lahlou, the 4th of November 2014
The Honourable Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
Dear High Commissioner:
On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, please allow me to extend my warmest congratulations on your appointment as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We are delighted that a person with such a long history of promoting human rights has been selected for this important position, and I would like to reassure you of our Organization’s full support and cooperation with your efforts.
As you are aware, the Saharawi population inside the occupied Territory of Western Sahara has for many years been subjected to serious human rights abuses, as documented by the United Nations, including your office, and various international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and Justice.
Just last month, Saharawi political prisoner Hassana El Ouali died while in custody in a Moroccan military hospital in Dakhla, Western Sahara. He was reportedly subject to torture while in detention. Moroccan authorities elected to abruptly bury El Ouali on 6 October without the presence or consent of his family despite their requests for medical reports and an autopsy. Political detainees of Gdeim Izik still unfairly victims of abuses.
As noted by your Office in its September 2006 report (‘Report of the OHCHR Mission to Western Sahara and the Refugee Camps in Tindouf’), almost all human rights violations in Western Sahara stem from the non-implementation of the Saharawi people’s fundamental right to self-determination. This right is guaranteed under Chapter XI of the Charter to a Non-Self-Governing Territory such as Western Sahara. The report recommended that the Security Council expand MINURSO’s mandate to include a human rights monitoring component, similar to those in all other contemporary UN peacekeeping missions. It is a significant stain on the credibility of the United Nations that MINURSO remains the only UN peacekeeping mission in the world established since 1978, and the only one anywhere on the African continent, which is operating without a capacity to monitor human rights. As the UN Secretary-General himself noted in his report last year on the situation in Western Sahara, “given ongoing reports of human rights violations, the need for independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps becomes ever more pressing” (UN Doc. S/2013/220).
In this context, I would like to reaffirm my offer to your predecessor, High Commissioner Navanethem Pillay, in a letter on 16 September 2012 that the Frente POLISARIO now stands ready to facilitate the establishment of an OHCHR presence where are the saharawi refugee camps and in that part of the Territory of Western Sahara under its control. We hope that this offer is seen as a clear demonstration of our commitment to human rights, to transparency, and to our support for the work of your Office. It was, and remains our hope that this initiative will encourage the Moroccan Government to display a similar commitment to the human rights of the Saharawi people, and that it will serve to advance efforts towards the establishment of a permanent human rights monitoring capacity within MINURSO.
Separately, I would like to express our serious concern regarding the recent revelation of a series of Moroccan diplomatic documents leaked by an anonymous source using the pseudonym ‘chris_coleman24’. The documents indicate that the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations in Geneva attempted to unduly influence officials within OHCHR to undermine the planned visit by your predecessor, High Commissioner Pillay, to Western Sahara last year, and to persuade her not to support the expansion of MINURSO’s mandate to include human rights monitoring. We hope that despite these very concerning allegations, your Office will bring a new focus to ensuring respect for human rights in Western Sahara, and a new drive to ensure that the Saharawi people enjoy the freedom of movement and expression that is essential to the exercise of their right to self-determination.
We look forward to constructive engagement with you, and would welcome the opportunity to engage with you on arrangements for a possible visit to Western Sahara and the saharawi refugee camps in the near future.
Please accept, your Excellency, assurances of my highest consideration.
Secretary General of Frente POLISARIO