Half the people of Western Sahara have lived as refugees in Algeria since the former Spanish colony was invaded by Morocco in 1975.
Our report is an updated version of a report with the same title released in 2008. In the new version special attention is given to recent developments in the human rights situation in Western Sahara, which is annexed by Marocco.
In 2013 a number of leading human rights activists were sentenced to life in in prison in a Moroccan military court. Meanwhile, Morocco's allies in the UN Security Council continue to sabotage the UN's ability to address the human rights of the Saharawi people. The U.S. and UK have argued that UN forces in the territory should be able to report on the atrocities that go on there, but this initiative has yet again been stopped by France.
The report is published for distribution in the UN and EU systems. In April, the UN Security Council will again review the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara.
The economic crisis in Spain has made the issue of the refugees in Algeria even more relevant, as much of the traditionally important Spanish aid to the refugee camps has been phased out.
"It is crucial that we get coordinated international pressure on France. We ask Norway to play a key role in such an initiative. Norwegian authorities should, together with its closest allies, prevent France from sabotaging the efforts for improved human rights in Western Sahara yet again," says editor Richard Skretteberg.
The UN mission MINURSO was established by the UN Security Council in 1991 to conduct a referendum on the future of Western Sahara. Its mandate expires on 30 April 2014 and it is expected that there will be a discussion on whether human rights should be included in the mission’s mandate, as the UN Secretary General has requested.
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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