James Baker has been appointed by George Bush as his personal representative in Iraq to restructure and reduce the Iraqi international debt, amounting to 200 billion US dollars.
Peace Plan -
confidence building measures
Mhamed Khadad, Saharawi coordinator with MINURSO and Yahya Bouhebeini, President of the Saharawi Red Crescent, had talks in Geneva on 06-07.12.03 with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Western Sahara Alvaro de Soto, on the subject of "confidence-building measures" (exchange visits, telephone calls and correspondence by post between the population of the occupied territories and that in the refugee camps).
Folowing this meeting a delegation was sent to Algiers and Rabat made up of Mr Alvaro de Soto, accompanied by Mrs Carmen Johns, Adviser on Political Affairs for MINURSO and Mr Radhouane Nouicer, deputy director of the Regional Office of the UNHCR for Central Asia, South West Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. The point of these visits is to agree a timetable for the implementation of the UNHCR proposals to "reestablish direct contact between the Saharawi refugees in the camps and their families in Western Sahara". (UN-news 16.12.03)
The delegation is expected very soon in the refugee camps.
Brussels, The Hague, Stockholm.
Mhamed Khadad was received at Foreign Affairs ministries in Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. He also met representatives of Swedish political humanitarian NGO officers and one from the Swedish agency for international co-operation and development. All the Swedish officials encountered expressed the hope that the Baker plan would be implemented as soon as possible.
Tibari Benkiban, a Moroccan former prisoner of war held by the Polisario, was discovered a fortnight after his death, in a hut near Sidi Kacem, where he was living in complete destitution. (Maroc Hebdo International No 582).
Appearing under the name Tibati Ben Kabbal on ICRC lists, he had been captured by the Saharawi armed forces on 16 January 1978. A civil employee of the Moroccan army, he was working at that time on the repair of a bridge. He was released by the Polisario Front with 85 other prisoners on 1 May 1997 on the occasion of James Baker's visit to the camps. This group was not repatriated for three years, until the end of February 2000, the Moroccan government having refused to accept its own fellow citizens.
In 1997, questioned by a Spanish journalist, Tibari declared: "If the Moroccan Government does not recognise our existence, why does it continue pension payments to our families?" adding, "The Moroccans and the Saharawis are brother peoples, it's the boundaries which are the problem. So long as there is no international solution for the Sahara, we will not return home."
The Moroccan Association "of sons of martyrs and disappeared of the Sahara" expressed "its disappointment in noting the absence of the issue of Moroccan prisoners of war and their families in the constitution of the body "Equity and Reconciliation".
The association which defends the interests of Moroccan prisoners of war is calling for an apology from the Moroccan state and all those responsible for "the tragedy of the oldest prisoners in the world". It calls for those responsible for acts of torture to be brought to justice, many of whom have gone to Morocco, and those "who deprived the families of compensation and who have benefited from diverting funds intended for this sector of the population." (Open letter to the President off the CCDH)
On the occasion of his visit to Morocco, the president of the Spanish government co-chaired with the Moroccan Prime Minister the deliberations of the sixth "high level meeting" between Spain and Morocco. The joint statement underlines, on the question of Western Sahara, that "... the two parties have called for the adoption of an agreed political solution which is just and lasting on the question of the Sahara, negotiated by all the parties concerned within the framework of international law and the efforts of the United Nations.
Spain is the second biggest exporter to Morocco with 16.6% of exported trade and at the same time, the second biggest client of imports from Morocco with 12.4% of imports coming from Morocco in 2002. The value of Spanish exports to Morocco reached 1,684 million euros, with 1,377 million euros' worth of imported Moroccan goods in 2002.
Maghreb Arab Union
The 7th summit of the MAU (UMA) has been called for 23-24 December in Algiers. According to the Moroccan press, Mohamed VI, although invited, will not take part.
International Day of Human Rights
A petition to the King of Spain signed by over 1600 people was presented in Madrid. On this occasion the president of AFAPREDESA Abdeslam Omar declared that the real terrorism is the behaviour of Morocco in the occupied territories, where a reign of terror holds sway, as a reply to Mohamed VI who said in Tunis that Western Sahara represented a threat of terrorism for the region.
