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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 771

Ms SAFFIN (12:40 PM) —I rise to talk about an issue to do with Western Sahara. What preceded this motion was violence that took place towards the end of last year. In speaking to this motion, what I want to put on the record is the general issue of Western Sahara and the Saharawi people. It is a matter that the United Nations is seized with, through the Security Council—it is that serious—and the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with decolonisation. The Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony.

I have worked alongside the people of Western Sahara and their representatives, including Kamal Fadel, their representative since the late-nineties, to give support to their right to a self-determining process as supported through and by the United Nations through Security Council resolutions.

When I was a young law student—it was quite some years ago—and I studied international law, I was first introduced to Western Sahara and studied the case that was brought before the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion. It made it clear that the Moroccan occupation was illegal. There is further legal opinion from the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs that the exploitation of oil is also illegal, and it follows that the exploitation of any natural of any natural resource would be as well.

The Kingdom of Morocco’s occupation and behaviour has been described as obstructionist regarding the referendum. The UN has been trying to carry out a referendum for years, but it has still not happened. The Saharawi agreed, through their representative body, the Polisario, that they would have a referendum. It is unacceptable and unsustainable that this behaviour by Morocco continues. It would be better if it were done in an orderly way and in step with international law and the international community through the United Nations. With Morocco being in the occupying position, they can become the peacemakers and the ones that facilitate the prompt holding of a referendum of self-determination.

What I would like to see is the immediate and unconditional release of all Saharawi political detainees and the accounting of the disappeared; the lifting of the blockade imposed on the territory to allow access to it by independent observers and media, ensuring their freedom of movement and communication with the Saharawi; respect of the basic human rights of the Saharawi people; and the immediate end of the plundering of natural resources in Western Sahara. To the United Nations I would like to say this: dispatch immediately an independent international mission to the territory to investigate the events that took place at the Izik camp and expand the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara—MINURSO—to include the protection, monitoring and reporting of human rights in Western Sahara.

I visited the camps that people are talking about some years back. There are people who have been displaced out of the country of Western Sahara and they live in camps in Algeria. I went to Tindouf and travelled out to the camps, where a whole lot of people live. They are people in exile, people who are displaced from their homeland and want to go back—and, for people who are in exile, it can be very trying. I spent four days there. The Saharawi, through the Polisario and through their government, the SADR, are a member of the African Union. The matter is seized by the United Nations. There are over 80 countries that formally recognise and have relationships with Western Sahara. It is one of those matters that we can take quite a good stand on.