"The UN must widen, without delay, the prerogatives of the MINURSO", said Daha Rahmouni, member of the Sahrawi human rights organisation ASVDH at the UN UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week. Rahmouni demands that the MINURSO also should work for the protection of human rights in occupied Western Sahara.
(I make a point, initially, of thanking Bureau International pour le Respect des Droits de l'Homme au Sahara Occidental (BIRDHSO [International Bureau for the Respect of Human rights in Western Sahara]), as I thank all the non-governmental human rights organizations present here for their tireless efforts to promote respect for human rights in Western Sahara, to help the Sahrawi human rights defenders, to shed light on the fate of the hundreds of disappeared Sahrawis and to obtain the release of all the Sahrawi prisoners of conscience.)
Daha RAHMOUNI: I am member of The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH), an association which, like other Sahrawi human rights associations and organizations, was arbitrarily prevented by the Moroccan authorities from carrying out its peaceful activities in support of the disappeared and political prisoners.
Eager to carry out its peaceful activities in broad daylight and in conformity with the law, ASVDH presented a request for legalization in due form to the Moroccan authorities. It has not been successful, as Amnesty International noted in an official public statement on 8 March 2007, 'due to politically motivated administrative obstacles'.
The right of association and expression, the right to fair trials for the defendants, the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary, which are, inter alia, among other foundations, the characteristics of the State of Rights, are rights denied to Sahrawis whose country, Western Sahara, was illegally occupied by a foreign power, the Kingdom of Morocco.
Since the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, the violations of the civil and political rights made by Morocco, have contributed to a climate of great frustration, which has sedimented itself during these decades. The sufferings, the insecurity, the regression on all the levels, the climate of tension knowingly maintained by the occupying Moroccan authorities, has generated fear and terror, instilling the Sahrawi civil population with a sorrow that does not go away.
Despite the prohibitions that target different Sahrawi associations and NGOs, whose work consists of collecting information in relation to the violations of human rights and demanding justice for the Sahrawis subjected to forced disappearances, several organizations for the defence of human rights periodically denounce the deplorable persistence of the violations of the human rights in Western Sahara: For example, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the World Organization Against Torture, Reporters without Borders. Additionally, other institutions, like the UN Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, which in its mission report (15 May 23 and June 19, 2006) noted the Moroccan policy of systematically violating the human rights of the civilian population living under the yoke of its occupation. This report concluded in its recommendations that 'the violations of the human rights, perpetrated against the people of the Sahara Occidental rise from the non-application of the fundamental human right which is the right to self-determination' .
The human rights violations in Western Sahara are not limited to the attacks described in the preceding paragraphs. Indeed, the Moroccan authorities continue to limit considerably the movement of the Sahrawi citizens. Several Websites are blocked, and prohibitions strike the distribution of the books but also all kinds of publications.
The other subjects of concern include the restrictions on the movement of the Sahrawi human rights defenders and the generalized police surveillance in addition to the intimidation, and the interception of communications.
These established facts show, if need be, that the façade of 'democracy' presented abroad by Morocco cannot hide the serious attacks on the freedom of expression and the systematic violations of the human rights which — since 21 May 2005, the date of the launch of the peaceful demonstrations — have become institutionalized against all those who claim the right to self-determination, and singularly the Sahrawi human rights defenders.
The Sahrawi political prisoners have also paid, sometimes with their life, for the repression that prevails in the territory. Thus, several of them will live unfortunately with the after-effects and diseases contracted in the prisons and the various secret detention centres in Morocco
The Sahrawi territory, where all this is happening, is completely isolated from the media because several delegations composed of journalists, members of parliament and NGOs were not authorized to enter to note, with their own eyes, what occurs there. It is the case for tens of Spanish delegations, of which members of Parliament and representatives of the civil society, a Norwegian delegation, and lately an ad hoc delegation of the European Parliament.
In the face of such a situation and the urgency of its treatment, the United Nations must widen, without delaying, the prerogatives of the [UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] to protect the Sahrawi civilians in the occupied territories. The international Community is called upon to deploy all the political tools necessary in order to make sure that the media, the organizations of defence of the human rights and international observers can reach Western Sahara freely.
Thank you for your attention.
Daha Rahmouni 24 September 2007 Member of The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State (ASVDH) Testimony on the serious situation that prevails in Western Sahara, delivered at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva http://asvdh. net/english/ ?p=255
Since 1975, three quarters of the territory of Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco. A majority of the population is still living in refugee camps in Algeria. Those who remained in their homeland are subjected to serious harassment from the Moroccan occupiers. For more than 40 years the Sahrawis have been waiting for the fullfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.
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