domingo, 26 de abril de 2009

WSRW requests Security Council to demand halt of exploitation

Western Sahara Resource Watch today sent letter to the members of the UN Security Council, requesting them to demand a halt of plundering of occupied Western Sahara.

Melbourne, 21 April 2009


Western Sahara Resource Watch, an international NGO whose aim is to ensure the proper application of international justice to the Western Sahara, wishes to convey the following:

1. The relevant organs of the United Nations have been concerned with the matter of the Western Sahara for several decades. The General Assembly, in the discharge of its responsibilities, has maintained consistently since 1966 (Resolution 2229) that the original peoples of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination. The Security Council, consistently since 1988 (Resolution 621), wishing to safeguard the peace and security of the Western Sahara, has insisted on the necessity of carrying out a referendum for self-determination by the Saharawi people. The International Court of Justice has stated in its Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975 on the Western Sahara that the right to self-determination by the original peoples of the Sahara is not in doubt in any way.

2. Western Sahara Resource Watch draws the attention of members of the Security Council to the fact that the exploitation of the natural resources of the Western Sahara is being carried out in contravention of relevant international legal principles, including those reflected in the resolutions of the UN General Assembly (including resolutions 62/120 and 63/111) and Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both ratified by the Kingdom of Morocco. As established with great clarity by the UN Legal Counsel in 2002: ‘…if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.’

3. The illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara has as one its aims the consolidation of the military occupation and illegal colonization of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco. Not only are the proceeds of such activities used to finance an illegal military presence, but new immigrants are brought in by the Kingdom of Morocco to service this exploitation, thus producing
social and economic conflicts that are putting at risk the peace and security of the territory. The incidents of 21 July 2008 in the region of Dajla (formerly Villa Cisneros), where the Moroccan settlers attacked the few Saharauis employed in the fishing industry, represent a cause for alarm that should be carefully noted. For the above reasons, Western Sahara Resource Watch requests that the Security Council, in its resolution next week, call an immediate halt to all natural resource exploration and exploitation activities undertaken by the Kingdom of Morocco and other foreign interests in contravention of the principles of international law.

For further information, contact:
Cate Lewis, International Coordinator, Western Sahara Resource Watch
+61 407 288 358

Ki-moon received SADR sea claim

The EEZ declaration of the Western Sahara republic has been officially received by the UN. The claim was mentioned in the Secretary-General's background report from last week.

In his report to the the Security Council, 13 April 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon notices the maritime claim issued by the Saharawi Arabic Democratic Republic.

"On 22 January 2009, the Frente Polisario declared an exclusive economic zone for Western Sahara, which would extend 200 nautical miles from the coast of the Territory. Upon signing the declaration, the Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, Mohamed Abdelaziz, said in a public statement that the declaration was based on the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources, and he called on the European Union to suspend its 2005 fisheries agreement with Morocco", the report reads.

Polisario protests plundering

On 8th April 2008, Polisario sent a letter to the Security Council protesting the plundering of Western Sahara. The letter has now been published as an official document of both the General Assembly (A/63/871) and the Security Council (S/2009/198).

Polisario's letter protesting natural resource-related activities was been published as an official document of both the General Assembly (A/63/871) and the Security Council (S/2009/198). See the letter below.

Letter dated 8 April 2009 from the representative of the Frente Polisario addressed to the President of the Security Council

On behalf of the Frente Polisario, I wish to bring to your attention the systematic and ongoing plunder of the natural resources of Western Sahara by the Kingdom of Morocco and cooperation foreign interests. These activities are in clear breach of the international legal principles applicable to the utilization of the natural resources of Western Sahara as a recognized Non-Self-Governing Territory under the Charter of the United Nations.

The Territory of Western Sahara and its offshore areas are rich in natural resources. Phosphate reserves, including those in the BuCraa mine, are estimated to contain 1.13 billion cubic metres of phosphate rock. Areas offshore of Western Sahara’s 1,200 kilometre coastline contain some of the world’s richest and most productive fisheries and, according to numerous geological surveys, the Western Sahara continental shelf is thought to have significant reserves of oil and methane gas.

In accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), which contains the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, the natural resources of the Western Sahara are the heritage of the Saharawi people. Activities which deprive the Saharawi people of the right to enjoy and benefit from the exploitation of those resources are in contravention of international law.

In this regard, I draw your attention to the long-standing illegal exploitation of the rich phosphate resources of the Territory of Western Sahara. A Moroccan State-owned company, PhosBoucraa, a subsidiary of the Office Chérifien des Phosphates, operates the mine at BuCraa in the north-west of the Territory. The mine is estimated to produce approximately 3 million tons of phosphate rock annually, worth billions of dollars in exports.

The International Court of Justice established unequivocally that there were “no ties of territorial sovereignty between Morocco and the Territory of Western Sahara” prior to the Spanish colonization of the Territory. In addition, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel confirmed, in an important legal opinion provided to the Security Council in January 2002, that the so-called Madrid Agreement between Spain, Morocco and Mauritania “did not transfer sovereignty over the Territory, nor did it confer upon any of the signatories the status of an administering Power”. In the absence of any such links, it is clear that Morocco has no legitimate authority to exploit the phosphate resources at the BuCraa mine. It is in this context that the United Nations Legal Counsel declared in his 2002 opinion that: “If further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resources activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories”.

Given the clarity of the applicable law, we cannot but express our dismay and serious concern at the ongoing plunder by Moroccan-flagged vessels and foreign fishing interests of the Saharawi people’s offshore fisheries resources. I wish to draw to your particular attention fisheries conducted by European Union-flagged vessels pursuant to the 2005 Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Communities and the Kingdom of Morocco (Fisheries Partnership Agreement).

According to its terms, the Fisheries Partnership Agreement purports to provide European Union vessels with fishing opportunities in “the waters falling within the sovereignty or jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Morocco”. In the absence of any sovereign ties between Morocco and Western Sahara, it follows that the waters off Western Sahara cannot and do not fall under the jurisdiction of Morocco. In spite of this legal reality, the Fisheries Partnership Agreement is silent on the southern extremity of its area of application, a silence which is exploited unlawfully by the European Union and Morocco to allow access by European vessels to the fisheries resources off the coast of Western Sahara. For their complicity in the theft of Western Saharan natural resources, the Kingdom of Morocco will receive a total of more than 144 million euros (€).

The former United Nations Legal Counsel responsible for the aforementioned legal opinion provided to the Security Council in 2002, Ambassador Hans Corell, confirmed recently that, in failing to make an express distinction between Moroccan waters and those of Western Sahara, the European Union-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement is in clear violation of international law. I note in this context the recent passage of Law No. 03/2009 of 21 January 2009 Establishing the Maritime Zones of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, which declares for the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) a 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, in accordance with international law. Pursuant to this legislation, the Government of the SADR renders illegal any activities related to the exploration or exploitation of the marine living and non-living resources of Western Sahara conducted without its express authorization.

It has also come to the attention of the Frente Polisario that entities of the Kingdom of Morocco have entered into commercial arrangements purporting to grant reconnaissance and exploration rights in respect of the Western Sahara Territory and adjacent offshore areas. As made clear in the aforementioned opinion of the United Nations Legal Counsel to the Security Council in 2002 (S/2002/161), exploration activities undertaken in disregard of the wishes and interests of the people of Western Sahara are in violation of international law. On behalf of the Saharawi people, the SADR Petroleum Authority has protested vociferously against such activities.

