MOROCCO: Nation gets UN rights job despite abuses in W. Sahara

unMorocco is among 14 nations that were elected this week by the General Assembly to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to serve for three years beginning 1 January 2004, despite its record of horrendous human rights violations in occupied Western Sahara.

The other African countries are: Algeria, Namibia and South Africa. Others are China, Cuba, France, Maldives, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Viet Nam, Russia and United Kingdom.

The HRC, composed of 47 members, is an inter-governmental body within the UN system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.

Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, has been occupied illegally by Morocco since 1975. Moroccan authorities commit serious human rights violations with impunity in the occupied territory. The country has ignored numerous UN decisions requiring it to allow for a referendum on the future of the Saharawi people.

Morocco withdrew its membership from the African Union in anger over continued insistence that Western Sahara be allowed to move towards political independence.

Last month, the Nigeria Labour Congress hosted a conference on Western Sahara attended by participants from 28 other African nations. The conference demanded that Morocco, a close ally of the United States and France, withdraw its military and security forces from the Western Sahara and move towards holding a referendum on the future of the territory.

The European Parliament a month ago adopted a detailed report, which addresses the concerns of the Saharawi people, particularly as regards human rights.

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.

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