Antonio Guterres highlights the monitoring of human rights in Western Sahara

In his draft report on Western Sahara, submitted April the 2nd to the Security Council’s members, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the monitoring of human rights in the Sahara. The report made mention of Morocco’s «restrictions» that hinder the MINURSO’s mission.

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MINURSO helicopter in the Sahara./ Ph. MINURSO

«Independent impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situation is necessary to ensure the protection of all people in Western Sahara», wrote the UN Secretary-General in his draft report on the Western Sahara issue and the MINURSO.

The document, Yabiladi was able to take a look at, reports that «OHCHR is concerned by the continued pattern of restrictions to the rights of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Western Sahara». «During the reporting period,1 OHCHR continued to receive reports of harassment, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of equipment and excessive surveillance of journalists, bloggers and human rights defenders covering human rights violations in the territory», Antonio Guterres said in his draft report.

Furthermore, the Portuguese diplomat recalled in his report that «access to Western Sahara remained limited for some people», making mention of «15 persons (who) were expelled from or denied access to the territory of Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities during the period under review, including human rights defenders, researchers, lawyers and representatives of international non-governmental organizations».

«I urge the parties to respect and promote human rights, including in addressing outstanding human rights issues and enhancing cooperation with OHCHR and the United Nations human rights mechanisms, and to facilitate their follow-up missions», Antonio Guterres stressed.

MINURSO’s activities hindered by some Moroccan restrictions

By the same token, the UN Secretary-General noted that «torture and ill-treatment of Sahrawi prisoners in Morocco continued to be reported». «OHCHR received several communications from lawyers and/or family members of the Gdeim Izik group of prisoners alleging that several members of the group were subjected to torture, prolonged solitary confinement, medical neglect, denial of family visits and access to independent monitoring mechanisms», he added.

The same document states that «at least four of the prisoners entered in, or continued a hunger strike that lasted from 48 hours to over 30 days. Some of these prisoners consequently developed critical health conditions».

In addition to that, the draft report slammed Morocco for placing «constraints» upon MINURSO in «interlocutors to support the Personal Envoy, to better advise the Council, and to inform the mission’s own security awareness».

Commenting on that, the UN Secretary-General urged «Morocco to remove these constraints and allow free access between the Mission and local interlocutors».

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