WESTERN SAHARA - NEWS

WEEKS 47 - 48 : 20.11.-03.12.2005

original french

SADR

14-15.11.05, maintaining the peace
Meeting in Tripoli of experts from countries of the North African region (Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and SADR) who agreed to put in place a military peace-keeping force within the framework of the African Union's Council for Peace and Security. [agencies]

12-20.11.05, Venezuela
Participation of a large Saharawi delegation led by the Minister of Culture, Mrs Mariem Salek to the Cultural Festival of African peoples in Venezuela.
An interparliamentary conference of Africa and Latin America was held alongside the Festival in which a delegation of the Saharawi parliament took part led by Aicha Abdallahi, MP.
A twinning agreement was signed between the Venezuelian town of Libertador and the Saharawi daira of Tifariti. [SPS]

20.11.05, The minister for the occupied zones of SADR attended the French Soclalists congress. [SPS]

23-26.11.05, UJSARIO congress
800 delegates and over 500 guests took part in the 6th congress of the Union of the Youth of Saguiet El Hamra and Rio de Oro, in the wilaya of Dakhla. The congress took the name of Lembarki Hamdi and its theme was "We will resist until we gain independence". A new leadership and Secretary General were elected. Moussa Selma replaces Mouloud Fadel.
In parallel an International Conference of solidarity with the Saharawi people and the 13th National Festival of Culture were held. Folk parades, exhibitions of paintings and photos, sporting competitions and artistic activities took place over four days. The "Diego Aguirre" prize rewarding the best work in the fields of traditional games, popular stories, historical and geographical drawings was given respectively to Hacim Brahim, Moustapha Houssein Mohamed Moulaye and Mohamed Abdarahim.
An international demonstration calling for the destruction of the wall of shame, erected by Morocco in Western Sahara took place at Oum Legta (Farsia sector) in which about 200 Europeans were joined by hundreds of Saharawis from the refugee camps.
The annual Conference of the Saharawi community in Mauritania took place at the same time in the refugee camps. [SPS]

24-25.11.05, Barcelona
During the first conference of stateless nations from the Euro-mediterranean region, organised in Barcelona with  support from the local government, its "first counselor" called for official recognition of all stateless nations. Taking part in the conference were representatives from Western Sahara, Palestine, Kabylia, Kurdistan, Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily.

26.11.05, National Secretariat
In a statement, the national Secretariat called for sanctions to be imposed on the Moroccan regime to make it conform with international law. The Saharawi executive body set up a committee to prepare for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of SADR on 27 February 2006. The event will take place in Tifariti, in the liberated territories, at the same time as the annual meeting of the European Coordination of committees of support for the Saharawi people. [SPS]

27/28.11.05, Euromed summit, Barcelona
See a
déclaration of M. Sidati.[French]

29.11.05, Signing of a friendship pact between the communes of Tifariti and Campomarino (Molisa- Italy) [SPS]

29.11.05
The President of the European Parliament's intergroup for Western Sahara, Karin Scheele and her Vice-President, Raul Romeva i Rueda, called on Morocco for "coherence and recognition of the Saharawi people's right to self-determination", the principle which is the basis of international law.

29.11.-03.12.05, Canaries visit for the Saharawi President
The visit began in Tenerife, and continued in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura. The objective was to inform local authorities, political party representatives and public opinion on the current situation in the Sahara.  Mohamed Abdelaziz was accompanied by several ministers and by M'hamed Khaddad, responsible for relations with MINURSO. During a press conference on his arrival, the Saharawi president asked the inhabitants of the Canary Islands to denounce the repressive practices of Morocco and to go to occupied Western Sahara. He expressed the view that the trial against the Saharawi human rights defenders had no legal basis.
[Diario de Lanzarote]

Mohamed Abdelaziz launched an appeal to the heads of Canary businesses not to invest in occupied Western Sahara. The head of the autonomous government, Adan Martin, received the Saharawi president and declared that he couldn't prohibit private commercial relations. He recognised that investment in the exploitation of natural resources was not acceptable, adding that he wanted to maintain his collaboration with the Saharawi people, in the parameters fixed by the UN resolutions, Spain's foreign policy and the European Union. [Canarias7]

The presidential delegation also had talks with the President of the Confederation of Canary industries, the talks bore on future economic and commercial relations with SADR and the Canary Islands.

OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AND SOUTH MOROCCO

Demonstrations carried on, causing more injuries and arrests: in El Ayoun on the nights of 18-19 and 20-21, in Dakhla,  Boujdour and Assa the night of 20-21, in Smara and El Ayoun on 29.11.05.
The human rights defenders still at large are being actively sought. Thus the house of Ahmed Sbai was searched and ransacked by the police, his family threatened. In Smara, the authorities threatened to move Saidi Mahmoud Bahaha and his whole family to Goulimine, accusing them of sympathy with the intifada. Sidi Saieli is arrested on 25.11.05. Led to the police station in handcuffs and blindfold, after several days of interrogation he is moved to the Black Prison. Saieli is a Saharawi human rights activist who was one of the civil servants transferred against their will to Morocco in Autumn 2003.
A political detainee, Baba El Aarabi, number 26160, sentenced to four years in prison on 12.07.05 for his activities in favour of human rights, imprisoned at Aït Melloul near Agadir, has been on hunger strike for two weeks. He demands improvement in his conditions of detention and to be transferred to El Ayoun. [see also the
updated list of political prisoners]

21.11.05, censorship of the internet
Access to internet sites of  SPS, ARSO, Cahiers du Sahara, AFAPREDESA and others relating to Western Sahara are impossible to reach in Western Sahara and Morocco. ARSO informed RSF (Reporters without Borders) and IFEX (Inernational Freedaom of Expression eXchange, as well as the Swiss Foreign Affairs. On 02.12.05 RSF denounced this serious violation of free expression. [
Statement] [see also in French TelQuel, no 201]

22.11.05, trial of human rights defenders 1st session
The trial of 14 persons &endash; including 7 human rights defenders &endash; started before the Court of Appeal in El Ayoun. Lawyers from abroad were present, barristers Ines Miranda and Lola Travieso and a judge, Carlos Viebla delegated by the Consejo general de la abogacia Española, as well as three Spanish journalists and one German. The trial was postponed until 30 November 2005 on the request of the defence, who had not had the chance to study the dossiers.
The Moroccan authorities try to criminalise the human rights defenders by invoking charges that are far removed from reality such as setting up a criminal ring and laying explosives on the public highway, damage to public property and violence towards the premises of public officers etc [for
more details, list of the accused and charges ]

23.11.05, cosmetic ...
72 prisoners from the Black Prison of El Ayoun were transferred to an unknown destination. Among them two Saharawi political prisoners, Hadi Cherif, number 24035, sentenced to two years in prison and Fak Mohamed Mahmud Fakak, number 25 289, sentenced to four years on 16.09.04. This measure, which follows other transfers and rapid paintwork, aim to improve the situation in this overcrowded and unhealthy prison (revealed by
impressive photos broadcast in mid-September ) given probable forthcoming foreign visits.

24.11.05, Sahrawi human rights defenders under attack
Amnesty international publishes a detailed report  on Saharawi human rights defenders of whom 8 are imprisoned and in the process of being tried. [
report] [>> arabic]

25.11.05
The USFP (l'Union socialiste des forces populaires) expressed its concern about the tense situation existing in Western Sahara, this could "influence negatively Morocco's diplomatic strategy and the cause of "territorial integrity". This stance comes after the El Ayoun branch of this party demanded an audience with the wali of El Ayoun to condemn the behaviour of the police forces.

