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Speakers Cite Court Cases on Western Sahara, Express Concern over United Nations Mission’s Mandate, as Fourth Committee Concludes Hearing of Petitioners

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GA/SPD/732

GENERAL ASSEMBLYFOURTH COMMITTEE
SEVENTY-SIXTH SESSION, 5TH MEETING (PM)

Petitioners speaking today on the question of Western Sahara cited court judgments and advisory opinions on Morocco’s relationship to the Territory, while others continued to sound alarms over human rights violations reportedly committed there, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its hearing of petitioners on decolonization matters.

Several speakers cited evidence of such violations as rape, abuse and humiliation of Sahrawi women, with some calling for an expansion of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) - which has been in place in the Territory since 1991 - to include a human rights monitoring component.

Stressing that the Sahrawi people are abused daily, petitioner Maalainine Yara, of Laayoune Online, said that countries which seek to block the inclusion of a human rights monitoring component to MINURSO’s work should be ashamed.

Also underscoring the importance of adding such a component to the Mission’s mandate, petitioner David Lippiatt, of the organization WE International, described Morocco’s actions in Western Sahara as an oppression which has lasted for over 40 years. He called upon the international community to follow through with the Territory’s decolonization through a self‑determination referendum.

Another petitioner drew the Committee’s attention to a 29 September decision by the European Union’s general court, which annulled the bloc’s approval of agriculture and fishing agreements that allow Morocco to export goods from Western Sahara. The case was brought to the court by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front).

In that connection, petitioner Mohamed Hicham Radoui, of the group American Supporters Association, described the court’s decision as an important step, while warning that North Africa’s Maghreb region remains an “unstable zone”.

Also speaking today was the representative of Morocco.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 October, to begin its consideration of its agenda item titled “Comprehensive review of special political missions”.

Petitioners on Western Sahara

VANESSA RAMOS, American Association of Jurists, noted that the Western Sahara is the only Non‑Self‑Governing Territory that does not have an internationally recognized administering Power that reports to the United Nations. Referencing the International Court of Justice advisory opinion that dismissed Moroccan sovereignty claims over the Territory, she stressed that the farm and fishing agreements between Morocco and the European Union do not apply to the Western Sahara without the informed consent of the Sahrawi people and the POLISARIO Front. In that context, she called for an observer mission to be dispatched to the Western Sahara and said the Security Council must reject any proposal that does not recognize the need to organize a referendum in the Territory.

DAVID LIPPIATT, WE International, described Morocco’s actions in Western Sahara as an oppression which has lasted for over 40 years, urging the international community to follow through with the Territory’s decolonization and ensure the organization of a self‑determination referendum for its people. Noting that the Sahrawis should be allowed to choose independence if they want it, he recalled “countless” human rights violations committed against them by Morocco. A human rights component should be added to the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), he added in that regard.

MOHAMMAD ALI ARKOUKOU, Sahrawi Association in USA, said the results of the recent elections held in Morroco and parts of the Western Sahara do not represent the opinions of the Sahrawi people. Stressing that neither the General Assembly nor the Security Council recognized Morocco as an administering Power, he said the majority of people who participated in those elections are Moroccan settlers, who had been brought by the Moroccan occupying Power to the Territory. He further urged the Moroccan authorities to organize a referendum on self‑determination, if they are so sure of their victory. “I would like to salute the bravery of […] the army of liberation of the Sahrawi people,” he concluded.

STEPHEN ERIC BRONNER, International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue, outlining regional and international developments around Western Sahara, described the conflict as seemingly intractable. However, he detailed several solutions, including deploying another United Nations envoy with the help of the African Union and rekindling relations between Morocco and Algeria. Among other things, he stressed that the United Nations should call for an arms embargo on Morocco and Western Sahara and organize air drops of food for refugees.

MAALAININE YARA, Laayoune Online, said he has never identified as a Moroccan and never will. The Sahrawi people are abused daily, he stressed, adding that countries that block the inclusion of a human rights monitoring component in MINURSO’s mandate should be ashamed, and appealing to the international community to ensure that such an element is added to the Mission’s work.

MOHAMED HICHAM RADOUI, American Supporters Association, said Moroccan oppression and blockades remain the primary tools used to terrorize the Sahrawi people. Moroccan forces besiege houses of militants to prevent them from acting and their violations reach innocent Moroccans, he said, citing the death of a 14‑year‑old girl who was run over by Moroccan police. The deterioration of the human rights situation will result in catastrophe if the international community fails to act, he warned. The latest decision by the European Union Court of Justice to annul the farm and fishing agreement between the European Union and Morocco as it applies to the Territory is an important step, but the Maghreb region remains an unstable zone, he said.

MOHAMMED AYYACH, petitioner, said recent elections saw record‑high levels of participation in some provinces of the Moroccan Sahara. Those results show that the Sahrawi people have incorporated the Moroccan patrimony into their national identity, electing more than 700 representatives in a vote that was monitored by international observers, he stressed, rejecting allegations that any oppression took place during the elections.

M’HAMED ABBA, Conseil Régional de Laâyoune-Sakia Al Hamra, describing himself as a recently elected people’s representative, stated that the September elections in Western Sahara were recognized by international observers, including from the United States, European Union and the League of Arab States. In that connection, he said the POLISARIO Front has no right to speak on behalf of the Sahrawi people, because they were not elected. Noting that Morocco has chosen the path of wisdom by working on the ground and building a strong democratic State, he drew attention to the high level of participation by women and young people, noting that 80 per cent of newly registered voters were youth between 18 and 24 years old.

KADIATOU SYLLA, petitioner, describing herself as a political refugee and activist, said it is not possible to ignore the effects of colonialism as it pertains to cross‑border conflicts in Africa. Indeed, the continent suffers from division, with non‑State actors involved in criminal activities and proxy wars, as well as rampant corruption. The most vulnerable groups bear the brunt of the conflict, with children being introduced to military training before they can read and women are subjected to sexual violence. “We cannot wish away historical facts,” she stressed, warning that without scrutiny, the cycles of instability will be repeated and Africa will succumb to the advancing intensity of climate change disasters.

The representative of Morocco, speaking on a point of order, objected to remarks made by petitioner Mohamed Hicham Radoui, stressing that he stated lies, used false claims against his country, and used terminology that is not acceptable within the context of the United Nations.