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Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission 3/23 Room 1334

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission 3/23 Room 1334

25 March 2016

WEDNESDAY, 23 MARCH 2016
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission 3/23 Room 1334

Following the recent tension between Morocco and the UN. The Tom
lantos human rights commission held a congressional hearing on Western
Sahara. The House committee hearing on human rights in Western Sahara
featured (Kerry Kennedy, Erik Hagen, Eric Goldstein (HRW Director for
Middle East & North Africa) and former Special Rep to the UN
Secretary-General for Western Sahara, Francesco Bastagli. The
panelists expressed there worrisome toward the human right violations
committed against Sahrawi human right activists, and the illegal
exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources, as well as the
escalation from Morocco towards the UN mission in the occupied
territories of Western Sahara (The MINRSO).

Ms.Kerry Kennedy shared with the audience her own experience in the
occupied territories of Western sahara and said “I saw a women been
violated by two men with plainclothes who were later identified as
state agent”. She also went on explaining Aminatu Haidar’s struggle
and the violations that the Sahrawi human rights activist has suffered
from, from imprisoning to Aminatu’s hunger-strike when she refused to
return to her home-country Western Sahara as a Moroccan. Aminatu has
long been calling for the Sahrawi people to gain their right of
self-determination with peaceful means, though, she was violently
treated by Moroccan authorites. Kerry also shed on Haidala’s case
adding that “he was stabbed in the neck by Morocco’s authorities, and
died because he was denied treatment in several hospitals”. Kerry
Kennedy repeatedly emphasized on the importance of human rights
monitoring to be included in the UN mission to Western Sahara.

Mr. Eric Goldstein who has written his analytical dispatch on Western
Sahara the; “Firestorm over the word occupation”:
https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/21/dispatches-firestorm-over-word-occupation
Where he stated that “MINURSO has no human rights monitoring mandate
because Morocco refuses it, and has allies who reliably block it when
the Security Council votes each year to renew MINURSO.” During his
testimony at the Tom Laton human rights commission, he described the
situation as “dangerous’ after the eviction of most UN staff in
Western Sahara. Mr. Goldstein explaind that the POLISARIO allows all
monitors to enter the camps while there is almost no access for human
rights observers to the occupied part of Western Sahara.

Eric Hagen (founder of the Sahrawi resource watch and director of the
Norwegian supporting committee for Western Sahara) took the floor to
highlight the necessity of watching the Sahrawi natural resource.
According to him the UN Security-Coucil has a “five page draft” that
is easy for companies to legalize their presence in a colonized
countries by just picking one of the paragraphs that justifies their
actions. He also praised the USA policy that states that its companies
should not invest in disputed territories.
Though, Eric came back to Potash Corp as it is based in the states,
saying that “its investments in Western Sahara amount to $56 million,
the double of what Sahrawi refugees get in the camps”.

Nevertheless, when Mr. Hagen was asked to elaborate on the legal
aspect on foreign companies in Western Sahara. Eric responded saying “
I am not an expert in international law”. He suggested that one of the
other speakers may talk on the subject. And the question remained
without an answer which indicates that it would have been better if a
law specialist were present.

The hearing continued with Mr. Francesco Bastagli who was a former UN
Secretary-General envoy to Western Sahara. He described the Western
Sahara as a “Unique problem”. The former UN official insisted on that
the UN Secretary-General recent statement saying that Morocco’s
presence in Western Sahara is an occupation is a “fact”. According to
him, Morocco is not new to such actions against UN staff. He brought
to the discussion Morocco’s stance against him when he was doing his
duties under the UN umbrella. Francesco called on the UN
security-council for a decision on what he desribed as a “conflict
prevention”. Mr. Bastagli added that in case no strong statement is
being issued by the UN security-council that would create “a fertile
ground for extremism in the region” .

The congressional hearing was concluded in a collective agreement on
the importance of human rights monitoring in western Sahara, and the
critical situation that the Moroccan escalation has caused when
accusing the UN Security-General of no longer being “neutral”. Calling
for the returning of the MINURSO staffers to operate in the region.
And that Morocco is trying to picture its “occupation to Western
Sahara as a key to peace while it is the reverse”. Questioning, “How
many activists will be jailed before the international community says
enough ?”

By Habibulah Mohamed Lamin.

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