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Sahara : Amnesty urges the UN to add a human rights component to MINURSO’s mandate.

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In a new report on the Western Sahara issue, Amnesty International called the UN Security Council «to strengthen the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by adding a human rights component to its mandate».

«Independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained human rights monitoring must be a central element of the UN’s future presence in Western Sahara and Sahrawi refugee camps», the international NGO wrote in a report published on October 22.

Recalling that MINURSO is one of the only modern United Nations peacekeeping missions without a human rights mandate, the NGO stressed that «human rights violations and abuses have been committed by both sides - the Moroccan authorities and pro-independence movement the Polisario Front - in the more than 40-year dispute over the territory».

«Restrictions on access for independent human rights organizations and journalists remained in place which have curtailed monitoring of human rights abuses in Western Sahara and the refugee camps in Tindouf in Algeria», Amnesty added.

The NGO cites no less than eight violations that would have affected activists, including the detention, on July 1, 2020, of Algargagrat Media's founder Essabi Yahdih and the ban on the activities of the «Sahrawi Authority against the occupation Moroccan» headed by Aminatou Haidar.  

The NGO also referred to the «opaque situation in the Tindouf camps administrated by the Polisario Front». «On 8 August, police in the Polisario camps in Tindouf held citizen-journalist Mahmoud Zeidan for 24 hours, interrogating him about posts he published online where he criticized the way authorities handled COVID-19 aid distribution», it wrote.

This reports comes, as the UN Security Council is expected to vote, in the coming days, a new resolution for the renewal of the MINURSO's mandate.

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