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Statement by Mohamed Sidati, Minister-Delegate of the Polisario Front to Europe

The decision by Members of the European Parliament to support a report that is highly critical of Morocco’s human rights violations in Western Sahara is a welcome move. More pressure should be piled of Morocco to end its occupation of Africa’s last colony

22 October 2013

This morning the European Parliament adopted Dr Charles Tannock's report on human rights in the Sahel and the Western Sahara. This is an extensive and detailed report, which addresses the concerns of the Saharawi people, particularly as regards human rights.

Presenting his report, Dr Tannock said that self-determination is as central as human rights to finding a solution to the Western Sahara conflict.

Responding on behalf of Baroness Ashton, Commissioner Neven Mimica underlined the EU’s support of the UN’s efforts to reach a peaceful political solution to the problem of Western Sahara, and said that the Commission would take the findings of Dr Tannock’s report into consideration.

The report describes Morocco's continuing policy of human rights violations, as observed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and numerous NGOs: kidnappings, arbitrary detention, torture, forced disappearances, to which the Saharawi people and in particular those who advocate Western Sahara's independence have been subjected; not forgetting the constraints on their freedom of movement, of association and of speech. The report demands that Moroccan authorities immediately free all Saharawi political prisoners.

The report regrets that the UN has not yet been able to set up an independent and credible human rights monitoring mechanism in Western Sahara, and reaffirms the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. It also highlights Morocco's expulsion of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) travelling to Western Sahara in March 2013, and demands that the Moroccan authorities give full and free access to members of parliaments, journalists and independent observers who wish to investigate the situation on the ground.

The report demands that the European Union and other international actors should actively support the UN's efforts to reach a peaceful solution to the Western Sahara conflict, and calls for support for improving the living conditions of Saharawi refugees. It also recognises the progress made by the Polisario Front on education and public health, and in particular salutes the energy and engagement of Saharawi women.

The report as passed supports the creation of a joint mission of MINURSO and ICRC to exhume and return to their familes the Saharawi victims discovered in the mass grave of Fadret Laguiaa.

The Polisario Front congratulates the European Parliament on resisting the efforts of Morocco to delete Saharawi issues from this report. Increasingly Morocco faces diplomatic isolation; there is no international support for its occupation of our territory, or for its repression of our people. The European Parliament's strong criticism of Morocco comes at the moment when the EU is again attempting to conclude an illegal fisheries agreement with Morocco.

Although Morocco continues its policy of repression (between 18 and 20 October, peaceful Saharawis demonstrating in El Aïoun and Smara were brutally attacked by police during the visit of Christopher Ross, the Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General), the Parliament has reinforced the importance of human rights, and of Saharawi rights. The Polisario Front is delighted by the support for its people shown by the European Union's democratically elected representatives. The mood is changing in Europe.