28.11.05
Amnesty international announces that they are sending a Tunisian lawyer Samir ben Amor as an observer to the trial of the human rights defenders on 30.11.05. [
press release]

30.11.05, Report [French] http://www.arso.org/sedillot011105.htm
Publication of the report of the French lawyer Mr Sedillot who attended the trial of Ahmed Hammia as an observer in Dakhla on 3 August last.

30.11.05, trial of human rights defenders 2nd sitting
After the first postponement from 22 to 30.11.05, the trial of the 14 Saharawis, including 7 well-known human rights defenders was again postponed until 6 December, after a whole day of waiting without explanation for the defending lawyers and international observers. Everything allows one to think that this scandalous procedure is aimed at discouraging foreign observers being sent to El Ayoun, some for a second time. Those present were: five envoys from the Spanish Bar, a delegate from the Barristers' Council of France, a Swiss barrister representing the League of human rights and two Tunisian barristers, one of whom was sent by Amnesty International. The accused brought into the room at the end of the day, chanted slogans in favour of independence, greeted their families in the audience and thanked the international observers. [
ABC 01.12.05] [plus d'info ] [more information ]

The Regional Council of Emilia-Romagna (Italy) denounced the illegality of the trial. In letters sent to the Italian ambassador in Rabat, and the Moroccan ambassador in Rome, the Regional Council made up of representatives of all the Italian political parties, declares itself deeply concerned by the conditions for holding this trial, which "does not rest on any crime liable to legal prosecution".

REFERENDUM

22.11.05, Spain
"The defence of the rights of the Saharawi people is an aspect which cannot be dissociated from the solution of the conflict", the Head of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in a letter sent recently to the President of the Saharawi Republic, Mohamed Abdelaziz. "The Spanish government will maintain its commitment in the search for a lasting solution, in accordance with international law, which is fair and mutually acceptable to the parties, and within the United Nations framework.... The commitment of the Spanish government in favour of the respect of human rights has been reiterated in Morocco...", he revealed. (SPS)

22.11.05, European Union
On the occasion of the Fifth session of the EU-Morocco Association, the EU published a declaration in which it supports "the efforts deployed by the United Nations Secretary General towards a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the conflict [of Western Sahara]...". The EU affirms that it "continues to encourage the parties to work towards such a solution by cooperating in a constructive and flexible manner with Mr Peter Van Walsum, personal envoy of Mr. Kofi Annan". It "invites the parties to seize the opportunity to get out of the present impasse" and considers that the conflict of Western Sahara "remains a major obstacle in the way of achieving greater regional stability, cooperation and prosperity". The "Declaration" which commits the 25, affirms further that the EU "remains preoccupied by the humanitarian aspects of the conflict of Western Sahara". [
Statement by the European Union - Fifth meeting of the EU-Morocco Association Council (Brussels, 22 November 2005)] [Communiqué/Commentaire de M. Sidati]

25.11.05, confidence-building measures
The exchange visits between Saharawi families in the camps and the zones occupied by Morocco have started again. The Moroccan authorities threatened members of Saharawi families who took part in the visits and prevented Saharawi citizens from meeting the families arriving in El Ayoun. Two people were arrested following a reception organised on this occasion, Mustapha and Brahim Labrass, and imprisoned in the Black Prison.

NATURAL RESOURCES

04.11.05, Oil
The American oil company Kerr McGee extended until April 2006 its contract with Morocco to continue its geological studies on the off-shore oil potential of Western Sahara. The contract expired on 31.10.05.

24.11.05, Stockholm
A seminar on natural resources and the conflict in Western Sahara was organised in Stockholm by the Swedish Forum for Development, the North Africa Institute, the Global Publication Foundation and ABF. Taking part were Hans Corell, former deputy secretary general and legal adviser to the UN, Toby Shelley, journalist and author of "Endgame in the Western Sahara", Pedro Pinto Leite, international lawyer, Magnus Schöldtz, from the Department of Middle East and North Africa of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Pål Wrange, legal adviser of the same department. Lennart Wolgemuth, director of the North Africa Institute chaired the discussions. You can hear and see the interventions on:
http://www.vastsahara.org/

26.11.05, Disengagement
The largest Swedish pension fund, Seventh AP funds, has decided to sell its shares worth 1.25 million kroner in Kerr McGee in February next year. Another Swedish fund Ohman Fund, took the same decision also for ethical reasons, Kerr McGee is carrying out activities in Western Sahara regarded as illegal by the UN.

