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U.S. Announces Groundbreaking Draft Resolution for Human Rights in Western Sahara
Domingo, 14 de Abril de 2013 12:38
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(Washington, DC | April 12, 2013) The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) applauds the United States' draft resolution calling for a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism in MINURSO, the United Nations (U.N.) Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps outside Tindouf, Algeria.


This groundbreaking proposal by the United States reverses decades of silence from the international community on this ongoing human rights crisis. The U.N. members currently negotiating the MINURSO resolution, which is up for renewal at the end of April, are known as the Group of Friends of Western Sahara and are comprised of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Spain.

“The mission in Western Sahara is the only U.N. peace-keeping mission that was designed without a mandate to investigate and report on human rights violations in the last several decades,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “This resolution from the United States government would right that wrong and protect hundreds of thousands of lives.”

Four decades after the UN declared a ceasefire, the Sahrawi people suffer torture, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, and other human rights violations at the hands of the Moroccan government. And more than 100,000 refugees are left living in what were intended to be temporary camps outside Tindouf, Algeria, separated from their families since 1976 and afraid to return home.

“If human rights is a pillar of the United Nations, then it must find a way to implement an effective human rights mechanism to protect the Sahrawi people,” said Santiago Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights and former Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “We are calling on the U.N. Secretary General, U.N. Special Envoy to Western Sahara, U.N. Members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council, The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to take a simple, bold stand for human rights in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps.”

Over the last six years, the RFK Center has been a leading voice in the global movement to include a human rights mandate in the MINURSO peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara. In 2008, the annual RFK Human Rights Award was given to Aminatou Haidar, a courageous woman  known as the "Sahrawi Gandhi," kicking off a multi-year partnership. The RFK Center has worked hand-in-hand with Haidar and other Sahrawi rights activists to call on the international community to take action for human rights in Western Sahara.

Upon returning from the 2012 delegation to Western Sahara, the RFK Center released a Preliminary Report summarizing our findings. A full report will follow in the coming weeks. This week, Horizon Magazine, a travel periodical offered to Wall Street Journal subscribers in the United States and Toronto Star and National Post readers in Canada, published a gripping report on the RFK Center's 2012 delegation.

 
SAHARA ANALYSIS February 2013
Lunes, 04 de Marzo de 2013 18:28
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Text Box:  February 2013
SAHARA ANALYSIS
No: 76
Western Sahara Campaign UK www.wsahara.org.uk email: coordinator@wsahara.org.uk
Manora, Cwmystwyth, Aberystwyth, SY23 4AF
The UN Security Council Must Monitor Human Rights in the Western Sahara
The trial and sentencing of 25 Saharawi, who had been held in prison without trial for two years, had been tortured, were illegally tried in a military court, and with some receiving sentences of life imprisonment, yet again highlights the failure of the UN Security Council to accept its moral and legal responsibilities to protect the rights of the people of the Western Sahara.
Join us in calling upon the UN Security Council, and the British Government, to live up to these responsibilities:

Write to your MP asking them to:
· Sign EDM 1113 - see text below  or here
· write to the Foreign Secretary asking that the UK supports the urgent implemention of a comprehensive human rights monitoring mechanism in Western Sahara reporting directly to the UNSC.
For more information go to www.wsahara.org
EDM 1113
That this House notes the concerns raised by Amnesty International and other organisations over the trial and sentencing of 24 civilian Saharawi human rights activists by a military tribunal; further notes the increasing human rights abuses in the Western Sahara; acknowledges the need for Minurso to be given a human rights monitoring mandate and calls on the Government, to make representation to the Moroccan Government to revoke the politically motivated and unjust sentences against the 24 Saharawi human rights activists, to release all Saharawi political prisoners in Moroccan jails and to allow access to the Saharawi territories under Morocco’s occupation by independent observers and international media.
WSC has joined other organisations to set up WSAF (Western Sahara Action Forum), an international coalition dedicated to the protection of human rights and the implementation of international law in Western Sahara. www.wsaforum.org
WSAF is concerned with the current human rights crisis in the region and believes the protection of human rights is an essential foundation for resolution of the conflict.

Dark Deed in the Dark of the Night
In the early hours of Sunday morning, 17 February the Moroccan Military Court in Rabat delivered its sentences on the 25 Saharawi accused of offenses relating to violence during the dismantling of the Gdeim Izik protest camp by Moroccan security forces in 2010.
The sentences were from 20 years to life in prison for 23 of the Saharawi. Prominent human rights defenders received the harshest sentences, including a life sentence for one defendant in absentia who was previously tried and acquitted of the same crime by another tribunal.
Amnesty International described the trial as flawed from the outset, in violation of international standards for fair trials. Whilst in detention the defendants claim to have suffered torture and to have been coerced into signing confessions.
Any trial of the defendants, many of whom are prominent human rights activists, should have been in a civilian court. Any trial should have been in Western Sahara; the defendants should not have been taken to Morocco. It should not have been delayed by over two years and the allegations of torture should have been fully and independently investigated.

