun. This involves the construction of 10,000 apartments, 3 hotels over an area of 300 ha and the first hypermarket in the region. [communiqué]
Moroccan autonomy proposal – promotion tour, continued
Several Moroccan delegations travelled to Kuwait, Bahrein, the Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Mexico to present the autonomy proposal. Moroccan officials were received on 14 March in New York by the UN Secretary General and in Beijing by the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs.
If you believe the Moroccan official news agency, MAP, this is a triumphal tour in the course of which the Moroccan proposal is said to be welcomed everywhere with enthusiasm. The careful observer detects certain nuances. Thus Colonel Gadhafi limited himself to underlining the necessity of settling the conflict in a lasting way. The Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Celso Amorim replied that the Brazilian position remains “in favour of a peaceful and lasting solution founded on the principle of self-determination and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations”.
The Chilean Association of Friendship with SADR and a group of Chilean personalities protests against a mendacious presentation of the position of the Chilean government by MAP.
All the Colombian parliamentary groups denied that a motion in favour of the autonomy proposal had been voted on 13 March by the parliament. They declared that this was a pure invention by MAP and recalled their position of support for the United Nations peace plan for a referendum of self-determination in Western Sahara. [Declaracion, 22.03.07] [Déclaration 22.03.07]
Elsewhere, the welcome of the Moroccan delegation in the Department of State in Washington was laboured. The delegation was finally received by Williams Burns, under-secretary of State for the Maghreb and Middle East, but “to talk with the secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, it would be necessary to come again with more than words...”, writes Le Journal Hebdomadaire No 294.
In London, where the welcome on 21 February had been rather cool (see week 07-08/2007) , the Minister responsible for the Middle East and North Africa, Kim Howells, repeated before the parliament on 21 March the position of his government in favour of a solution which would guarantee the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the UN framework. [Commons Hansard]
For his part, the Polisario Front representative for the United Kingdom and Ireland, Sidi Omar, in an analysis published by the daily El-Qods El-Arabi, castigated certain titles in the Arabic language press for their lack of objectivity, in presenting the Moroccan autonomy proposal as an extraordinary event. He puts this excessive interest down to a misunderstanding of the genesis of the conflict and misplaced confidence in the Moroccan media, from which they reproduce fallacious accounts, without verification of their authenticity and with “disregard for professional standards and the principles of professional ethics of journalism”. On the other hand, the Saharawi diplomat then took apart, point by point, the juridical and political inanity of the Moroccan proposal.”
[El-Qods El-Arabi, 21.03.07] or [in UPES]
CORELSO, the Franco-Saharawi committee for the respect of human rights in Western Sahara, sent a letter to the president of the EU Council, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. CORELSO also sent letters to the 12 French presidential candidates, to the German Ambassador in France and to the ambassadors of member countries of the Security Council.
One of James Baker’s advisers, Hurst Hannum, professor of international law who took part in drawing up the Baker Plan, considered that Morocco “has no authority to impose a unilateral solution in Western Sahara”, in an opinion published in the “International Herald Tribune", He was replying to the opinion piece by Frederick Vreeland, former American ambassador to Morocco and director of a solar energy company which had benefited from Moroccan government contracts. [The New York Times, 03.03.07]
13-15.03.07, visit of the King of Spain to Algeria
On the eve of the arrival of the king, the Algerian Minister for Industry announced an increase in the price of gas destined for Spain. In Algiers the Spanish monarch tried, during the meal offered in his honour by the Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to correct the words of his head of government declaring: “it is urgent, as my government has recently emphasised, to find a just political solution, which is lasting and acceptable to the parties on the question of Western Sahara, a solution allowing for the free determination of this people and involving a dialogue of the parties within a United Nations framework”.
In an interview appearing on 13 March in El Pais, the Algerian president underlined that only the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people could resolve the problem, and that no unilateral solution could be viable. He also gave assurance that the conflict in Western Sahara could not constitute a casus belli between Algeria and Morocco. [Traduction française de l'interview de Bouteflika]
13.03.07, Spanish Parliament
A demonstration against the policy of the government towards the Saharawi people preceded the parliamentary session, which was to discuss two proposals on Western Sahara, one from the group Izquierda Unida-Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds, the other from a mixed parliamentary group, defending the rights of the Saharawi people, laid down several months ago. The parliament approved the two proposals unanimously except for one vote.
Several other gatherings against the government’s policy were organised in Spain, in Seville on 16, in Santander on 17, in Logrono on 24. The Basque parliament, for its part, on 16 asked the central government to make a firm commitment for the organisation of the referendum of self-determination in 2007.
The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared on the subject of Western Sahara that “Mr van Walsum is at present engaged in consultations and should present a report to the Security Council in the coming weeks. We received in Paris a Moroccan delegation... We hope that [Morocco’s ideas] will be taken into account in the forthcoming discussions in the United Nations...We hope for agreement between the parties concerned, under the auspices of the United Nations. ...we consider that Morocco’s ideas are constructive and merit to be given consideration.” [déclaration]
In an interview to EFE the UN Secretary General declared, à propos the autonomy proposal, that it is a “personal and flexible initiative on the part of the King of Morocco”.
The provincial Council of Rome gave unanimous approval to a resolution asking the UN Secretary General to implement the referendum of self-determination.
