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On Western Sahara, UN Now Concerned of Violence, No DSG Read-out

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 6 -- Four days after Inner City Press first asked the UN about crackdowns on Western Sahara demonstrators during UN envoy Christopher Ross' visit, when it asked again on Tuesday UN spokesman Martin Nesirky replied, "what I can tell you is we are concerned about these report of violence. We would expect a prompt and thorough investigation."

Since this was not said when Inner City Press asked on Friday, and was not conveyed since then until the question was posed again, Inner City Press asked if the Tuesday afternoon meeting of Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and Moroccan Permanent Representative Loulichki might address the issue.

Nesirky said, "we don't typically give read outs of meetings with Permanent Representatives" and advised Inner City Press to "check with the Moroccan mission." Video here, from Minute 13:50.

  Again, when people long promised by the UN a referendum on independence are reportedly beaten right in front of the UN's envoy, one might expect the UN when asked to confirm or deny the beating. But as regards Western Sahara, this still has not fully happened, some say, even when asked against on November 6.

  If UN envoy Ross witnessed something, it's not longer, to the UN, a "report" of violence.

  On November 2, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesman Eduardo Del Buey

Inner City Press: in Western Sahara, Christopher Ross’s visit, there are reports of banning protests and even violence against protesters, the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, did he observe that? Do you have any statement on it? Do you think his trip was as free and fair as it should have been?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, what I have on Ambassador Ross’s trip to North Africa is that the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General began his visit to North Africa and Europe in Rabat, where he met His Majesty King Mohammed VI and a wide range of interlocutors, including senior Government officials, political party leaders and civil society representatives. On 31 October, he arrived in Western Sahara, where he has been holding similar meetings and visiting MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara] in Laayoune and at two field team sites. The Personal Envoy will be continuing his trip with visits to Algeria, Mauritania and the refugee camps near Tindouf, where he will meet with the Polisario leadership and Sahrawi personalities. At the end of his trip, he will hold consultations in Madrid and Paris. Upon his return to New York, he will report to the Secretary-General and brief the Security Council.

Inner City Press: I am looking at very detailed report that on 1 November, yesterday at 5 p.m., there was a crackdown, a beating of protesters right in front of him. And I am wondering, it’s not in the readout, is there some way we can find out if it is true?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on that. We’ll try and find out.

  But more than 48 hours later, there was nothing. And after that there were reports of more beatings, in Smara, injuring the following people: Said Hayan, Fadala Banahi, Jawda Al-Ouali, Ali Belkhair, Al-Ouali Banahi Dahi, Said Mohamed Hmadnah, Hjeiba Banahi and Bouha Tagaiwa.

  These are detailed reports one would expect the UN to confirm or deny. Is the expression of "concern," then refusal to read-out, a confirmation? Will Ross himself have to speak? Watch this site.

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