Western Sahara: UN urges release of all POWs as group of detainees is freed

3 January 2002

Reacting to the announced release of over 100 Moroccan prisoners of war (POWs), the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) today urged the sides to continue freeing long-held detainees.

In a statement issued in response to the release of 115 Moroccan POWs by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), MINURSO stressed that “the continued detention of prisoners of war is a serious humanitarian issue in view of their age, state of health and duration of captivity.”

The Mission "strongly supports the Security Council's call on the parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to release, without further delay, all those held since the start of the conflict," the statement said.

MINURSO was originally deployed in September 1991 to monitor the ceasefire and to organize and conduct a referendum which would allow the people of Western Sahara to decide the Territory's future status. On 27 November 2001, the Security Council extended the Mission's mandate until 28 February 2002 to allow Secretary-General Kofi Annan's envoy and the parties concerned to continue efforts to find a durable solution to the dispute.


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