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New York (United Nations) 08 October 2022 (SPS)- More than 30 petitioner intervened last Thursday before the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the United Nations General Assembly, on Western Sahara, calling for its decolonization and for the respect of the Saharawi people’s rights.
In this context, INES MIRANDA NAVARRO, Asociación Internacional de Juristas por el Sahara Occidental, said that Western Sahara is under military occupation with an apartheid regime imposed on the Territory’s population. She condemned the position of the Prime Minister of Spain supporting the Moroccan proposal to annex Western Sahara and cited United Nations resolutions reaffirming that no territorial acquisition derived from use of force is legitimate.
JOSEFA MILAN PADRON, Coordinadora Sindical Canaria de Apoyo al Pueblo Saharaui, said Spain, the administering Power, is not fulfilling its obligations under the United Nations Charter. He condemned the position of Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón, Prime Minister of Spain, who on 14 March, in a letter to Morocco, recognized unilaterally the Moroccan nature of the Territory, thus endangering the Canary Islands and placing it outside of “international illegality”.
LUIS ALBERTO CAMPOS JIMENEZ, Grupo Parlamentario Nueva Canarias, said that he belonged to a political organization which aims to fight for a better world based on the principles of international solidarity, justice, equality, peace and freedom, pointing out that for the Sahrawi people, those principles are being violated. He called for international solidarity, noting that after 47 years, Spain has not complied with its responsibilities with regard to decolonization, turned its back on the Sahrawi people and allowed the illegal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco.
VICTOR MANUEL SANTANA GONZALEZ, Asociación Canaria de Enseñantes por La Paz y la Solidaridad (ACEPS), demanded the end to the colonization and occupation of Western Sahara. Spain must play a decisive role within the framework of the United Nations in resolving that colonial conflict, which has gone on for 47 years, he said.
CONCEPCION REYES FERNANDEZ, Canarismo Y Democracia, introducing herself as a member of a delegation from the Canary Islands, said that the people of Western Sahara have put their trust into the hands of the United Nations. Failure on the part of the United Nations and the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has forced Frente POLISARIO to exert an armed defence, she said, asking why the Organization does not condemn the deployment of Moroccan armed forces in the Western Sahara as well as the looting of the Territory’s natural resources. Had the United Nations forgotten that a large part of the Territory’s population lives in subhuman conditions, she wondered.
JOSEFA ISABEL FARRAY CUEVAS, Fundacion Canaria Farrah para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Sostenible, noting that for almost five decades, the Committee has called for the decolonization of Western Sahara, said that given the lack of progress, the trust of the people of that Territory has been broken. Neither the ceasefire nor the call for referendum has been effective against Moroccan occupation, she said, adding that Morocco has been imprisoning human rights defenders and looting natural resources.
PEDRO QUEVEDO ITURBE, Nueva Canarias, noting that his organization is a political party in the Canarian archipelago, 100 kilometres from the coast of Western Sahara, expressed concern about the methods used by the occupying Power to illegally appropriate that Territory, including unilateral actions and “ongoing blackmail with migration”. He condemned Spain’s assertion that the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara is the most legitimate one, adding that it is crucial to recognize the resolutions of the United Nations as the only framework for the decolonization of that Territory.
MAHMUD ABDELFATAH CHEJ-MOHAMED, Activista Saharaui en Canarias, said Moroccan troops must withdraw from the occupied zone so that the people there can live in peace and dignity. It has almost been five decades of tragedy in the presence of MINURSO and the silence of the international community. He asked Spain to assume its historic responsibility on Western Sahara and rectify its serious mistake of taking the wrong path.
MARIA ESTHER GARCIA GONZALEZ, Liga canaria de la Educación y la Interculturalidad, said human rights violations by Moroccan occupying forces are seen every day in Western Sahara with no one, not even the United Nations, putting a stop to it. She voiced regret that the Prime Minister of Spain has defended the Moroccan nature of Western Sahara. The only stable and lasting solution is to allow the Sahrawi people to exercise the right to self-determination through a referendum, she said.
MARIA CONCEPCION MONZON NAVARRO, Consejera de Cabildo de GC por «Si Podemos», said the Government of Morocco has looted Western Sahara economically and culturally, with the complicity of those who have done nothing to ensure that international legality is respected. She urged the Committee to take action on the Canary Islands and for the self-determination of the Sahrawi people.
