SA urges UN to fast track Western Sahara issue

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pretoria - South Africa has called on the United Nations to expedite the resolution of the issue of Western Sahara.

This will be done by “taking all the necessary measures for the organisation of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, in accordance with the relevant African Union decisions and United Nations Resolutions”, said International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, on Monday.

Ebrahim’s call comes after last week’s sentencing of the 25 Saharawi human rights activists by a Moroccan military tribunal following 27 months of detention.

The activists had participated in a protest camp in the Western Sahara town of Gdeim Izik in November 2010 against the continued systematic repression of the Saharawi people by the Moroccan regime.

This protest camp was brutally dismantled by the Moroccan security forces, resulting in the deaths of several Saharawi people and leaving scores injured.

Ebrahim condemned this, saying that in terms of international law, a Moroccan military court does not have the jurisdiction to prosecute acts and events taking place in Western Sahara, which is regarded as a non-self governing territory by the United Nations.

“It is our view that these acts of repression in the illegally occupied territories are a direct consequence of the non-resolution of the issue of Western Sahara, which we regard as the last case of decolonization on the African continent.”

The deputy minister also urged the Moroccan government to release all “political and prisoners of conscience” as a means to begin meaningful negotiations with the POLISARIO Front.

“The continuous gross human rights violations by Morocco in the Western Sahara occupied territories necessitate that the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum of Western Sahara (MINURSO) be expanded to incorporate a human rights monitoring mechanism,” stressed Ebrahim.

To date, MINURSO remains one of the few UN missions without a human rights monitoring component.

In his recent State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma also reiterated that “the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara has to be realised”.

The right to self-determination was the basis upon which a democratic South Africa was founded. Accordingly, South Africa will continue to stand side by side with the people of Western Sahara until this right is achieved, said Ebrahim. –