The Minister of Occupied territories, Khalil Sidi M'Hamed, called on the international community and human rights NGOs to make Morocco to respect human rights in Western Sahara, where "terror, repression and unjust trials are taking place". On a visit to France, the minister had talks on the Quai d'Orsay with officials from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Saharawi prisoners imprisoned in Agadir and El Ayoun observed a three-day hunger strike. They intended in this way to protest against the indescribable conditions of the "black prison" in El Ayoun. They welcomed the struggle of the Tunisian lawyer Radhia Nasraoui, a staunch human rights defender, who ended her 57 day hunger strike, undertaken to defend rights and liberties in Tunisia. (statement from the Action Committee for the Release of Tamek Ali Salem and all Saharawi political detainees)
"On the occasion of the world day for human rights I am writing this message to you to describe our situation in Western Sahara and the problems which we have here, for example, sentences handed down to human rights defenders of over 10 years imprisonment for Bazaid Essalek and Swaydi Timglite. As you know, this year the Sahara branch of the Forum for Truth and Justice was dissolved by the Moroccan police and human rights activists in Western Sahara were hit by a travel ban. Since 27/03/2003 we no longer have passports. We do not have the right to form associations to defend our rights any more. For all these reasons I call all human rights defenders to demand that Morocco release all Saharawi political prisoners and to guarantee our civil rights."
Those close to the political prisoner Ahmed Naciri, due to be released on 20 December have been subjected to pressure and threats. His father was summoned in the name of the governor of Smara to be told to advise his son that on leaving prison he should leave the town. Saharawis were encouraged to have nothing more to do with "certain persons", in particular Ahmed Naciri, because "people like that only make trouble"... attempts were also made to buy them with grants. (corr.)
Ali Salem Tamek, imprisoned in Aït Melloul, Agadir, was able to visit the student Swaydi Timglite sentenced to 3 years in prison and 5000 dirhams' fine, who is imprisoned in the civil prison of Inzegane, Agadir, where he is waiting to appear before the Appeal Court. (corr.)
The Moroccan authorities arrested six young Saharawis who were trying to get to the refugee camps in Algeria. After interrogations and torture three of them were released. The three others were imprisoned and have been sentenced on 18 December in Smara to three months in prison and fines of 10,000 dirhams, accused of "people trafficking". They are: Blaila Hamma Hmoudi Joumani, Khatri Hassana, Soukri Bachir Nafyi. (corr.)
The committee of support for teachers transferred to Moroccan towns organised a sit-in of protest outside the Moroccan parliament in Rabat, in the presence of about a hundred people. The sit-in was violently dispersed by the police. Placards belonging to the demonstrators were confiscated and some demonstrators were beaten. (corr.)
The magistrate's court in El Ayoun sentenced Sidahmed El Kainan, in absentia to seven years in prison for drug trafficking, insulting the king etc. Faced with these totally unfounded charges the accused refused to present himself before the court.
El Kainan is at present imprisoned in El Ayoun's black prison, where he is serving a three year sentence handed down in May 2003 by the court in Agadir, for insulting the king and the government. He spent 6 months in the "black prison" in 2002, following an altercation with police superintendant Alkoufili Hassan. (corr.)
According to the Madrid daily ABC, the Polisario Front is willing to allow the European Union to hold an international enquiry concerning accusations of misappropriating humanitarian aid in the Saharawi camps. Saharawi officials made this statement at the end of a meeting with officials from the European Commission in Brussels. European aid for the Saharawi refugees amounted in 2002 to 14.3 million euros.
The UNHCR and WFP launched an urgent appeal for funds for humanitarian aid for the Saharawi refugees in Algeria. A UNHCR spokesperson expressed the view that because of insufficient aid and delays in its dispatch, over 10% of the refugee population have been suffering from acute malnutrition for years and 30% from chronic malnutrition, which can cause lasting damage. (UN-news)
The parliamentary intergroup "Peace for the Saharawi people" was re-constituted within the Belgian parliament. This intergroup existed already in the previous legislature. Its aim is to support the Saharawi people in exercising their right to self-determination. The Socialist Senator Christiane Vienne takes on the chair with Jacinta De Roeck as vice-chair.
Tifariti (liberated territories of SADR)
International march to the wall of shame in Western Sahara
"For peace and self-determination for the Saharawi people", "Demand that the UN keeps its commitments". Organised by Spanish associations of solidarity in collaboration with the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people, this march to the "wall" which separates Saharawi families is to denounce the suffering of the Saharawi people who have been waiting for 28 years to decide their own future. Its aim is to make the UN and the international community implement the Security Council's resolutions. See Information, program, (at the moment only in Spanish)
Sahara Blues - Mariem Hassan and Leyoad (Western Sahara) <http://mariemhassan.calabashmusic.com/> Centre Culturel d'Etterbeek / Espace Senghor 366, chaussée de Wavre - 1040 Bruxelles (Pedestrian entrance pl. Jourdan). Information and reservations: 02 / 230.31.40. e-mail email@example.com, http://www.senghor.be
21-28.02.04, Saharawi Refugee Camps: Sahara Marathon 2004. Further information: http://www.saharamarathon.com/
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