Reports from Western Sahara reveal that Moroccan authorities are continuing to commit serious human rights violations against the Sahrawi people. In spite of the reports of systematic violations of human rights by Morocco against the Sahrawis, the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) lacks a mandate to monitor human rights in the region and there is no international mechanism dedicated to tracking human rights in Western Sahara. The UN will once again discuss the renewal of the MINURSO's mandate in April, providing an opportunity to bring MINURSO's mandate into alignment with other peacekeeping missions by including human rights monitoring and reporting as part of its mission.
"Allegations of egregious human rights violations taking place in Western Sahara demand international attention and action. The UN should expand MINURSO's mandate to help victims of unspeakable abuse assert lawful their rights," said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "Reports of torture in detention, medical negligence towards ailing prisoners, unmonitored landmine blasts, forcible dispersal of peaceful protests, and constraints on entry and travel within the region cannot be left unaddressed."
In the period of time covered by this report, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights identified nearly 90 separate instances of human rights violations, many involving multiple victims. Most abuses are violations of the right to arbitrary arrest, the right to freedom of assembly, and the right to freedom of movement. There are instances, however, of physical mistreatment and torture, landmine injuries and death, and death while in detention. Taken as a whole, the frequency and nature of the abuses paints a grim picture of the human rights situation in Western Sahara.
"The reported human rights violations committed against the Sahrawi people constitute severe violations of international law and international human rights law," said Santiago A. Canton. "While international law does not recognize Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara, as the de facto power-and as a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights-Morocco must ensure that the human rights of the people living in Western Sahara are respected as mandated by the law."