Subject: Western Sahara and ET at Nobel Ceremonies

December 16, 2001 Sunday

Western Sahara; Sahara Weekly News Update

\Western Sahara Referendum Support Association

10-11.12.01: Nobel Prize

In the events surrounding the award of the Nobel Prizes in Oslo, the question of Western Sahara was raised on several occasions. On the day of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10.12.01, earlier Peace Laureates Rigoberta Menchu and Jose Ramos-Horta addressed the traditional Peace Prize March in Oslo. Both Laureates used the opportunity to mention the case of Western Sahara as one of the main challenges to the UN's credibility. The third speaker was Jan Egeland, under- secretary-general of the UN and Annan's personal envoy & negotiator in Colombia.

In an interview in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen, the Coordinator of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, Mr. Ronny Hansen warned that if the UN abandons the referendum it could lead to renewed war in Western Sahara and would be in breach of international legality.

"Kofi Annan is playing a risky game and could spark a wider, regional conflict", he said. "Kofi Annan grew up in the the first African country to be decolonised. He is now on the verge of impeding the decolonisation of the last colony on the African continent. [...] The original Settlement Plan is still in force and it is depressing that Mr. Annan and the UN haven't shown enough will and steadfastness to honour their own promises and commitments".

Rigoberta Menchu (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1992, Guatemala) and Jose Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace Prize laureate 1996 and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, East Timor) participated in a panel together with Pedro Pinto Leite, of The International Association of Jurists for Western Sahara, at a joint press conference under the heading "The UN's credibility at stake in Western Sahara". (11.12.01)

The speakers expressed concern for the UN's unfulfilled promise to decolonise Western Sahara. Rigoberta Menchu said "it's time to break the wall of silence and complicity surrounding Western Sahara and put and end to the illegal and brutal Moroccan occupation." Ramos-Horta highlighted his admiration for the courage, steadfastness and dedication shown by the Saharawi people in their struggle for a free homeland.

Ramos-Horta has visited the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria twice, in 1997 and in 2001. He said: "The Morocccan occupation has caused enormous suffering, exile and loss of life for both the Saharawi and Moroccan peoples, and scarce resources have been squandered through war and occupation." He called on the Moroccan king to show flexibility and statesmanship and do what's right: allow international legality to take its course through a free, fair and transparent referendum. Pedro Pinto Leite spoke on "Western Sahara: The legal imperative of self- determination and lessons learnt from East Timor" . He said: "If the UN decides to follow the path of the "Framework Agreement", violating thus the principle of non-discrimination and its own norms on self-determination, it will [...] lose credibility and weaken its ability to solve other conflicts through peaceful means."

In attendance were several MPs, national and international press and specially invited NGO representatives. The conference was organized jointly by Norwegian MP Marit Nybakk, The Norwegian Humanist Association and The Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara. Six former Nobel Peace Prize Laureates signed an appeal to the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Kofi Annan and the President of the UN Security Council entitled "Western Sahara referendum is the only path to peace". The appeal states that " The credibility of the United Nations is at stake in Western Sahara.", and that: "An abandonment of the referendum plan in Western Sahara would constitute a betrayal of the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self- determination." In the statement, the laureates refer to the contracts between Morocco and companies TotalFinaElf and Kerr McGee for oil exploration in occupied Western Sahara as "illegal" and call on the UN to intervene. If not, the UN "could be interpreted as legitimizing Morocco's occupation of the territory". The Laureates urged the UN to "defend the integrity of the United Nations by continuing to strive for the strict implementation of the referendum". They also voiced concern for serious human rights abuses in occupied Western Sahara and shortages of food and other necessary supplies in the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria.

The appeal was signed by: Jose Ramos- Horta (1996, East Timor) , Rigoberta Menchu Tum (1992, Guatemala), Oscar Arias Sanchez, (1987 Costa Rica), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980, Argentina), Mairead Maguire (1976, Northern Ireland) and Cora Weiss for the International Peace Bureau (1910).

Pierre Galand, in the name of the Belgian Committee of support for the Saharawi people and of the European Coordination of support for the Saharawi people, sent a message along the same lines to Kofi Annan.

The International Committee of the Socialist Peoples Party of Denmark sent letters to the Danish UN-Association (FN-forbundet) and to The UN-Information Office for the Nordic Countries, asking the UN to bring about the referendum in Western Sahara and to renounce any other solution which does not respect the right to self-determination.

The Western Sahara Campaign UK also sent a letter to Kofi Annan saying that the award of the Nobel Peace Prize should strengthen the moral authority of the UN to champion just causes such as the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination.

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