Dr Sidi Mohamed Omar – Representative of the Frente POLISARIO at the United Nations
Press Release – New York, 7 July 2020
Today the UN Security Council, under the German presidency, is going to hold an open VTC under the agenda item “United Nations peacekeeping operations: peace operations and human rights”. The aim of the open debate, according to the concept note prepared by Germany, is to discuss in-depth how peace operations can contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights more effectively and what could be the impact of the integration of human rights on overall implementation of the mandates of peace operations, among other things.
Although the Security Council has been including human rights components in the mandates of peace operations since 1991, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) remains an exception in this regard as the Mission has no mandate whatsoever in relation to human rights. MINURSO was established by the UN Security Council by its resolution 690 (1991) of 29 April 1991 with the mandate to organise a referendum without military or administrative constraints to enable the people of Western Sahara, in the exercise of their right to self-determination, to choose between independence and integration with Morocco. After 29 years of its establishment and deployment in the Territory, MINURSDO has so far failed not only in implementing its mandate but also in protecting the human rights of the Sahrawi civilians living in the territories under Morocco’s illegal occupation.
In the meantime, Morocco continues to commit massive violations of human rights of Sahrawi civilians in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, which have been documented by many international organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others. Moreover, the entire Sahrawi occupied territories are put under a military siege and a total media blackout where international observers and media are banned from entering the occupied Territory that remains a veritable news black hole and a no-go zone for journalists, as described by Reporters Without Border in its report released in June 2019.
The Frente POLISARIO has frequently urged the Security Council to include a human rights monitoring component in MINURSO’s mandate with a view to protecting, monitoring, and reporting on the human rights situation in the Territory in line with the basic principles of UN peacekeeping. Numerous international and African human rights organisations have also urged the Council to act in this regard. However, a Security Council permanent member, known for its strong support for Morocco, has always prevented the Council from addressing or making any recommendation on human rights monitoring in Western Sahara, mainly to ensure that Morocco’s appalling human rights record is not subject to scrutiny and accountability.
The UN Secretary-General has repeatedly insisted that impartial, comprehensive, and sustained monitoring of the human rights situation is necessary to ensure the protection of all people in Western Sahara. It is therefore imperative that the Security Council include a human rights component in MINURSO’s mandate because it is unacceptable that the Mission remains an exception at a time when the promotion and protection of human rights is becoming a priority in all UN peace operations.