The Collective of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) issued a statement on Monday, November 8, condemning the human rights violations and war crimes committed by the occupying Moroccan forces in Western Sahara. CODESA also demanded immediate international humanitarian intervention to save Saharawi lives and property.
The statement, issued on the eve of the first anniversary of resumption of war between Polisario Front and the occupying Moroccan forces, alleges that both the United Nations Mission for the Organization of Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the International Committee of the Red Cross have failed to do their work in the region and conduct fair and timely investigations into Moroccan war crimes and violations of international human rights.
On November 13 last year, the Moroccan forces fired on a peaceful demonstration in the Guerguerat buffer zone in the occupation territories, injuring members of civil society groups protesting against the continued colonization of their lands and atrocities committed by the Moroccan forces.
Following this, the Polisario front declared the resumption of war against the occupation and the end of the ceasefire agreement signed in 1991 under UN monitoring, citing the failure of the UN to intervene against Moroccan atrocities and violations of the agreement.
The CODESA report lists some of the major human rights violations committed by Morocco since the resumption of the war, which has led to the killing and illegal arrest of several civilians and activists.
According to the statement, in one such latest example, Morocco carried out an airstrike on the Aklebat El Fula region on November 5, in which at least two civilians were killed. Moroccan forces have also been accused on several occasions of targeting Saharawis traveling by road with missiles.
Incomplete decolonization of Saharawi people
Citing the international laws of occupation and relevant human rights conventions, CODESA demands that the UN and Red Cross take “the legal and humanitarian responsibility in protecting the Sahrawi civilians and their properties,” especially since “the legal status of Western Sahara as a case of decolonization that has not yet been completed.”
Morocco often alleges an external role, calling the Saharawi movement an Algerian ploy to bring instability in what it claims to be its territory, despite the fact that the international community does not recognize its claims over Western Sahara.
According to the UN, Western Sahara is a “non-self governing territory” pending a final resolution, the last such territory on the UN list. It was a Spanish colony until 1975. After Spain withdrew its colonial control, Morocco occupied the territory and extended its sovereignty. The Polisario Front led resistance against the Moroccan occupation. The war killed hundreds of people and invited international intervention.
A ceasefire agreement was signed in 1991 with UN mediation and an interim arrangement was reached. According to the agreement status quo would be maintained, with the Polisario Front administering around 20% of Western Sahara as the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. The final resolution is pending as the UN mission (MINURSO) has failed to conduct the referendum in the territory, as per UNSC resolution 690, due to Moroccan objections.