Thu 26/11/2020

Statement on behalf of the UK Parliament’s Western Sahara All Party Parliamentary Group ahead of the MINURSO vote in the UN Security Council this week

4 weeks ago at 28/Oct/2020 43

Article 1 (2) of the United Nations charter states its purpose is: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples”. The decolonization efforts of the United Nations derive from this purpose. The UN lists 17 non-self governing territories where the process of decolonisation is not complete. The largest, most populated and the only territory in Africa on that list is the Western Sahara.

In 1991, the Security Council established the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with a mandate to oversee a referendum of self-determination of the Saharawi people. However for nearly 30 years the Security Council has renewed MINURSO’s mandate yet there is currently no real prospect that the Saharawi people will be able to express their inalienable right to self-determination in the promised referendum. Instead, year by year the situation has deteriorated and in the last year, particularly in four areas:

  1. The diplomatic process that the UN Secretary General is meant to oversee has stalled completely. The Secretary General’s special representative resigned nearly a year and a half ago and has not been replaced.
  2. Although there are regular well-evidenced reports of human rights abuse by the Moroccan authorities MINURSO cannot even report on them to the UN as it lacks the relevant mandate. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch support the need for MINURSO to monitor and report on human rights.
  3. MINURSO has failed to act to stop Morocco’s violations of the ceasefire and Military Agreement No. 1 through its breach in the wall at Guerguerat. The failure of MINURSO close the breach has caused instability.
  4. The international community has continued to allow an illegal trade in goods from the Western Sahara. Judgements in the UK courts, the European court and other courts around the world have made it clear that under international law, goods cannot be traded from Western Sahara if they purport to come from Morocco.

The APPG is clear that the UK government has a duty to make it a priority for the UN Security Council to act to bring the process of self-determination back on track by addressing these four points. We urge that it should support the following actions by the UN Security Council:

  1. A new personal envoy of the Secretary General should be appointed without delay
  2. MINURSO should be given the legal mandate to monitor and report on human rights in territory held by both Morocco and the POLISARIO Front
  3. MINURSO should seal the breach in the wall at Guerguerat
  4. The UNSC should act to stop the illegal trade in goods from Western Sahara purporting that they come from Morocco.

If the UN Security Council fails to act to fulfil its mandate the Saharawi people will progressively lose faith in the ability of international institutions to enforce international law which will cause increased instability in the region.

The UK Parliament’s Western Sahara All Party Parliamentary Group calls on the UK Government to fulfil its duty as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and act so that the Saharawi people can express their right to self-determination through a referendum.

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