UN Commissioner for Human Rights questioned on human rights in occupied Saharawi territories

Geneva, 5 February 2022 (SPS) - The Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to make public, at the next session of the Council, the serious violations of international humanitarian law in the occupied Saharawi territories.

"The 305 member organizations of the Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara, respectfully request you, Ms. Michelle Bachlet to publicly disclose at the 49th session of the Human Rights Council the grave violations of international humanitarian law and serious violations and abuses of international human rights that your Office has documented in occupied Western Sahara and to explain why your Office has been unable to carry out visits to the region for the sixth consecutive year," the Group said in a letter to the UN official.

Noting in the same letter that the repression of human rights defenders in the occupied Sahrawi territories has dramatically increased since the breakdown of the ceasefire by Morocco following its aggression against civilians in the region of El Gureguerat on November 13, 2020, the Geneva Group denounced the lack of reaction on the part of the OHCHR, which had said it was monitoring the situation in Western Sahara.

"During the interactive dialogue held on the occasion of the 47th session of the Human Rights Council last June, you stated that the Office is monitoring the situation in Western Sahara remotely. Indeed, the UN SG noted in his last report to the Security Council that "the OHCHR has not been able to conduct any visits to the region for the sixth consecutive year. The lack of OHCHR access to Western Sahara has continued to result in significant gaps in human rights monitoring in the territory," the group added.

For it, the silence of the OHCHR on human rights violations in Western Sahara is the most disturbing since the UN Special Rapporteur and several NGOs have seen firsthand the repressive policies of the Moroccan occupier.

Recalling that Morocco’s repressive policy has not spared any of the human rights defenders, the Geneva Group focused on the case of activist Sultana Khaya, stressing that "the latter and her family have become a symbol of the cruelty used by the Kingdom of Morocco against the Saharawis who demand the right to freely exercise their right to self-determination".

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