Most recently, SADR Petroleum Authority issued letters of protest in January 2009 to United States-based Kosmos Energy LLC and its Dutch and Norwegian-based technical contractors (Fugro NV and Fugro-Geoteam, respectively) in relation to exploration activities conducted under agreements with Morocco authorities. Similar protests in the past have resulted in withdrawal from the Western Saharan Territory of operations by French-based TotalFinaElf S.A. and United States-based Kerr-McGee Corporation. Of further concern are recent revelations that Texas-based San Leon Energy Plc and its joint venture partners (including Island Oil and Gas, an Irish-based international oil and gas company), are pursuing, with Morocco’s Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines, an upgrade of their purported Reconnaissance Licence in the Zag Basin area (in the northern part of Western Sahara) to a full exploration licence. As made clear by the United Nations Legal Counsel in 2002, activities pursuant to such a licence would be in direct violation of international law.

As reaffirmed most recently in General Assembly resolution 63/102 of 18 December 2008, the Saharawi people have the exclusive right to the enjoyment of their natural resources and to dispose of those resources in their best interests.

To ensure that the fundamental rights of the Saharawi people are upheld, we call on Member States, consistent with General Assembly resolution 63/102, to take “legislative, administrative or other measures in respect of their nationals and the bodies corporate under their jurisdiction that own and operate enterprises in the Non-Self-Governing Territories that are detrimental to the interests of the
inhabitants of those Territories, in order to put an end to such enterprises”.

The Frente Polisario, as the internationally recognized representative of the Saharawi people, reserves the right to use all available means, including legal avenues, to prevent and seek reparation in respect of any unauthorized activities relating to the natural resources of Western Sahara.

We believe that it is the responsibility of the Member States of the United Nations, and in particular the Security Council, to restore respect for international law, and to call a halt to the illegal plunder of the natural resources belonging to the people of Western Sahara. This deplorable situation seriously undermines any efforts at confidence-building that might engender progress towards a peaceful solution that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

I would be most grateful if you would bring the present letter to the attention of the members of the Security Council.

(Signed) Ahmed Boukhari
Representative of the Frente Polisario

Tenerife News: Canary Islands face a new dilemma

Is an oil war about to erupt in the middle of the Atlantic, with the Canary Islands embroiled right in the middle of the conflict? Tenerife News, 16 April 2009.

That's certainly the scenario being suggested in the national Spanish press and the revelations make for interesting reading.

For years, the Canary Islands have been pressing for a clear and precise definition of the waters which lie equidistant between the archipelago and Morocco. Now, according to various sources, this demarcation is even more imperative.

Whilst you soak up the sunshine and holiday atmosphere of Tenerife, you might not realise that out there in the ocean, between Morocco, the Canary Islands and Western Sahara, multi-nationals have arrived in search for much-needed natural resources. It's being reported that a gas field has already been found off the coast of Morocco by Repsol and Natural Gas and a Norwegian firm is sinking wells in front of Bojador of the coast of Western Sahara. A private American oil company, Kosmos is also on the scene and is carrying out its own searches off Morocco, searches which, if the information being received is accurate, are already paying dividends.

Furthermore, Kosmos is eyeing up the beach and valley of Agando in Tuineje, Fuerteventura as a base, believing it to be ideal for convenience, safety and tax reasons, and an official approach has apparently been made to the authorities of the Canary Islands and to Madrid.

That's great news, you may be thinking, not just for the future prosperity of the Canary Islands in terms of investment and job creation but in the search for new sources of oil to cut dependency on the traditional markets.

So, what's the problem? According to the sources who have been speaking to the Spanish press, it comes down to one word. Ethics.

The oil, you see, may or may not belong legally to Morocco. It could well be, and probably is, the property of Western Sahara. And that, say the experts, will place the Canary Islands in a very difficult position, economically, environmentally and ethically.

At the moment, the archipelago has good relations with both its neighbours but does it want to be compliant with Morocco stealing resources from Western Sahara? If the Government of the Canary Islands says nothing, is it helping to violate the rights of the Saharan people?

"It can't be the bride of all," says Sergio Ramírez Galindo of the organisation, Western Sahara Resource Watch in an interview with La Opinión de Tenerife.

