Subject: Statement on Western Sahara
Statement on Western Sahara
Special Political and Decolonization Committee
by: International Platform of Jurists for East Timor
Stichting Zelfbeschikking West-Sahara
Petitioner: Pedro Pinto Leite
Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,
I wish to thank you for the opportunity to speak before this Committee
on behalf of the International Platform of Jurists for East Timor; an
NGO made up of 650 law professors, judges, attorneys and other jurists
from more than 80 countries. I also would like to speak on behalf of the
Stichting Zelfbeschikking West-Sahara; an association established under
Dutch law for the defense of the right to self-determination of the
people of Western Sahara.
The Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism is
coming to an end, and the question of Western Sahara is yet not solved.
Morocco continues to defy Security Council and General Assembly
Resolutions and goes on violating international law with total impunity.
As we all know, international law is very clear on this matter. The
obligation not to obstruct the right of a colonized people to
self-determination has the status of jus cogens, a peremptory
norm of international law. Prohibition of the use of aggressive armed
force is also a norm of jus cogens. As it is a norm of jus
cogens the obligation of states to refrain from torture and other
cruel treatment. Morocco violated all these norms and that was
unanimously concluded by the writers of this book: "International Law
and the Question of Western Sahara" that was published some months ago.
Professors Roger Clark of USA, Lauri Hannikainen from Finland, Marcel
Brus, from the Netherlands, Pal Wrange from Sweden, Jaume-Saura-Estapa
from Spain and Christine Chinkin from the United Kingdom are authors
from different countries and have different backgrounds, but they have
two things in common: they are all respected scholars and they all
conclude that the occupation of Western Sahara and the exploitation of
its natural resources are unlawful, and that a free and fair referendum
in Western Sahara according to the original UN/OAU Peace Plan is the
only legal and real solution for the problem.
Morocco, under Hassan II, has obliged itself to accept the referendum,
first by subscribing to the Peace Plan, later by signing the Houston
agreements. Morocco of Mohammed VI refuses it now and that constitutes
one more violation of international law, the violation of the rule
pacta sunt servanda. Morocco's bad faith is shown by a blatant
contradiction: a referendum of self-determination, according to Rabat,
would not be possible due to the difficulties in ascertaining the
voters. However, in the case of a referendum on autonomy as the only
option, there are no difficulties at all?
The Moroccan regime tries to depict the Saharawi struggle for
self-determination as something illegal and even sometimes calling it
terrorism. This ridiculous accusation is at odds with the fact that the
past armed resistance to Moroccan aggression was lawful self-defense. In
addition, the Saharawis have scrupulously adhered to the cease-fire
adopted in 1991, even if that cease-fire was part of the plan that
included the referendum that never took place.
Some of the petitioners in favor of the Moroccan position have proposed
yesterday the establishment of ad hoc tribunals to address crimes
committed. Let us begin with an inquiry into the crimes committed in
occupied territory. In this respect I would like to remind this
committee that Morocco and some of its supporters within the Security
Council are against the publication of the 2006 Report of the High
Commission for Human Rights, which of course is devastating for
Morocco's position and role in the conflict. The report makes a clear
link between the denial of the right to self-determination and the
ensuing human rights violations in the territory. The Moroccan
suggestion to establish an ad hoc tribunal is clearly a bluff given
their obstruction to the publication of this report and the extension of
MINURSO's mandate to observe human rights violations.
I just came back from a conference on Western Sahara that took place in
Seville in Spain organized by the municipality of that town. The
conference closed with a strong statement from which I would like to
mention two important points. The first, it denounced the complicity of
the government of Spain with Morocco in maintaining the occupation of
Western Sahara and the exploitation of its natural resources, and the
second was calling for the recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic
Indeed, Mr. Chairman, the UN continues to rightfully consider Spain as
the de jure Administering Power of Western Sahara, even though
Spain has tried to transfer its responsibilities by illegally giving
control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania through their
infamous tripartite agreement of 1975. Now, for Spain to effectively
give up its position of being the Administering Power in a completely
legal way, it has to recognize the Saharawi Republic.
I started this petition by reminding that the Second International
Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was coming to an end. If this
Committee, or other UN organs, would endorse the absurd statement of the
former Special Representative, Mr. Van Walsum, that international law
was at the side of the Saharawis, but "political realities" (read
realpolitik) should prevail, what would be the significance of the
Second Decade, what would be the significance of this Committee? I
cannot imagine that such will happen.
Ambassador Frank Ruddy, the former Deputy Chairman of MINURSO, wrote the
following in the preface of our book: "After the September 11 terrorist
attacks in New York, people all over the world said: 'We are all New
Yorkers now'. Ideally, as people learn more about the Saharawi cause (?)
we might someday hear: 'We are all Saharawis now'"
The wall of silence around this illegal occupation starts to brake and
the wall of shame that divides the Saharawi people will certainly
follow. As in the cases of Eritrea, Namibia, South Africa and East
Timor, international law will inevitably win from realpolitik.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
IPJET- International Platform of Jurists for East Timor
Secretariat: Gruttohoek 13
2317 WK Leiden
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