30.11.05, Fishing agreement
The Belgian parliamentary intergroup "Peace for the Saharawi people" organised a colloquium in the Senate in Brussels to denounce the illegality of the Moroccan-EU fishing agreement and to raise awareness among European parliamentarians two months before its ratification. The colloquium showed that this accord, worth 140 million euros over four years, is marred by illegality because of the occupation of Western Sahara. Pedro Pinto Leite, international lawyer, put forward the thesis of the illegality of this agreement in recalling that from the point of view of international law, the exploitation of the Saharawi maritime wealth is a "violation of the United Nations charter". The coordinator of "Western Sahara Resource Watch", Erik Hagen, pointed out the opposition to this agreement by Sweden, Finland, Denmark as well as Norway (non member of the EU). Mr Sidati talked of the over-exploitation of this coast where 7000 trawlers and tens of thousand small fishing boats fish all the time in the Saharawi waters, this represents a serious threat for the ecosystem of the region.

MOROCCO - MAURITANIA

21-22.11.05
On the occasion of an official visit to Morocco, Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, President of the Military Council for justice and democracy, which came out of the last coup d'état, three conventions of cooperation were signed between the two countries. "Mauritania considers that the best way to settle the question (of the Sahara) in a lasting manner...is to find a consensual agreement between the parties concerned", a proposition close to that defended by Rabat. The Mauritanian NGO Democrats without borders, born after the putsch, protested strongly against the fact that the Mauritanian Premier had accorded an interview to the paper named
"The Moroccan Sahara", thus breaking the traditional Mauritanian neutrality. [Joint Communiqué]

29.11.05
According to the Moroccan weekly
Tel Quel, the King of Morocco, Mohamed V, and his son, the future Hassan II, had planned in 1960 a military occupation of Mauritania. Fifteen years before the Green March, Morocco was preparing the annexation of the latter country, invoking its "historic sovereignty" over it as over the Spanish Sahara and a part of the Algerian Sahara.

HUMAN RIGHTS

22.11.05
The organisation,  Médicos del Mundo denounced the fact that at least 135 Sub-Saharan Africans, abandoned in the desert by the Moroccan authorities are still in Mauritania and the liberated zones of SADR.

30.11.05
Ali Salem Tamek's wife, Aichatou Ramdan, has accused the President of the Spanish government of being complicit in the policy of  repression exercised by Morocco in Western Sahara. Aichatou Ramdan was invited by Amnesty International to the presentation of its report on the external policy of the Spanish government and human rights 2004-2005. [
Europa Press, Spanish]

HUMANITARIAN AID

13.11.05, HCR
The deputy representative of Algeria with the UN, Mourad Benmehidi, said he was surprised by the decision of the HCR to revise the basis of the number of Saharawi refugees. He asked High Commissioner Guterres to proceed to a new evaluation. In his last report the UN Secretary General revealed that WFP and the UNHCR had taken the decision to "reduce the number of beneficiaries of aid from 158,000 to 90,000 persons, so as to concentrate on the most vulnerable members of the population in the camps."

28.11.-02.12.05, Zagreb
A Saharawi delegation took part in the 6th assembly of state parties to the convention on anti-personnel mines.

SOLIDARITY

Protest demonstrations against human rights abuses in Western Sahara and of solidarity with the Saharawi people have taken place in various towns of Spain and Italy (Florence, Rome &endash; with a sit-in outside the Moroccan embassy, Donostia, Gasteiz, Bilbao, Toledo, Malaga, Madrid, etc.)

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