Taking their oil, he alleges, would be blatant theft and it would be virtually impossible for the Saharan people to win it back. Yet, in the meantime, Kosmos eyes up one of the Canary Islands as a base and the Americans spend their free time enjoying the social delights and charms of Tenerife and company whilst they conduct their explorations off Morocco. These searches, it is claimed, are illegal. Yet who is going to turn down requests to base ships or rigs or workers in the Canary Islands when today's economic situation is so dire?

Politicians of all parties seem to agree that something must be done to regulate the situation and defining the waters is imperative and urgent as the Canary Islands would have the power to say yes or no to explorations.

Green campaigners are already worried about a host of spin-off effects, such as harm to the environment, forests and fisheries and even see corruption and conflict ahead as resources are pillaged. WSRW also says that allowing Kosmos to set up base on Fuerteventura will be 'a disaster' on all fronts.

Oil has always been the source of controversy and intrigue and when the sun sets on oil rigs not so far away from the Canary Islands, it would appear there's going to be turmoil behind the imposing façade too.

Arabic network condemns sentencing of journalist

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information has denounced the recent increment of sentence of the Moroccan journalist and blogger Hassan Barhoun by the Appeals Court.

The court in the Moroccan city of Tetuan, increased the sentence on journalist last week Monday to ten months in prison instead of six, after he had accused the public prosecutor of collusion in a corruption case.

The Court of Appeal had Mr Barhoun’s sentence increased to ten months without allowing his lawyers to submit a plea during the trial's proceedings.

Mr Barhoun was arrested on 26 February and was sentenced on 6 March to six-months in jail. He was charged with circulating false news, after publishing a petition signed by more than 60 people, including activists, journalists and officials accusing the King's deputy in Tetuan, the Public Prosecutor of collision in a corruption case.

“Instead of being interrogated about the article, Mr Barhoun was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. At the Court of Appeal, the sentenced was increased to ten months,” the Network statement said.

The Network said the harsh ruling against Mr Barhoun is part of a series of free expression violations against critics who expose state corruption and lack of transparency in the country’s administration.

It further said Moroccan judiciary denies journalists any protection, increasing the burden on the brave journalists and bloggers in a country that is rapidly retreating to years of darkness and silence.

Morocco has previously caused international outrage with its treatment of Internet users and bloggers. In 2008 Mr Fouad Mortada was sentenced to three years in prison for creating a false profile on Internet site 'Facebook' using identity of King's brother.

However, he received a royal pardon following protests from other Internet users around the world. Morocco's press code makes it an offence to show disrespect to the King.

SWESA demande l'extension de mandat de la MINURSO à la protection de la population civile sahraouie

Stockholm (Suède), L'action suédoise pour le Sahara occidental (SWESA) a exprimé sa "profonde préoccupation" par les violations continues des droits de l'homme dans les territoires sahraouis sous l'occupation marocaine, a déclaré dimanche l’ONG dans une lettre au Président du Conseil de sécurité, l'Ambassadeur Claude Heller.

L'Organisation regroupant 26 organisations membres, dont six des sept partis politiques représentés au Parlement suédois, a exprimé son soutien aux pétitions de l'organisation Human Rights Watch et du Bureau International pour le Respect des Droits de l'Homme au Sahara Occidental, en faveur de l’extension du mandat de la MINURSO à la protection de la population civile sahraouie.

Il a également appelé les Nations Unies, en tant que garant de la Déclaration des droits de l'homme, à inclure cette question au sein de l’agenda du Conseil de sécurité durant ses débats de la question sahraouie, afin de doter la Minurso d’un mécanisme pour la défense et le respect des droits humains au Sahara Occidental.

SADR Ministry of Health hosts 26th Scientific Workshop on Health

In the administrative meeting hall of the Saharawi refugee camp of Smara, the Ministry of Health of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) brought together Saharawi doctors, nurses, and health specialists, as well as representatives from international NGOs to participate in the 26th Scientific Workshop on Health on Friday.

While the dust storm raging outside filled the meeting hall with oppressive powder, the 150-plus attendees looked on with interest and pride as the many health programs of the Saharawi refugee camps were detailed.

