H.E. Mrs. U. Joy. OGWU
President of the Security Council
New York, 7 of April 2014
I have the honour, upon instructions of my authorities, and in view of the Security Council’s forthcoming deliberations during the month of April, to share with you the views of the Frente POLISARIO on the current state of the UN-led political process on Western Sahara as well as its future prospects.
1.The negotiating process
I wish to reiterate the Frente POLISARIO’s continued willingness to cooperate fully with the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Ambassador Christopher Ross, whose ongoing efforts we commend. While the Frente POLISARIO supports PESG Ross’s shuttle diplomacy, it also remains fully open to a resumption of direct talks at any time. The apparent readiness of Morocco to cooperate with United Nations’ ongoing efforts, based on the recent letter from the Moroccan Foreign Minister to the Secretary-General, is a very new development that must be translated quickly into concrete action without preconditions.
It must nevertheless be noted that if Morocco had been willing to respect past agreements reached by the parties and endorsed by the Security Council, the dispute over Western Sahara could have been resolved over two decades ago through the holding of a referendum, the implementation of which was the reason for establishing the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). We recall that the Settlement Plan agreed by Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO in 1991 and endorsed by the Security Council in its Resolution 690 (1990) called for a referendum offering the people of Western Sahara a choice between independence and integration with Morocco. The referendum was to be held within six months. Subsequently, the Baker Plan, negotiated in 2003 and clearly endorsed by the Security Council in operative paragraph 1 of resolution 1495 (2003) as an “optimum political solution” also called for the holding of such a referendum.
In both cases, Morocco sought to sabotage the agreements after the fact by placing obstacles in the way of the holding of a referendum, in an attempt to complete an illegal military annexation of a Territory that the International Court of Justice, in a 1975 ruling, declared had no ties of sovereignty with Morocco.
The members of the Security Council are no doubt fully aware that Western Sahara remains a Non-Self-Governing Territory under Chapter XI of the UN Charter, that has been illegally occupied by Morocco, and which is still subject to a decolonization process that should involve a referendum with independence as one legitimate option in line with UN General Assembly Resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV). The Council has called for a spirit of flexibility and compromise from all sides. Regretfully it appears that Morocco’s interpretation of this call, reiterated in the above-mentioned letter, is based on a belief that past agreements and compliance with international law should be ignored, in favour of an autonomy plan predicated on a position that the current situation of illegal occupation is a fait accompli.
Without the Council’s assumption of responsibility regarding the decolonisation of the Territory, there is a real risk that Morocco will in fact continue to stall the negotiating process in a bid to consolidate its illegal occupation of Western Sahara. This cannot be allowed to happen. The Security Council’s role is to maintain international peace and security by ensuring that the decolonisation process is completed.
We also regret that Morocco continues to seek to restrict the African Union (AU) from the process, despite the fact that the AU – of which the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is a founding member – is a partner of the United Nations in the resolution of all African issues, and that in its earlier incarnation as the Organization for African Unity (OAU) it helped engineer the Settlement Plan for Western Sahara by virtue of its resolution 104 (XX).
It remains a matter of deep concern to the Frente POLISARIO that Morocco’s ongoing and systematic violation of the human rights of the Saharawi people continues to be widely documented and confirmed by international NGO’s, UN Special Rapporteurs, and governments. The latest US State Department Report on the human rights situation has noted that systematic human rights abuses continue, including arbitrary arrest and detention, the denial of freedom of speech and association, as well as general police impunity. Moroccan security forces also continue violently to suppress public demonstrations by Saharawis peacefully demanding their right to self-determination. The latest such demonstration took place on 26 March 2014 in the occupied city of El Aaiún.
Morocco’s announcement in its recent letter to the Secretary-General that it intends to react to all complaints made to its human rights council is irrelevant. Notwithstanding the fundamental point that Moroccan national mechanisms have no place in the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara, over which Morocco does not have sovereignty, a promise to respond to complaints made through a flawed Moroccan mechanism is not an acceptable nor credible alternative to “…the need for independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps” as called for by the Secretary-General in his report of April 2013 (S/2013/220). While the Frente POLISARIO welcomes visits by Special Procedures mandate holders, only three Special Rapporteurs have visited Western Sahara since 2012. In any case, such visits do not allow for comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situation. Only the establishment of a monitoring mechanism within MINURSO would comply with the criteria laid out by the Secretary-General in his 2013 report, and align this peacekeeping operation with UN best practices.
In the interim, the Frente POLISARIO reiterates its willingness, as expressed in writing both to the Secretary-General and to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to engage regularly with the OHCHR and for the OHCHR to conduct human rights monitoring in the refugee camps. We welcome Morocco’s apparent willingness to receive the High Commissioner and call for any such visit to the region to include the Territory of Western Sahara.
Morocco’s announcement that it intends to ban trial of civilians by military courts does not address the fact that dozens of Sahrawi political detainees arrested following the peaceful Gdeim Izik uprising have already been convicted by military tribunals. Moreover, as long as Morocco continues its illegal occupation of the Territory, the difference between military and civilian courts, which issue politically motivated convictions, will be largely academic.
The Frente POLISARIO also remains extremely concerned about the continued illegal exploitation by Morocco of the natural resources of Western Sahara. As a Non-Self-Governing Territory under the UN Charter, the people of Western Sahara have the sovereign right to control their own natural resources. For decades, Morocco has illegally benefited from the fisheries and phosphates taken from Western Sahara. Continued illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources will further entrench Morocco’s occupation and continue financing its efforts to alter the Territory’s demographics. The illegal exploitation of our people’s natural resources therefore hinders the political process. As a consequence, we request that the Council issue clear guidelines to third States and foreign companies in order to prevent them from illegally exploring or exploiting Western Sahara’s natural resources.
Finally, the Frente POLISARIO has always expressed, as one of the two recognised parties to the conflict, its willingness to brief Members of the Council during their informal consultations.
I would be grateful to your Excellency if you could bring this letter to the attention of the Members of the Security Council.
Please accept, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Representative of the Frente Polisario
thanks to: Sahara Press Service