UN: Unprecedented Concluding Observations on Western Sahara
(October 20, 2015 | Washington, D.C.) Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights commends the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) for its Concluding Observations to Morocco with regards to Western Sahara.
In September 2015, the CESCR reviewed the Kingdom of Morocco's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). As part of the review process, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, in partnership with several other non-governmental organizations and academics, formally submitted observations to the CESCR in an alternative report on human rights violations taking place in Western Sahara. The report emphasized violations to the right to self-determination (with a particular emphasis on natural resource exploitation), the right to work, the right to education, and the right to participation in cultural life. Thereafter, CESCR issued Concluding Observations, the first two recommendations of which deal solely with Western Sahara.
"These recommendations mark a positive opening for the discussion on human rights in Western Sahara" said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. "These Concluding Observations demonstrate the absolute necessity of having a credible, international human rights monitoring mechanism operating in Western Sahara. This issue has been debated and settled. Now is the time to take action and insist that human rights are fully respected here."
CESCR's Concluding Observations calls on Morocco to work with the United Nations to find a meaningful solution to the rights of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, expresses concern regarding Morocco's failure to achieve informed, prior consent regarding the extraction of natural resources, and raises concern regarding the berm, the 2,700 km-long sand wall separating Moroccan and Polisario-controlled regions in Western Sahara. Additionally, the Observations note the difficulty that Sahrawi students have in pursuing university education and the failure of the Moroccan government to sufficiently promote the language and culture of the people of Western Sahara.
"There is no doubt that CESCR's emphasis on Western Sahara this year is an important and critical step forward," said Santiago Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. "But we must remember that individuals in Western Sahara continue to report serious human rights violations even today, and organizations who seek to report on human rights violations largely cannot register and are targeted by Morocco. The international community and civil society must collectively continue to pressure the government of Morocco to fully ensure the human rights of the people of Western Sahara and to accept the establishment of a credible human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism in the territory."