UN mission hails planned release of 100 Moroccan POWs in Western Sahara

13 February 2004

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara today hailed the decision by the Frente POLISARIO to release 100 Moroccan prisoners-of-war.

While welcoming the announcement, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) called for the remaining prisoners-of-war held by Frente POLISARIO to be released early in compliance with international humanitarian law, according to a UN spokesman in New York.

MINURSO also asked the parties - the Frente POLISARIO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro) and the Moroccan Government - to cooperate with its efforts to find those people unaccounted for since the start of the conflict in the territory.

MINURSO has been in place since April 1991 after Morocco and POLISARIO agreed to a ceasefire in their long-running dispute over the status of Western Sahara.

A peace plan calling for a referendum within five years on Western Sahara's permanent future status has been proposed by James Baker, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy on the issue. The plan has been accepted by Frente POLISARIO and is currently being considered by Morocco.