"The 24th of April is the National Day of Health," began Sid Ahmed Tayyib, the SADR Minister of Health. "It is a day for us all to reflect upon our level of training. A day to reflect as a team. We come together to recognize the efforts of all of the servants who work to improve the health of the Saharawi people on the local, national, or international level."

This year’s workshop, which touted the theme of "Health: Professional Preparation and Continual Training," built on last year’s meeting to include more participants, more projects, and higher standards. Medical specialists, both Saharawi and foreign, presented their research and projects from the past year before a panel of two
Saharawi judges, who evaluated the programs based upon their scientific merits and organization.

More than 15 different speakers gave 10-minute presentations on their work, which were followed by a five-minute period of defense of both their methods and results before questions from the audience and the judges.

Presentation topics ranged from depression to hyperglycemias to eye surgery to post-birth hemorrhaging to children’s wellness. Saharawi midwives, nurses, and doctors, NGO representatives, and health specialists from Spain, Norway, Greece, and Cuba all proudly displayed their results and defended their investigations.

At the end of the full-day of events, prizes of honorable mention were given to a dozen of the projects, while the two best presentations in the categories of "doctors" and "health specialists" were awarded the top prizes.

Sid Ahmed Tayyib closed the workshop insisting that all of the health professionals, both national and international, who work towards the improvement of the health of the Saharawis, improve their levels of coordination and professionalism.

On display
Before the defense of the projects, the attendees roamed the meeting hall, where they were able to view and discuss with professionals a number of displays on different medical fields in the camps.

Displays included exhibitions on prosthetic limbs, traditional medicines, and modern medicines fabricated in the camps.

This last process is carried out in the Mohamed Embarek Fakala Medicinal Production Lab. The lab was opened in 1996 and began producing in 1998. Today, the nine specialists in the lab produce more than 78 different medicines, including antibiotics, creams, pills, solutions, and even fortified shampoos and bath gels.

The lab is funded by two international organizations – The Saharawi Khaima from Italy and the Catalonian branch of Doctors of the World in Spain – and staffed by Saharawi chemical engineers and technicians.

"Those organizations give us the materials we need," said Mulay Mosud, a chemist who works in the labs, as he showed off an impressive display of medicines, "but we produce all of the medicines here in the camps."

"In 2003, we were at our highest production levels, but since then we have been unable to get sufficient primary materials to keep up that pace," he added.

The laboratory is located in the SADR National Hospital in the administrative Saharawi camp of Rabouni.

Also in attendance at the workshop was SADR Prime Minister Abdelqadar Talib Omar, who addressed the audience before the presentations began.

"Our sincere thanks to the many NGOs and other organizations who help us to take care of our own people here in the camps, thus avoiding the long, expensive trips that some of these health conditions would otherwise require," said.

Senia vs. phosphate exploitation lawyers: Part I

Saharawi student and activist Senia Bachir Abderhman is demanding answers from the US law firm Covington & Burling, which has been accused of assisting the Kingdom of Morocco in the illegal plundering of phosphates from the occupied areas of the Western Sahara.

The Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has decried the Washington-based law firm for drafting a legal opinion for its Moroccan government client, OCP, stating that the exploitation of Western Saharan phosphate resources by the Kingdom of Morocco is legal because it benefits the people of the territory.

Senia, a Saharawi refugee from the Western Saharan territories currently occupied by Morocco, would beg to differ. The Saharawi student claims that none of her fellow countrymen benefit from the industry. Senia has demanded that the US law firm to explain how said plunder is assisting the Saharawis.

After Morocco occupied the Western Sahara in 1975, they fired most of the Saharawis working in the phosphate industry, replacing them with Moroccan settlers.

The Kingdom of Morocco currently earns approximately 2 billion dollars a year from the Bou Craa mine in the Western Sahara. At the same time, more than 150,000 Saharawis are forced to suffer in the refugee camps outside of Tindouf, Algeria, where they live on humanitarian aid that is equal to approximately 2.5 percent of those 2 billion dollars.

