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West Sahara – the Forgotten Consensus

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 11, 2008


The International Community recognizes their right to self-determination, and has done so since the mid 1960’s. Still 160000 Sahrawis live under deplorable conditions in refugee camps in Algeria. Why? West Saharan territorial waters are extremely rich in fish, and Morocco have several lucrative trade agreements with a large number of World Nations, including the US, EU and Russia…if Morroco let West Sahara become independent, Morocco would loose a large, if not MAJOR source of income. So the Sahrawis are kept in oppression.

As the previous king of Morocco put it: “Human rights cease to exist at the borders of Western Sahara.” Morocco has occupied the territory for 32 years.”

Interview with Rabab Amidane, Western Sahara citizen and Human Rights Activist

The legal status of the territory and the question of its sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested between Morocco and Polisario Front. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations.

The government of Morocco is a formally constitutional monarchy under Mohammed VI with a bicameral parliament. The last elections to the lower house were deemed reasonably free and fair by international observers. Certain powers such as the capacity to appoint the government and to dissolve parliament remain in the hands of the monarch. The Morocco-controlled parts of Western Sahara are divided into several provinces treated as integral parts of the kingdom. The Moroccan government heavily subsidizes the Saharan provinces under its control with cut-rate fuel and related subsidies, to appease nationalist dissent and attract immigrants – or settlers – from loyalist Sahrawi and other communities in Morocco proper.

The exiled government of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a form of single-party parliamentary and presidential system, but according to its constitution, this will be changed into a multi-party system at the achievement of independence. It is presently based at the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, which it controls. It also claims to control the part of Western Sahara to the east of the Moroccan Wall, as the Free Zone. This area is more or less unpopulated and the Moroccan government views it as a no-man’s land patrolled by UN troops.

The Western Sahara conflict has resulted in severe human rights abuses, most notably the displacement of tens of thousands of Sahrawi civilians from the country, the expulsion of tens of thousands of Moroccan civilians by the Algerian government from Algeria, and numerous casualties of war and repression.

During the war years (1975-91), both sides accused each other of targeting civilians. Moroccan claims of Polisario terrorism has generally little to no support abroad, with the USA, EU and UN all refusing to include the group on their lists of terrorist organizations. Polisario leaders maintain that they are ideologically opposed to terrorism, and insist that collective punishment and forced disappearances among Sahrawi civilians should be considered state terrorism on the part of Morocco. Both Morocco and the Polisario additionally accuse each other of violating the human rights of the populations under their control, in the Moroccan-controlled parts of Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria, respectively. Morocco and organizations such as France Libertés consider Algeria to be directly responsible for any crimes committed on its territory, and accuse the country of having been directly involved in such violations.

Human rights in Western Sahara – Wikipedia Main Article

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