- Western Sahara
Western Sahara dominates UN Decolonization Meeting
The issue of Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony, was discussed in depth at the UN’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) meeting in New York this week. The political, human rights and humanitarian aspects of the situation in the territory which has been unlawfully occupied for over three decades, attracted 84 petitioners calling on the Committee to find a solution to the conflict.
Among the petitioners were academics, politicians, human rights campaigners as well as normal Saharawi’s who wanted to impress upon the international community the urgency for action in their country. Although there were some differences in opinion as to the way forward, the petitioners were unanimous in their view that the conflict is “tearing apart a peaceful people” and that the international community must do more to ensure a peaceful resolution to the situation.
Among the issues raised were:
the illegal exploitation of Western Saharan natural resources by Morocco and foreign companies in violation of international law governing territories in the process of decolonization;
ongoing human rights violations committed by Moroccan authorities including well documented cases of arbitrary detention, torture, kidnapping and forced disappearance. Calls were made for the extension of the UN’s mandate in Western Sahara to cover issues of human rights;
the significance of the International Court of Justice ruling which stated that the facts did “not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco”.
Saharawi student, Salek Maoloud Lebaihi, speaking to the Committee said:
“The people of Western Sahara have been waiting for more than three decades for an opportunity to have a say in their future....Self-determination is not just a basic right, but one of the main principles that led to the founding of the United Nations. The Committee must act and to use its influence to allow the Western Sahara people to participate in a referendum and exercise their right of self-determination.”
Stefan Simanowitz, Chair of the Free Western Sahara Network, said today:
“The fact that the Committee spent so much time on Western Sahara is positive but we are keenly aware that case of Western Sahara has been on the UN list of the Special Committee of 24 since 1963. The General Assembly has consistently recognised the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination but its calls for the exercise of that right in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV), have gone unheeded. The 1975 ruling of the International Court of Justice has been ignored. Over 100 UN Resolutions have been disregarded. In the meantime Western Sahara has had her peoples’ rights abused and her resources exploited with impunity. The time for words has passed and, buoyed by the tide of history, the United Nations must now take action to end the unlawful occupation of Africa’s last colony.”
The Committee meeting comes in the wake of recent high level international support for the Saharawi right to self-determination. At the UN General Assembly last month, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nambia’s President Pohamba spoke on the issue, and South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, stated that “urgent and concrete steps are needed to resolve the situation in Western Sahara.”
On 16th October, campaigners around the world will mark the 34th anniversary of the International Court of Justice Ruling. For details visit www.freesahara.ning.com