United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara
16 January 2008
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.