Amnesty International
18 February 2013
Convicted Sahrawis must receive fair trials in civilian courts
20 February 2013
Morocco/Western Sahara: Two years too long – repression of protests must end
Two years after thousands of people took to the streets of Rabat, Casablanca and other cities in Morocco calling for reform, repression of protests in Morocco remains routine, said Amnesty International.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Spokesperson: Rupert Colville
Geneva: 19 February 2013
We are concerned by the use of a military court to try and convict 25 Saharan civilians charged in relation to violence during and after the dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp near Laayoune, Western Sahara, in November 2010, when 11 members of the Moroccan security forces and two Saharans were killed.

The 25 civilians were sentenced to between two years and life in prison by the Permanent Military Tribunal of the Royal Armed Forces in Rabat during the night of 16 to 17 February 2013.

As noted by the Human Rights Committee, the use of military or special courts to try civilians raises serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned.

We are also concerned by reports that most of the accused allege they were tortured or ill-treated during their pre-trial detention, but that no investigations into these allegations appear to have taken place. This was a very serious event, involving substantial loss of life, and it is important that justice is done, but it is also important that the judicial processes scrupulously abide by international fair trial standards.
To Read Press Release
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
Washington, DC – Feb. 20, 2013
The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is deeply disturbed by the mistreatment and the military trial of 25 Sahrawi in Morocco. The RFK Center calls for a full investigation into the alleged torture of the prisoners and calls into question Morocco's use of military courts in trying civilians.

Euro-Med Human Rights Network
Copenhagen, 20 February 2013 – The EMHRN condemns the court-martial of the 24 Sahrawi activists in Rabat.
The EMHRN sent lawyer and EMHRN representative Michael Ellman out to observe the trial and after a series of adjournments – not all explained – the trial has at last been held and the verdicts have been extremely severe.
At the trial, many of the defendants said they had been tortured, but the Tribunal failed to investigate their claims. No proof of the accused’s guilt was brought forward, and the President of the Tribunal even refused to hear evidence from prosecution witnesses whose testimony was judged too shaky. In addition, the case file contains no proper substantive investigation (those killed or injured unidentified, an autopsy on only one of the 10 corpses, no DNA evidence, a videotape from which the defendants cannot be identified).
European Parliament resolution on the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Expresses its concern at the continued violation of human rights in Western Sahara; calls for the protection of the fundamental rights of the people of Western Sahara, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate; demands the release of all Sahrawi political prisoners; welcomes the establishment of a Special Envoy for the Sahel and stresses the need for international monitoring of the human rights situation in Western Sahara; supports a fair and lasting settlement of the conflict on the basis of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions
 
Western Sahara occupied, Africa re-colonised
Lunes, 04 de Marzo de 2013 18:22
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Malainin Lakhal

The conflict in Western Sahara seems to gain more and more visibility and importance in the regional and international geopolitics this last decade, despite the great lack of media coverage and academic analysis of its different facts, aspects, possible consequences and perspectives. It is thanks to some brilliant academics, jurists, human rights defenders, activists and journalists, both foreign and Saharawi that the question of Western Sahara has remained impossible to ignore whenever the debate tackles the future of North Africa, the Maghreb Union, the North-South and South-South interrelations and influence.

This clear-cut and easily identified conflict is about decolonisation in terms of international law. It is brought to the spotlight by the contributors in this Pambazuka special issue on Western Sahara. They have proven each in his or her own way how the Western Sahara conflict is made complicated by the opposite positions held by the two parties to the conflict, Polisario and Morocco. The former wants decolonisation and self-determination, the latter wants territorial expansion by military means. But also by the conflicting geo-political agendas of the regional actors and the super power nations who have their own agendas and strategic goals, not only regarding their position on Western Sahara, but also their vision of the future of all North Africa, African Union and the Middle East.

