Western Sahara issue gains visibility in France in 2017, despite media blackout

Paris (France) Dec 27, 2017 (SPS) - The year 2017 was special in France as Western Sahara Issue has gained visibility in spite of France's position in favour of Morocco and French media blackout on the Saharawi people's legitimate struggle.

Morocco's colonization of Western Sahara, human rights abuses in the occupied Saharawi territories for more than 40 years and the trial of Saharawi activists took centre stage in France with the holding, in Vitry-sur-Seine (Paris' south) last October, of the 42nd session of EUCOCO (the European Conference for Coordination of Support to Western Sahara People) and a Parliamentary meeting, at intervals of one day, at the French National Assembly.

The two major events took place in France, a key supporter of the Kingdom of Morocco which illegally occupies Western Sahara, a territory considered "non-autonomous" by the United Nations and, thus, eligible to self-determination.

The 42nd session of EUCOCO laid the foundation stone of a new, "more offensive" and more promising strategy for the extension of solidarity with the Saharawi people, especially in Europe.

The Task Force is due to federate all promising actions towards the countries, institutions, MPs and groups which attach little importance to the issue of Western Sahara.

The participants, activists, academics, elected officials, former officials and lawyers, stressed the deadlock at the United Nations Security Council, because of France's veto, whenever there is a resolution against Morocco.


France criticized for its double standard policy


The decolonisation of Western Sahara and Europe's role in the settlement of the conflict were discussed at a Parliamentary meeting, in the French National Assembly, on October 20, the second after that held in April 2016.

At the initiative of MP Jean-Paul Lecoq, fervent defender of the Saharawi cause, the meeting brought together many Eurodeputies (MEPs) from Spain, Italy and Sweden, in addition to Saharawi officials, Algerian MPs and representatives of different organizations.

Jean-Paul Lecoq said that he had proposed to the Committee on Foreign Affairs at the French National Assembly to put Western Sahara issue on its agenda, with the participation of Horst Koehler, the special envoy of the UN secretary general for Western Sahara.

Deploring the attitude of French media which "do not cover the sessions devoted to Western Sahara conflict, Lecoq said he is undertaking a struggle on a daily basis in France, a country that "contributes to the deadlock with its support to Morocco," he said.

But France is not only the governors, but also MPs and the members of the associative movement who contributes in making things progress for the implementation of the international law in Western Sahara, he added, criticising France's double standards policy in dealing with this issue.

In contrast with the official position, the associative movement in France have spared no efforts in 2017 to proclaim loud and clear, through meetings, rallies, and news conferences, the human rights violations against Western Sahara people, including the trial in Rabat of Saharawi political prisoners, given heavy sentences.

In this respect, the University Paris-Sorbonne held in October, for the second time in a row, a conference on the role of major Western nations in the settlement of the Saharawi conflict and the protection of human rights in the territory.


"Alarming" conditions of detention for Saharawi prisoners


At the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, a seminar was held early 2017 about "Saharawi prisoners in Morocco: the role and resolutions of the PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe)," calling this institution to take notice of Morocco's violations of the human rights of Saharawi people.

Morocco willingly signs the international conventions (against torture, against arbitrary detention, etc.), but rarely or never implements them.

In this respect, a lawyers' international collective, last November, called on French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to take action over the "alarming" conditions of detention of the Saharawi political prisoners.

French, Belgian, Spanish, Italian and German lawyers said the health state of several Saharawi political prisoners jailed in Morocco is very worrying, as they do not receive the medical treatment adapted to their diseases.

They asked the French Prime Minister to mention, during his visit to Morocco, human rights situation in that country, and its close relationship with any diplomatic and economic cooperation.

They also asked him to stress, in Rabat, the "urgent need to grant Saharawi political prisoners a dignified and respectful treatment, protect them from any kind of torture and inhumane treatment and allow them to get access to medical care."SPS