- United Kingdom
- Western Sahara
Western Sahara: British Government challenged
Stefan Simanowitz reports on the visit of a delegation to Downing Street
To mark the 18th anniversary of the UN ceasefire in Western Sahara, a delegation of campaigners and MP’s visited Downing Street on Monday to call on Britain to use her role within the UN Security Council to help enforce the terms of the ceasefire agreement and resolve the 34 year Western Sahara conflict. They also demanded swift action by the British government to ensure the safety of the Oxford Six students arrested and beaten by Moroccan police whilst on their way to a peace conference in England.
The UN negotiated ceasefire agreement signed in 1991 brought to an end 16 years of fighting between the Polisario Front (the Western Saharan liberation movement) and Morocco who annexed the territory outside set international laws in 1976. Under the terms of the ceasefire a referendum on self-determination was promised but it has been blocked ever since. In a letter handed to the Prime Minister, delegates called on the British government to do more to ensure that the UN Security Council take steps to bring Morocco into line with international law. "This is an important day for the Saharawi people” explains Y. Lamine Baali, UK representative of the Polisario Front. “It is the day that we commemorate the moment we laid down our arms in good faith after 16 years of war and exile. Now 18 years later, little has changed with 165,000 Saharawi’s living in refugee camps in the Algerian desert and the rest of the population living under an unlawful occupation.”
The delegates also raised the issue of human rights abuses suffered by Saharawi’s in the occupied territories with particular reference to the current situation faced by the Oxford Six. Thanks to swift action by human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, the release of the arrested students was secured. However since their release, two of the students Ms Hassawina Nguyia and Mr. Razouk Choummad were picked up by police and beaten on 27th August and 1st September respectively.
A forgotten struggle
“The plight of Saharawi people is a forgotten struggle” Jeremy Corbyn MP, said to journalists outside Downing Street. “Our collective failure to address Morocco’s ongoing violation of countless UN Resolutions, to stop the illegal plundering of Western Sahara’s natural resources and to allow human rights abuses to be committed with impunity diminishes Britain, it diminishes the United Nations and it is an affront to all those with a belief in justice. On this day, the anniversary of the 1991 ceasefire agreement, we call on Gordon Brown to ensure that the UK takes a lead within the UN Security Council to fulfil its obligation to ensure the agreed referendum on self-determination.”
For more information about the Western Sahara situation visit (here)