THE LAST COLONY OF AFRICA MUST BE FREE

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY EDUARDO DEL BUEY, DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON TUESDAY, 29 JANUARY 2013
Martes, 05 de Febrero de 2013 20:16
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SOURCE HERE (Office of the spokesman for the Secretary-General)

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY GETTING READY TO ASSIST POSSIBLE RETURN OF THOUSANDS OF DISPLACED PEOPLE IN MALI

  • The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, represented the United Nations at the donors’ conference for Mali held on Tuesday at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.
  • In his remarks, Mr. Feltman stressed the urgency of the situation and the strong commitment of the United Nations to support Mali.
  • The UN Refugee Agency said on Tuesday that it is readying itself to assist in the possible spontaneous return of thousands of conflict-displaced people in the north of Mali.
  • It said that it aims to open new presences in Gao and other cities in the north as soon as it becomes feasible.
  • The Refugee Agency said that despite the indications of growing interest in returns, conditions in the north of the country are difficult. People recently displaced from the north have reported serious shortages of food, clean water and fuel.
  • In all, some 380,000 people have fled northern Mali since the start of the conflict a year ago. This includes 230,000 who are internally displaced, and more than 150,000 who are living as refugees in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria.

U.N. ENVOY FOR WESTERN SAHARA TO VISIT MOSCOW AFTER CONSULTATIONS IN WASHINGTON

  • The Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, held meetings with senior officials of the U.S. Department of State in Washington on Monday and departed on Tuesday for Moscow as the first steps in further consultations with the Group of Friends of Western Sahara.
  • In addition to the United States and Russia, the Group of Friends includes France, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
  • During his trip, which will extend until February 15, the Personal Envoy will also visit Germany and Switzerland.
  • These consultations aim at building additional international support for the Western Sahara negotiations in preparation for the next phase of engagement with the parties and neighbouring states, foreseen for March.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATORS MUST BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Asked about reports of human rights violations by Malian forces, the Spokesperson said that any violations of human rights have to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

ALL JOURNALISTS HAVE RIGHT TO DO THEIR WORK WITHOUT FEAR OF PERSECUTION: Asked about the rights of journalists in Iran, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General believes that all journalists have the right to do their work without fear of persecution.

 
Morocco military trial of Sahrawi civilians flawed from the outset
Martes, 05 de Febrero de 2013 19:39
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"The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death.”
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa
Fri, 01/02/2013

The trial of 24 Sahrawi civilians before a military court in Morocco is flawed from the outset Amnesty International said today as it called for the defendants to be tried in a civilian court and for an investigation into their torture allegations.

All of the group, which includes several activists, are on trial in Rabat today in relation to violence during and after the dismantling of the Gdim Izik protest camp near Laayoune, Western Sahara in November 2010, when 11 members of the security forces and two Sahrawis were killed.

Most of the defendants have said that they were tortured and otherwise ill-treated at different stages of their two-year pre-trial detention. Some are said to have been coerced into signing statements.

"The trial of civilians before a military court does not meet internationally recognized standards for a fair trial. The 24 accused must be brought before a civilian court with all the human rights guarantees that go along with it, and in no event must anyone be sentenced to death," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa.

"Allegations of the torture of detainees must be investigated and any evidence obtained under torture must be dismissed by the court. The authorities must also launch an independent and impartial investigation into the events of Gdim Izik, which is already two years too late."

The 24 - including members of Sahrawi civil society organizations and Sahrawi political activists - face charges including belonging to a criminal organization, violence against a public official and the desecration of a corpse.

The crime of violence against a public official can be punished by the death penalty when such violence leads to intentional death.

On 8 November 2010, violence broke out when Moroccan security forces tried forcibly to remove people from and dismantle the Gdim Izik protest camp a few kilometres east of the town of Laayoune, in the Moroccan-administered Western Sahara.

The Gdim Izik camp had been set up in early October by Sahrawis protesting against their perceived marginalization and demanding jobs and adequate housing.

Eleven members of the security forces and two Sahrawi's were killed during the violence.

Some 200 Sahrawis were arrested by the security forces during and days after the violence. Further arrests were also made in December.

Most of those arrested were released but the 24 on trial today have already spent two years in pre-trial detention in Rabat's Sale prison.

In December 2010 Amnesty International published a report following a fact-finding visit to Morocco and Western Sahara to investigate allegations of human rights abuses committed on and in relation to the events of 8 November at Gdim Izik and Laayoune.

Following its review of Morocco in December 2011, the UN Committee against Torture stated that Morocco “should put in place stronger measures for ensuring prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations into the violence and deaths that occurred during the dismantlement of the Gdim Izik camp and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice” and that Morocco “should amend its laws to guarantee that all civilians will be tried only in civilian courts.”

During his visit to Morocco and Western Sahara in September 2012, Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture noted that prosecutors and investigative judges rarely investigate allegations that torture was used to obtain evidence or confessions during the initial stages of interrogations.

Juan Mendez stated that “The complaint system regarding allegations of torture and ill-treatment and investigation, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators, with the exception of a very few cases, seems to be in law only,” and that “this gap between law and practice must be closed.”
 
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