DUNIA ESTHER GONZALEZ VEGA, Plataforma Canaria de Mujeres por el Sáhara Tejiendo Futuro, said that the people of Canary Islands have been praying and dreaming for the Sahrawi people for many years. For 47 years, Sahrawi women have been organizing in the refugee camps in the desert to create schools and other social structures. Their husbands have been fired and imprisoned and tortured, she said, yet they still go on hunger strikes so that the occupied Sahara will be free one day. Many of them live under house arrest but they still raise the Sahrawi flag every day, she said, paying tribute to their resistance.
NIEVES MARIA GARCIA LORENZO, Ateneo Cultural Juan García El Corredera, said that natural resources of Western Sahara are the heritage of the colonized peoples of that Territory. Western Sahara has a solid foundation for its future because of its wealth, she said, adding that Morocco has blocked the referendum and has undermined the future of the Sahrawi people by plundering their resources. Expressing concern about Morocco’s exploitation of raw phosphate rock as well as the fish stocks of Western Sahara, he said that Morocco has changed the demographic composition of the Territory by settling Moroccan fisheries workers on Western Sahara’s coast.
VICTOR MANUEL LUBILLO MONTENEGRO, Instituto Canario de Peritos Judiciales, said that Morocco’s “wall of shame” is a crime against humanity. Morocco began building this wall in 1980, he said, noting that it is composed of sand, stone and landmines. It is three metres high and about 2,000 kilometres long, separating the occupied areas of Western Sahara from the territories liberated by Frente POLISARIO, he explained. Thus, it is a containment barrier that enables Morocco to appropriate resource-rich areas while separating Sahrawi families and undermining their livelihoods, he said.
SERGIO AGUSTIN SUAREZ MORENO, Juntos Por Guía, noting that the political party he belongs to in the Canary Islands fights for justice, said that every day for more than 47 years the complicit silence of Spain and the international community has made possible Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara. He urged the Committee to adopt effective measures, so that the Sahrawi people can freely decide their future.
LETICIA MARIA HERNÁNDEZ GONZÁLEZ, Asociación Canaria de Solidaridad con el Pueblo Saharaui, noting the historic relations between the Canary Islands and Western Sahara and the strong ties between their peoples, said the conflict in Western Sahara has caused much suffering and condemned many generations of Sahrawis to live in intolerable conditions. It is impossible to continue prolonging the agony of innocent people, she stressed, pointing out that the Moroccan occupied forces with total impunity prevent international human rights organizations’ access to the territory.
PINO ESTHER ORTEGA ROMERO, CCOO Canarias, rejected the new position of the Government of Spain, which constitutes a betrayal of the Sahrawi people and contravenes United Nations resolutions on Western Sahara. “This unexpected due turn in the position of the Spanish Government gives carte blanche to the Kingdom of Morocco to continue to exert all kinds of violence against the Sahrawi people and takes us further and further away from a just solution for the Sahrawi people.” International law does not recognize any Moroccan sovereignty or jurisdiction over the territory of Western Sahara, nor does it consider Morocco as an administering Power, she said.
MARINA PEREZ SANCHEZ, Asociación Siembra Canaria, noting that she is a retired teacher who is accustomed to welcoming the children of Western Sahara during the summer, expressed concern that Spain has abandoned the Sahrawi people to their own fate while the decolonization process remains incomplete. The people in the Tindouf camps depend exclusively on humanitarian aid, she said, noting that boys and girls in those camps have nothing but an empty sky. Highlighting Sahrawi women’s resistance, she said that humanitarian action must be accompanied by political action.
SIMPLICIO DEL ROSARIO GARCIA, Asociación Canaria de Juristas por la Paz y los Derechos Humanos, said that Morocco’s judicial system is using illegal trials and imprisonment as a weapon against the Sahrawi people. Journalists and activists are being targeted while Moroccan occupation forces prevent observers from accessing occupied territories, he said. Frente POLISARIO is a nationalist liberation movement and is recognized as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people by the United Nations and the European Union, he added.
MARIA LOURDES BENITEZ GONZALEZ, Red de Solidaridad Popular de Jinámar, describing the Madrid Accords as illegal, drew attention to the effects of 47 years of brutal repression, exile in harsh conditions and international crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since November 2020, there has been a resumption of hostilities between Frente POLISARIO and Morocco, following that country’s violation of the ceasefire, she said. Spain is failing to fulfil its responsibilities towards the Sahrawi people and has become an ally to the occupying force which it is even arming, she added.
MANUEL MARRERO MORALES, Grupo Parlamentario Si Podemos Canarias, urged the United Nations to promote a just and lasting solution to the conflict in Western Sahara through the holding of a referendum. Noting the change in the position of the Prime Minister of Spain, he condemned the betrayal of the Sahrawi people and the Canary people, who have spoken in defence of international legality.