Covington & Burlington’s analysis of the industry is used by international phosphate importers to legitimize their imports, claiming them to be legal. The confidential analysis is said to prove the local people benefit from the phosphate extraction. Nonetheless, the Saharawi people do not have access to the law firm’s report.

WSRW also sent a letter Covington & Burlington on November 4, 2008, demanding an explanation, but the law firm has yet to respond.

U.S. Senators ask President Obama to support Saharawis’ right to a referendum on self-determination

In a letter to President Obama, Senators Jeff Bingaman [D-NM] and Tom Udall [D-NM] asked the US President and his Administration engage in the Western Saharan conflict and push for a referendum that allows the Saharawis to realize their right to self-determination.

In their letter, dated April 22, the Senators spoke of the inability of the United Nation’s Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to realize its principle mission: the organization of a free and transparent referendum that will allow the Saharawis to determine their own future.

"The people in the Western Sahara are entitled to a referendum to determine how that land will be governed," stated the Senators. "This right of self-determination is recognized in U.N. charter."

The letter from Senators Bingaman and Udall is the latest to come out of the United States Congress, in which both Senators and Representatives are urging the President and his Administration to take a position on the issue in advance of the resolution that will be published next week by the UN Security Council regarding MINURSO’s mandate.

April 22, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to ask that your administration work to resolve the territorial dispute in the Western Sahara. A decade and a half of war beset this region after Spain ended its colonial administration of the area in 1975. On one side, Morocco claims the Western Sahara is part of its kingdom; on the other, the Sahrawi people and their political leadership, the Polisario, claim sovereignty over their native homeland. Despite a ceasefire that began in 1991, the land dispute was never resolved. The result has been decades of tension and uncertainty, thousands of deaths from violence and poverty, and a humanitarian crisis that goes on to this day. Right now, over 100,000 people live in the refugee camps near the border in Tindouf, Algeria and their fate is inextricably linked to the resolution of the land dispute.

The United Nations has been involved in this dispute for over forty years. Since 1991, it has tried to implement the U.N. Settlement Plan, whose centerpiece would be a referendum to decide the disposition of the Western Sahara. Meaningful progress has been thwarted, however, by the political maneuvering of one or both sides. Their political objections have been couched as technical objections over such issues as voter registration lists. Much energy has been expended on resolving the technical problems rather than addressing the underlying disagreements from which they stem.

After nearly eighteen years of work, over half a billion dollars of funding, and the involvement of skilled envoys of several U.N. Secretaries General, the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) has yet to accomplish its namesake objective. The people in the Western Sahara are entitled to a referendum to determine how that land will be governed. This right of self-determination is recognized is U.N. charter. Moreover, at one time or another, both Morocco and the Polisario have agreed to a referendum.

It is important for the U.N. Security council to be united and push together for a political solution that enables a referendum to occur. Your leadership, and the leadership of Ambassadors Clinton and Rice, is vital to resolving this territorial dispute and ending the humanitarian crisis in the refugee camps. We urge your administration to engage on this issue and work diligently towards a solution.


Jeff Bingaman
United States Senator

Tom Udall
United States Senator

Polisario Front reiterates readiness to cooperate with UN for a just and lasting solution to the Western Saharan conflict

The Bureau of the National Secretariat of the Polisario Front reiterated the readiness of the Saharawi leaders to fully cooperate with the Secretary General of the United Nations and his Personal Envoy to the Western Sahara to achieve a just and lasting solution to the conflict in the Western Sahara that is based on the right of the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

In its regularly-scheduled session on Thursday, the Bureau – chaired by Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and Secretary General of the Polisario Front – requested that the UN Security Council "take all appropriate measures to impose the international legality, and to accelerate the organization of self-determination referendum for the Saharawi people, the only democratic and transparent solution that is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations."

