The Moroccan army attacked Gdeim Izik refugee camp this week which houses 20,000 people in West Sahara. Many people have died and many others are reported missing. The November 8, 2010 raid and destruction at Gdeim Izik by Moroccan army is a result of the hard line taken by the occupying Moroccans in the regional capital El Aaiúnissa. Today, there are over 20,000 refugees without any shelter and many of the missing people are now feared dead. The government of Morocco has imposed a news black out and it is hard to get images and photos from the region.??The international media and human rights monitors are prevented to enter the area legally in order to prevent the spread of news and damaging photographs are confiscated by the government troops. Moroccan news media has made no reference to the killings at Gdeim Izik this week and ordinary Moroccans seem to be unaware of the ongoing manslaughter in Gdeim Izik.
The United Nations has not yet made any investigation or response on this matter. Nor has it condemned the violence and these serious ongoing violations of human rights of Western Sahara that has been occuring since this occurred.?? Morocco holds West Sahara as its colony or territory and does not receive equal standing with the Morocco proper. United Nations has asked the Moroccan government for years to allow a referendum on independence or accession for this region in order for it to self-establish its governance status and structures by popular vote.
This week, a third round of informal talks between the Polisario Front and Morocco on Western Sahara’s future ended near New York with both sides only agreeing to meet again, United Nation’s special envoy to the region Christopher Ross said. The UN-brokered peace talks began on an angry note Monday at Greentree in the New York suburbs, as the Polisario Front rebel group condemned a Moroccan security force raid Monday on a Western Sahara refugee camps they saw as an attempt to derail the talks.
United Nations has also been requesting Morocco to withdraw its occupying troops from the former Spanish colony it captured when Spain left decades ago. ??The main political group representing the voice of West Saharan people is Polisario, which is a banned by Moroccan government. Morocco continues to occupy West Sahara whose mineral resources it has been extracting for years whilst providing very infrastructure investments for the region nor consulted the regions’ people about its activities. ?Western Sahara is rich in natural resources, i.e. minerals, oil and offshore gas as well as fish.
The extraction of West Saharan mineral resources from an occupied territory breaches International Law. An International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in 1975 found no ties of territorial sovereignty between Western Sahara and either Morocco or Mauritania. Just one month later after that, Spain signed an agreement with these two countries ‘allowing’ them to occupy the territory. In 1979 Mauritania withdrew, and Morocco invaded the remainder of Western Sahara. International law does not recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara, and states that Spain had no authority to transfer administration to another power. The UN and other international institutions in line with international law consider Western Sahara as a non-self-governing territory. At the same time more than 70 states recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which is also a full member of the African Union.
European Union has largely been turning blind eye to the situation on its backyard in Morocco as the fishing industry has been keen to lobby access for European Union boats to Moroccan waters.
BACKGROUND: Western Sahara was annexed by Morocco after Spanish settlers withdrew in 1975. But the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.
The Polisario Front wants a UN-organized self-determination referendum, with independence as one of the options. Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.
The European fisheries ministers concluded a fisheries partnership agreement at the Council meeting May 22nd, 2006. The agreement provides for the EU to pay Morocco €144.4 million under four years in return for giving 119 European vessels (100 Spanish, 14 Portuguese, 4 French and 1 Italian) opportunities to fish in Morocco’s Atlantic coastal waters, including the disputed territory of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony that was invaded by Moroccan forces in 1975. Despite criticism from Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden, only Sweden voted against while Finland abstained. The people of Western Sahara do not benefit from the agreement. Only two percent of those who work in fisheries are Western Saharans. All the others are Moroccan settlers.
by MJ Santos with TSR Staff