SERGIO RAMÍREZ GALINDO, Universidad De Las Palmas De Gran Canaria (ULPGC), said that whenever conferences on Western Sahara are held at the university, messages come in from Morocco saying that any collaboration with Western Sahara will prompt the rupture of existing agreements with Moroccan universities. Underscoring the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination, he said that a referendum is the only solution that would be fair for the Sahrawi people.
MARIA DAVINIA GONZALEZ PINEDA, Mi Hijo y Yo, Psicólogas en el Hogar para las Familias con TGD, said that Spain is selling weapons to Morocco which are then used against the Sahrawi people. She condemned the Prime Minister of Spain for scorning the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. She called on the Committee to make the decolonization of Western Sahara a reality and to fulfil its mandate with justice.
FLORA MARRERO RAMOS, Coalicion Canaria, describing herself as a Canarian jurist, noted that 18 February is Sahrawi Women’s Day. Thousands of Sahrawi women have been imprisoned and tortured, she said, adding that in the last 20 years, 25 per cent of Sahrawi women have been victims of sexual exploitation and other violations by occupying forces. Morocco keeps raping Sahrawi women and girls with impunity, she said, calling for a free fair and transparent referendum.
MARIA DEL SOL FORTEA SEVILLA, Fundación Canaria de Apoyo a los Trastornos del Neurodesarrollo, said that the Sahrawi people have been living in a horrific situation for half a century. One cannot plan for the future if one cannot enjoy basic rights, she said, adding that Morocco’s ceasefire violation further distances the possibility of a dignified life for Sahrawis. Life in Tindouf has deteriorated due to the global crisis, she said, adding that cuts in aid have particularly affected people with disabilities.
LUISA TAMAYO DOMINGUEZ, Izquierda Unida Canaria, rejecting the unilateral position of the Prime Minister of Spain, said that this is contrary to that country’s historic position as well as United Nations resolutions. It validates the brutal Moroccan occupation, she stressed, adding that in the Canary Islands, there is a general feeling of solidarity for the Sahrawi people due to historic and geographical ties. Western Sahara must be able to develop its own institutions and manage its own resources, she said, adding that the international community must end Morocco’s expansionist actions.
MARIA JOSE BELDA DIAZ, Sí Podemos Canarias Cabildo de Tenerife, said that the lack of political compromise in holding a referendum has been normalized for decades, causing the forced displacement of thousands. The statement of the Prime Minister of Spain contravenes the statement of the Court of Justice of the European Union dated 10 December 2015 which recognized that Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara is invalid and not recognized by the European Union or the United Nations.
ANTONELLA ALIOTTI, Arona Si Podemos, said that for more than 40 years, Sahrawi women have been organizing and leading the resistance against colonialism in Africa. To date they have managed to sow one of the most progressive Arab societies with respect to gender equality. Spotlighting the desperation of mothers of prisoners in Moroccan prisons, she said that those who were convicted in the “judicial farce” of 2017 were convicted without material evidence and based on statements under torture. She called for strong political will, courage and decisiveness, adding that the solution to the question of Western Sahara lies within the Committee.
ALBERTO MAESTRE FUENTES, Centro De Estudios Sobre El Sahara Occidental, said that Spain, the administering Power, has failed to honour its commitment to hold a referendum for the Sahrawi people. For this reason, Africa has not closed the last chapter on decolonization, he said, calling for political will to apply the right to self-determination. He added that MINURSO must be given more powers, especially regarding the protection of human rights.
PABLO A DE LA VEGA M., Asociación Ecuatoriana de Amistad con el Pueblo Saharaui, recalled the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice regarding the absence of sovereignty links between Western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania as well as Spain’s abdication of its responsibilities as an administering Power. As a State party to international human rights covenants, it is unacceptable that Spain would sell arms to Morocco, thus worsening the condition of the occupied people, he said. Morocco must uphold its obligations as a member of the United Nations as well as African Union, he said.
ALBERTO NEGRIN REBOSO, Asociación Canaria de Amistad con el Pueblo Saharaui, condemning the ongoing violation of Sahrawi people’s rights, said they have demonstrated peacefully, calling for a cessation of the occupation and defending their identity as a people. “Sahrawi people have been divided far too long,” he said, stressing that Morocco must urgently comply with the ceasefire agreement and hold a referendum. “When are we going to resolve this conflict, when are we going to listen to these victims?” he wondered.” (SPS)