20.03.07, European Union
The delegation for relations with the countries of the Maghreb and the Union of the Arab Maghreb organised a meeting on Western Sahara. Morocco gave its agreement to the participation of the Moroccan Ambassador, who, three days before the meeting, asked to share his time with a representative of CORCAS. The president of the Maghreb delegation refused this change and Morocco dropped out, thus scuttling a unique opportunity for a debate. Only the representative of the UN, Jean-Luc Onckelinx and the members of the European Parliament could speak. The president of the European Parliament ad hoc delegation for Western Sahara, Ioannis Kasoulides, sent a message to the conference, recalling in particular that the EP should continue to demand of the Moroccan authorities to authorise the ad hoc delegation to travel to the occupied Saharawi territories to carry out a mission of information on the repression of peaceful demonstrations by Saharawis. Willy Meyer, MEP, denounced the attitude of Morocco vis-à-vis the European Parliament, its contempt for United Nations resolutions and its rejection of the Baker Plan. “The latest violation lies in the autonomy proposal which is a challenge to international law and to the resolutions of the Security Council”, he added. [Text of M. Sidati’s intended speech]
The Special Representative for Western Sahara, Julian Harston, met in Rabat the deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Taïeb Fassi Fihri and the Moroccan Minister for the Interior Benmoussa.
The head of Algerian diplomacy, Mohammed Bedjaoui had talks with the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and with members of the Security Council. He then went to Washington where he met Condoleezza Rice.
16.03.07, sale of arms
According to the Belgian Ministry of Defence, replying in the parliament to a question from the MP, W. Mus, Belgium is on the point of selling 40 howitzers M-109 to Morocco. Mus declared that “this sale is not a good idea at the moment, because Morocco is still engaged in one of the oldest conflicts in Africa. The peace process is blocked. It seems to me more appropriate to wait for a positive development.”
19.03.07, nuclear plant
A Russian delegation from the company Atomstroyexport is in Morocco to discuss conditions of sale of a nuclear power plant to Morocco.
[El País, 19/03/2007]
06-09.03.07, 38th meeting of the UNHRC Standing Committee
Mohamed Loulichki, representative of Morocco with the UNHCR declared that the number of persons having defected to Morocco from the Saharawi refugee camps has reached 9,000.
12-30.03.07, 4th session the Human Rights Council, Geneva
Mohammed Bouzoubaa, Moroccan Minister of Justice, making allusion in his speech to the autonomy proposal for Western Sahara, announced that Morocco would organise a referendum in order to know the opinion of the Moroccan population on regionalisation.
During the extraordinary meeting of GRULAC (Grupo Latinoamericano y del Caribe) in Caracas, the Venezuelan member of parliament, Gustavo Hernández Salazar proposed a resolution in favour of the decolonization of Western Sahara.
The Saharawi ambassador Moustapha Tleimidim, in an interview, declared that around 800 young Saharawis were at present receiving training in Cuba and that since 1980 about 2000 have concluded their studies in medicine, teaching and information technology, etc. [Prensa Latina]
The World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) reaffirmed, during its 17th Congress in Hanoi, “its solidarity with the Saharawi people in their struggle for the establishment of an independent state, calling for the withdrawal of Moroccan troops from Western Sahara and the release of Saharawi prisoners in the hands of Morocco”. [SPS]
A conference of solidarity with the Saharawi people was organised by the press club of the FLN, on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Feast of Victory (19 March 1962). Speaking on this occasion the Saharawi Prime Minister, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, denounced Moroccan allegations claiming that the conflict in Western Sahara is an Algerian-Moroccan conflict. He expressed the hope of seeing the UN Security Council adopt a resolution allowing the Saharawi people to exercise their legitimate right to self-determination, denouncing the position of France which must “assume its responsibility for the non-application of UN resolutuions”. [SPS]
A cultural evening was organised in London at the initiative of the organisation Sandblast.
A delegation led by a senator and comprising members of parliament handed to the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs a letter asking for the ratification of the recognition of the Saharawi Republic, decided in 1999 before the election of the new president.[Chile debe establecer relaciones diplomaticas con la RASD, Carta al Sr Alejandro Foxley]
Demonstration of Saharawi emigrants in Tenerife against repression in Western Sahara and the Moroccan autonomy proposal.
5, 6, and 7 april 2007, Vth Congress of the National Union Saharawi Women, NUWS, Saharawi refugee camps, Tindouf, Algeria
Madrid- Tindouf - Madrid: 4 avril - 8 avril 2007
Info, contact: Zahra Ramdan, e-mail: saharawiwomen[at]yahoo.es y Victoria Peralta, e-mail: grupoapoyounms[at]hotmail.com
IV Festival Internacional de Cine del Sahara, del 11 al 15 Abril de 2007 en el Campamento de Refugiados de Dajla, Tinduf (Argelia) .
[mas detalles --> web Fisahara o El mundo 21.03.07]
Artículos y reportajes sobre el Sáhara Occidental: http://www.espacioseuropeos.com/saharaoc.aspx
Radio The World: The World's Gerry Hadden reports on accusations against Morocco for human rights abuses in Western Sahara, Morocco's southern neighbour , Death penalty report, March 13, 2007 : http://www.theworld.org/?q=node/8671
Sur le site Cahiers du Sahara:
témoignage, Rapport annuel 2006, L’Observatoire pour la protection des
défenseurs des droits de l’Homme, programme conjoint de la Fédération
internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) et de
l’Organisation mondiale contre la torture (OMCT): http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/FIDH-imp_Maghreb.pdf
[External links to newspapers may not be valid after some days because the servers are restarted]
>> Revue de la presse internationale francophone http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/revue-de-presse-sahara-occidental/messages
>> English publications on Sahara Update mailinglist: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sahara-update/messages
>> Revista de la prensa en español http://es.groups.yahoo.com/group/revista-de-prensa-sahara-occidental/messages