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Western Sahara

Activists have failed to establish UN human rights monitoring of Western Sahara, the west African territory illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) monitors the ceasefire between the Western Saharan resistance movement Polisario and Morocco, and also has responsibility for organising a referendum on self-determination (blocked by Morocco).

Solidarity activists have been campaigning for MINURSO to be given a human rights role, and this was supported in early April by the UN’s Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Morocco and its friends have been resisting, with fierce lobbying of the UN secretary-general. The latest report on MINURSO, due to be published on 6 April, did not appear until 15 April, indicating a bitter struggle within the UN secretariat. The secretary-general failed to add a human rights dimension to MINURSO.

Every other UN peacekeeping mission ever set up has had a human rights role. Meanwhile, on 14 April, Morocco released three Western Saharan activists, Ali Salem Tamek, Ibrahim Dahhane and Ahmed Naciri - just before they were to announce a hunger strike. They were arrested in October 2009 on suspicion of having met officials from Polisario.

Topics: Western Sahara