The members of the Bureau also renewed their call for the creation of an effective mechanism within the UN Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) to control, report on and ensure the protection of human rights in the occupied Western Sahara, in line with the UN’s responsibility to protect and promote human rights around the world.

The Bureau of the National Secretariat welcomed the recent support of international organizations, such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Human Rights Watch, who have called on the UN Security Council to establish an appropriate mechanism to ensure the protection of the human rights of the Saharawis.

The Polisario Front also demanded the dismantling of the 2,500 km wall constructed by the Kingdom of Morocco, which has divided the Western Sahara and its people for decades, and constitutes a "crime against humanity."

In lighter news
The Bureau also discussed its preparations for the holding of the Sixth International Film Festival in the Western Sahara, which will be held from Mar 4-9 in the Saharawi refugee camp of Dakhla, and which will count on the participation of internationally-renowned celebrities and filmmakers.

Preparatory Committee discusses plans for sixth Western Saharan film festival

The Preparatory Committee of the Sixth World Festival of Cinema in the Western Sahara (FISAHARA) met Wednesday to discuss preparations for the film festival, which will take place from May 4-9 in the Saharawi refugee camp of Dakhla.

The theme of this year’s festival is "A Stand for Solidarity, a Witness to Freedom, and a Vision of the Future."

Ms. Khadija Hamdi, Minister of Culture of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Chair of the Preparatory Committee, made public the attendance of more than 450 foreign participants from Europe and Latin America. Algerian attendees will also be present as guests of honor.

First established in 2003, FISAHARA is organized by the Saharawi Ministry of Culture with the support of the Cuban Film Festival, the Latin Film Festival in Los Angeles, the Human Rights Film Festival in New York, and the Festival of San Sebastian, among others.

The organisers also declared that this year will be marked by the participation of famous stars such as Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar.

Front Line profondément préoccupée par la situation du défenseur sahraoui, Yahya Mohamed el Hafed iaaza

Dublin (Irlande), L’organisation internationale pour la protection des défenseurs des droits humains, Front Line, a exprimé jeudi sa " profonde préoccupation", après avoir appris la torture et l’isolement du défenseur sahraoui des droits humains, M. Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Iaaza, dans une cellule individuelle à la prison marocaine d’Ait Meloul, selon une déclaration publié sur son site internet :

Le prisonniers politique sahraoui, Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Iaaza a été torturé et maltraité par l’administration pénitentiaire de la prison marocaine, Ait Meloul, en raison "de ses opinions politiques en faveur l’autodétermination du peuple sahraoui", a estimé Front Line.

"M. Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Iaaza, qui souffre de rhumatismes, d’asthme, d’anémie et d’autres maladies pour lesquelles il a passé trois mois à l’hôpital lors de son arrestation à la prison marocaine d’Inzegan, a été interdit de visite le 4 avril 2009, de la part de sa femme et son père par les autorisés marocaines, leur exigeant une autorisation du Directorat général des prisons marocaines à Rabat", a regretté Front Line.

Front Line avait lancé le 4 mars 2008 un appel dénonçant l’arrestation arbitraire de Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Aaza sous les mains des agents de sécurité marocaine, réclamant sa libération immédiate et inconditionnelle.

Elle également condamné l’agression survenue le 3 avril 2009 contre Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Iaaza et neuf autres de ses compatriotes dans la prison d’Inzigan, avant d’être par la suite transférés vers la prison d’ Ait Meloul, où Yahya a été placé dans une cellule individuelle (cachot) sans couverture ni vêtement et sans suffisamment d’eau et de sucre, dont il a besoin.

Yahya Mohamed el Hafed Iaaza a été arrêté le 29 février 2008 alors qu’il travaillait dans son magasin à Tan-Tan, au sud du Maroc. Il semble que son arrestation soit liée à des manifestations pacifiques en faveur de l’autodétermination et l’indépendance du peuple du Sahara Occidental, qui avaient eu lieu deux jours plus tôt à Tan-Tan. En septembre 2008, il a été condamné à 15 ans de prison lors d’un procès inéquitable, rappelle-t-on.