UN addresses Western Sahara conflict as decolonization issue

New York (United Nations), 11 October 2020 (SPS) - UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Western Sahara issue is still on the table of the General Assembly as a decolonization issue.

In his latest report on the implementation of the Declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples, Guterres said the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee), "examines the situation in Western Sahara in the context of issues relating to Non-Self-Governing Territories and decolonization."

While this conflict is being addressed by the Security Council as an issue of peace and security, Guterres said the UN executive body expressed wish, "in successive resolutions," to "a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution that allows self-determination for the people of Western Sahara."

Guterres, in this document transmitted to the UN General Assembly, mentions the opening by African countries of consulates in occupied Laayoune and Dakhla as well as the annexation of the territorial waters of Western Sahara, which the Polisario Front described as "violations of international law and infringement of the legal status of Western Sahara as a non-autonomous territory."

The UN chief pointed out Morocco's ongoing investments west of the sand wall, citing the project of the new port near Dakhla, aimed at "normalizing" the military occupation and illegal annexation of parts of Western Sahara.

The UN secretary general also mentioned, in this report, the concerns of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) which "continues to be concerned about Moroccan authorities' ongoing broad restrictions imposed on the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Western Sahara."

"During the reporting period, the OHCHR received reports of harassment, arbitrary arrests and convictions of journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders," he said.

In a recent report on the situation in Western Sahara, submitted to the Security Council on September 23, the UN chief stressed OHCHR’s lack of access to the occupied Saharawi territories, which "hinders," according to him, human rights monitoring in the last colony of Africa.

He said he had received "several reports on torture, ill-treatment and medical neglect in Moroccan prisons. (SPS)