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On W. Sahara France Says Not Privy to US - Morocco Talks, Ban's Resource Disregard

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 22, updated with letter -- With Western Sahara the UN Security Council's topic on Monday morning, French Permanent Representative Gerard Araud stopped to tell the media that the pending resolution is entirely “bilateral” between Morocco and the United States. He said he not “privy” to the negotiations.

  Moments later, the Frente POLISARIO's representative scoffed to Inner City Press that France is, of course, involved “behind the scenes.”

  POLISARIO has turned in a letter to April's Security Council president, stating among other things that “we strongly believe that a human rights monitoring capacity within MINURSO is the most appropriate mechanism.” See below.

  The POLISARIO letter also touches on the exploitation of natural resources, a topic Inner City Press has been asking the UN about, specifically about the seeming disregard or modification of the 2002 legal opinion of then Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs Hans Corell by the UN Global Compact and other UN entities.

  The letter says the Frente POLISARIO “remains concerned” by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report's “disregard” for the ongoing illegal exploitation of resources.” We'll have more on this. Watch this site.

Update: here is the POLISARIO letter:

H.E. Eugène-Richard Gasana
President of the United Nations Security Council
New York
New York, 19 April 2013
Mr. President,
On behalf of the Frente POLISARIO, I have the honour to share with the Members of the Security Council the views of the Frente POLISARIO on the most recent Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara (UN Doc. S/2013/220).
In its Resolution 2044 (2012), the Security Council recognized that “the consolidation of the status quo is not acceptable” and further noted that “progress in the negotiations is essential in order to improve the quality of life of the people in Western Sahara in all its aspects.” As the Secretary-General confirms in his report, the negotiation process is at a crossroads.  The ongoing delays have a direct and negative impact on the people of Western Sahara, who have waited patiently in extraordinarily difficult circumstances for the fulfillment of their right to self-determination.  This cannot continue.  It is essential that the Security Council now take decisive steps to reinvigorate and accelerate the negotiation process so that this longstanding conflict can be resolved.
While acknowledging the efforts of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy to engage in a period of shuttle diplomacy with a view to enriching the negotiating process, this approach cannot, in the medium term, serve as a substitute for direct talks between the parties.  The Frente POLISARIO stands ready to engage immediately in direct talks, and urges the Council to mandate an intensified, time-bound process under the auspices of Ambassador Ross.  In this context, the Frente POLISARIO is prepared to support all innovative and creative approaches towards finding “a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,” as endorsed by all previous Security Council resolutions.  We take this opportunity to remind the Council that Western Sahara is a Non-Self-Governing Territory under Chapter XI of the UN Charter, awaiting a process of decolonization in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1541.
For several years, the Frente POLISARIO has drawn to the attention of the Council the widespread and systematic human rights abuses perpetrated by the Kingdom of Morocco against Saharawi civilians in that part of the Territory of Western Sahara occupied by Morocco.  In February 2013, the Kingdom’s disregard for human rights was put on public display at the Gdeim Izyk trials, when 25 Saharawi civilians were tried in a military court, with nine receiving life-sentences without recourse to appeal.  These trials drew condemnation from international human rights organizations, while the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated “that the use of military or special courts to try civilians raises serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned.”
As the Secretary-General noted in his report, the Special Rapporteur for Torture, Mr. Juan Mendez, visited El Aaiun in September 2012 for two days.  In his subsequent report to the Human Rights Council in March 2013, Mr. Mendez noted that there was “a pattern of excessive force during demonstrations” while stressing the existence of “torture and ill-treatment by police officers against alleged or known supporters of the independence of Western Sahara both inside and outside detention centers.”
This conclusion is consistent with that of OHCHR itself, which as far back as 2006, noted in a report that almost all human rights violations in Western Sahara stem from the non-implementation of the Saharawi people’s fundamental right to self-determination. We enclose a copy of that report’s recommendations to remind the Council’s members of this fundamental truth. The free exercise of the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of movement and freedom of assembly are necessary preconditions to a just and lasting solution that allows for the self-determination that reflects fully the political will of the people of Western Sahara.
The Frente POLISARIO has argued consistently that reliance on the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council cannot be considered a substitute for the introduction of a robust and credible mechanism for human rights monitoring inside the Territory and the refugee camps.  We therefore welcome the Secretary-General’s affirmation in his report, of “the need for independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps.”  It remains the view of the Frente POLISARIO that a human rights monitoring mechanism for Western Sahara must be permanent, independent and impartial.  With this in mind, and as was recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in its contribution to the Secretary-General’s report in 2011, we strongly believe that a human rights monitoring capacity within MINURSO is the most appropriate mechanism to achieve these aims.  We reconfirm here that the POLISARIO would provide free and unfettered access for such a capacity in the Tindouf refugee camps.
The Frente POLISARIO also remains concerned by the relative disregard in the Secretary-General’s report to the ongoing illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources.  As confirmed by the International Court of Justice, there are no sovereign ties between Morocco and Western Sahara, and the Saharawi people do not consent to any activities conducted by Morocco and cooperating foreign entities with respect to the natural resources of Western Sahara, the spoils of which go towards sustaining an illegal occupation.  These activities constitute a direct violation of international law and a apparent disregard to the UN Legal department opinion of January 2002.
Finally, the Frente POLISARIO wishes to reaffirm its commitment to peace and stability across the Maghreb region, and to combating the scourge of terrorism. A peaceful solution to the conflict in Western Sahara would make an important contribution to ensuring greater cooperation, stability and prosperity in the region.
In conclusion, I wish to confirm the availability of the Frente POLISARIO to address the Security Council during its upcoming consultations.
I would be most grateful, Mr. President, if you would bring this letter to the urgent attention of the Members of the Council.
Please accept, Mr. President, your Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.
Ahmed Boukhari
Representative of the Frente POLISARIO

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