Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara
Following the creation in November 2016, by a group of states, of the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, the Saharawi human rights defenders present at the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council (September 2017) requested that a similar group of NGOs be formed.
Gathered around a table, a handful of Saharawi and Western human rights defenders created the Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara, which today counts nearly 250 member organizations.
The request was motivated by the manifest inaction of the international community in the face of a situation of illegal military occupation, since 1975, of a large part of a territory that the UN General Assembly has recognised as a Non-Self-Governing Territory since 1963.
This classification implies an international legal status of the Territory which must be considered as separate and distinct from that of any State, a status which exists as long as the people of the colony or Non-Self-Governing Territory have exercise their right of self-determination in accordance with the Charter and, and particularly, its purposes and principles.
The classification of Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory also implies that the « Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples », adopted by the General Assembly in December 1960 (resolution 1514-XV), applies to that Territory and that according to the text of the Declaration: all armed action and repressive measures of all kind direct against dependent peoples shall cease in order to enable these peoples to exercise peacefully and freely their right to complete independence, and the integrity of their national territory shall be respected.
It is in this spirit that the UN Security Council created, under Chapter VI of the Charter, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO): the only peace operation whose main mandate is to enforce a fundamental peoples’ right, enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter and of the two main Covenants.
Despite this, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Occupying Power, refuses to include in MINURSO’s mandate a component dedicated, more broadly, to the protection and promotion of human rights. It is to be regretted that France, a permanent member of the Security Council enjoying the right of veto, which claims to defend human rights throughout the world, continues to support the position of the Occupying Power.
The invasion of Western Sahara (immediately condemned by the Security Council and subsequently by the General Assembly) and the prolonged military occupation by the Kingdom of Morocco has been, and continues to be, the cause of serious systematic violations of the fundamental rights of the Saharawi people and serious breaches of the norms of International Humanitarian Law, including the transfer of the Moroccan civilian population to the occupied territory, torture and enforced disappearances (more than 400 cases have yet to be clarified).
While Security Council Resolution 690 (April 1991) provided for the organisation of the referendum on self-determination during the following year, the Kingdom of Morocco used every conceivable means to prevent its holding. Over time, the Occupying Power integrated the occupied territory into the ordinary administrative organisation of the State, thus proceeding to an illegal annexation of the Territory.
The high military and civil security forces presence ensures the repression of any form of peaceful demonstration by the Sahrawi people demanding the exercise of their right to self-determination.
Since the dismantling of the camp of Gdeim Izik (outside the capital El Ayun) in 2010, which had gathered several thousand Sahrawis, the occupying power has closed the occupied territory to the visit of independent observers. Several hundred foreign parliamentarians, lawyers, lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders were banned from entering the territory or expelled from it. Similarly, since 2015, the Kingdom of Morocco has prohibited access to the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara for staff of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, while providing a generous annual contribution to it.
The Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara intends to sensitize the international community, including the various components of the United Nations system, to the systematic violations of the fundamental rights of the Sahrawi people, including their right to self-determination and independence, in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter and the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in this regard.