UN Must Press Morocco on Its Abuses in Western Sahara

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with several other non-governmental organizations and academics, has submitted an alternative report including a list of questions and recommendations for the United Nations Human Rights Committee to consider regarding Western Sahara as it reviews the Kingdom of Morocco’s human rights record.

The submission presented by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and its partners argues that Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara is illegal under international law and furthers violations to the rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination, as well as their rights to access and use their natural resources. The submission further emphasizes violations perpetrated by the Moroccan authorities and against the Sahrawi people under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), including violations to the rights to freedom of assembly and expression, association, life, dignity, movement, and privacy, among others.

“Morocco continues to violate the civil and political rights of the Sahrawi people,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of Robert F. Kennedy Partners for Human Rights. “Reports of violent protest dispersals, interferences with the ability of non-governmental organizations to formally register, and horrific anecdotes of arbitrary detention and torture in prison cannot remain unaddressed by Moroccan authorities and the international community.”

In providing a list of questions for the Human Rights Committee to include in the review of Morocco’s record in 2016, the report by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights asks for clarification on the process by which the right to self-determination is to be realized, information on the steps taken to ensure the consent of the Sahrawi people to the exploitation of their natural resources, data on cases of enforced disappearances and incidents of torture, measures intended to facilitate the dismantling of the wall dividing the territory of Western Sahara, information on due process violations, data regarding surveillance of citizens, and information implicating the rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression.

“As a de facto Occupying Power in a non-self governing territory, Morocco has an international legal obligation to respect the rights of the Sahrawi people under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights,” said Canton. “In the absence of an independent human rights monitoring mechanism in the region, the Human Rights Committee has a vital role to play in reviewing Morocco’s record and ensuring that the country answers for the serious human rights violations that continue to be reported on a regular basis from the territory of Western Sahara.”

After considering Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ report and other submissions by non-governmental organizations and interested parties, the United Nations Human Rights Committee will, in March of 2016, determine the issues it will ask Morocco in its review process; thereafter, the formal review process will occur between October and November 2016.