United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara

Western Sahara
16 January 2008

Press Release

Graffiti in sites of archeological interest in Western Sahara

A number of recent reports in the media refer to graffiti in sites of archeological interest in Western Sahara. The media reports, quoting visiting Professors from European Universities, suggest that the perpetrators of this cultural vandalism have been military officers engaged in Peacekeeping duties in MINURSO.  

MINURSO agrees that the evidence available from some sites does suggest that some of the graffiti present were the work of MINURSO military personnel. Other graffiti, of which there was significant number, were clearly the work of others over a number of years.  

Since MINURSO's attention was drawn to this activity by POLISARIO in mid 2007, action has been taken to stop any further vandalism, and a formal enquiry is being undertaken.  

Equally, since the matter was brought to the attention of the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Western Sahara, Mr. Julian Harston by members of the academic community in December 2007, he has agreed to work with them to discover the extent of the damage and to explore any possible remedial measures.  

Mr. Harston spoke to representatives of POLISARIO in Manhasset, New York, in early January 2008, and apologised for the unthinking actions of some MINURSO members in the past, and undertook to investigate the matter further and explore the possibility of remedial action.  

The United Nations and MINURSO remain committed to maintaining the highest standards of conduct among peacekeepers and to respecting fully the local customs and property of the territory in which they operate.