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Secretary-General voices concern about human rights in Western Sahara

Secretary-General voices concern about human rights in Western Sahara

Family members of Sahrawi refugees in Algeria board flight in Western Sahara to visit their kinfolk (file photo)
Human Rights

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern today about alleged violations of human rights in the Western Sahara conflict and vowed to continue to promote the rights of Sahrawis after meeting with the head of the Frente Polisario, one of the parties to the dispute.

Mr. Ban held discussions with Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, in New York and thanked the group for its active participation in the most recent round of informal UN-backed talks aimed at ending the conflict.

Fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of Western Sahara ended in 1976. Morocco has presented a plan for autonomy while the position of the Frente Polisario is that the territory’s final status should be decided in a referendum on self-determination that includes independence as an option.

The UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (known as MINURSO) is tasked with monitoring the ceasefire reached in September 1991 and organizing a referendum on self-determination.

Earlier this month, in his latest report on the work of MINURSO, the Secretary-General recommended that its mandate be extended through the end of April next year as he stressed that the mission plays an indispensable role in maintaining the ceasefire in the conflict.

Mr. Ban reassured Mr. Abdelaziz today of “the UN’s commitment to maintaining an active and balanced engagement in the search for a solution to the Western Sahara conflict that provides for the self-determination for the people of Western Sahara,” according to information released by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.

“The Secretary-General stated that he remains very concerned about alleged violations of human rights. He said that his Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, and the Secretariat will continue to work to promote the human rights of Sahrawis.”

Mr. Ban also commended the “positive engagement” of the Frente Polisario with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regarding the inauguration of family visits by road and said he looked forward to the resumption of family visits by air.”

The family visits have been established for Sahrawis who have become separated from relatives for years or even decades because of the conflict.