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POLISARIO urges new High Commissioner for HR to publish her organisation’s 2006 report on Western Sahara




The Secretary General of POLISARIO Front and President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz, urged the new High Commissioner for Human Rights, Judge Navanethem Navi Pillay, to publish her organisation’s 2006 report on Western Sahara.

The report, which was then treated as an internal document, was not circulated to the public though it clearly condemns the Moroccan government’s human rights violations in the occupied zones of Western Sahara.

The President’ letter considered that there is a need to publish the report, and to implement the recommendations it suggested, mainly by enlarging the mandate of the UN Mission on the ground to include the monitoring of human rights.

Here is the complete letter sent by the President of the Republic to the new High Commissioner for HR, the South African Judge Navanethem Navi Pillay:

Her Excellency Judge Navanethem Navi Pillay
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


On behalf of the Polisario Front and the people of Western Sahara, I wish to warmly congratulate you on your appointment to the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This appointment is testament to your significant contribution to the protection of human rights throughout an esteemed career thus far. And as the first High Commissioner from Africa, your appointment is also a source of great pride for the African people.

You will no doubt be familiar with the dire circumstances of the Saharawi people. Since the invasion of Western Sahara in 1975, Saharawis have continued to live in inhumane conditions in the south-west of Algeria, awaiting the long overdue process of self-determination mandated by Security Council resolution 690 (1991) to materialize. Despite an ongoing UN presence in the territory (through the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO), these grave conditions include a concerted campaign of human rights abuses, perpetrated by Moroccan police and military forces
in the areas under occupation.

There are numerous reports documenting these abuses, including those authored by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Our great hope is that your appointment will prompt your office to re-engage on the longstanding and egregious denial of the human rights of the Saharawi people.

I wish briefly to draw your attention to a number of particular issues that we hope you might take forward in your new role. Your Office issued a report on 8 September 2006 following a visit to the region. The report was transmitted to interested parties, but was not circulated further. We understand your predecessor, then UN High Commissioner Louise Arbour, decided that the report should not be released for official publication, and treated only as an internal document. This decision was taken as an exercise of discretion by the previous High Commissioner, and was not – as is commonly supposed– a decision mandated by the Mission’s terms of reference. In the interests of transparency and a wider understanding of the plight of the Sahrawi people, we would encourage the UN to publish the report at the earliest possible opportunity.

More substantively, the 2006 Report described frequent and flagrant human rights abuses in the occupied territory, many of which flowed from fundamental denial of the Sahrawi´s inalienable right to self-determination. To help remedy this situation, the Report recommended that the UN should institute a capacity to monitor human rights in the territory.

In that context, I wish to note the annual renewal of the mandate of MINURSO (most recently in April 2008), and the continued absence in that mandate of a request for MINURSO to monitor and safeguard the human rights of the people in Western Sahara. We understand MINURSO to be the only UN Mission without such a mandate, despite the express recommendation by your predecessor in her 2006 Report that this situation be rectified. It is critical that the UN’s presence in Western Sahara include a strong human rights component, and I would encourage your office to pursue this vigorously in advance of the Security Council’s next consideration of the MINURSO mandate in April 2009.

Finally, I wish to recognize the apparently imminent appointment of a new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s personal envoy for the Western Sahara. We look forward to the resumption of negotiations in the hope of making progress towards the sustainable and just settlement that the Saharawi people so clearly deserve.

Yours sincerely

Bir Lahlou, 10 September 2008

Mohamed Abdelaziz,
President of Sahrawi Republic and
Secretary General of POLISARIO Front