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AFRICA / France has a heavy responsibility in the non-decolonization of Western Sahara
Open letter to Emmanuel Macron
Date of publication at Tlaxcala: 24/04/2018
Original: La France a une lourde responsabilité dans la non-décolonisation du Sahara Occidental
Lettre ouverte à Emmanuel Macron

Translations available: Español  Italiano  Português/Galego 

France has a heavy responsibility in the non-decolonization of Western Sahara
Open letter to Emmanuel Macron

Various Authors - Autores varios - Auteurs divers- AAVV-d.a.


Open letter from international academics and researchers to Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic



Mr. President of the Republic,

On  27  February  2018,  the  Court  of  Justice  of  the  European  Union,  in  its  judgment  on  the  fisheries agreements  between  the EU  and  Morocco,  reiterated  very  clearly  the  absence  of  sovereignty  of the Moroccan State over the territory of Western Sahara and its adjacent waters. The Court also reaffirmed the right of the Sahrawi people, represented by the POLISARIO Front, to manage their natural resources as  they see  fit.  This  ruling,  which  will  now  prevent  EU  Member  States  from  importing  products (agricultural, fisheries, mining, etc.) from this Non-Self-Governing Territory of the United Nations, only underlines the urgent need for peaceful decolonization of this territory, in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV). The decolonization should have happened following Spain's withdrawal from the Territory in February 1976.

Unfortunately, in this process, France supports every year in April, in the Security Council, the Moroccan position of refusing to extend the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINURSO) to human rights monitoring. Morocco also refuses to implement a referendum on self-determination, the primary objective of the 1991 ceasefire and, let us not forget, the United Nations requirement since

1966. This French position allows the Moroccan State - which the UN, the OAU-AU and the EU continue to consider as occupying this territory - to pursue its colonization. Morocco does so by promoting the displacement  of populations from Morocco into the occupied Territory, by imprisoning and "judging" Sahrawi  political  prisoners  on  Moroccan  soil,  two  flagrant  grounds  (among  others)  of  violation  of international law and international humanitarian law.

This unacceptable position of the French state was once again illustrated on February 12. Indeed, when two French lawyers, representing nineteen Sahrawi prisoners, sentenced in 2017, in a sham trial, to very heavy sentences up to life (group called "Gdeim Izik"), who came in the normal course of their duties to inquire about the state of health of their clients, were arrested on arrival in Morocco. The Moroccan authorities expelled them without the French Embassy in Rabat deeming it appropriate to intervene on their  behalf.  One  of  the  prisoners,  Naama  Asfari,  whose  wife  is  French,  and  whom  the  Moroccan authorities  banned  from  visiting  her  husband  for  eighteen  months,  was  immediately  put  in  solitary confinement in a dungeon. This has triggered a hunger strike among other prisoners  of the group, a strike that is now causing the greatest concern among human rights  defenders who, fortunately, are overseeing their situation.

This umpteenth tragedy, endorsed by the French State, can only plead in favor of extending MINURSO's mandate  to  include  human  rights  monitoring  in  Western  Sahara,  as  requested  by  the  Sahrawi authorities and international human rights organizations for many years. To this repressive escalation, the Moroccan authorities imposed a very clear blockade over the territory in recent years: Moroccan law  enforcement  agencies  have  regularly  expelled  and  intimidated  the  missions  of  international observers,  lawyers,  elected  officials,  journalists,  human  rights  activists,  researchers,  of  very  diverse nationalities.

Only the organization of a referendum on self-determination will put an end to the colonization of this territory by Spain yesterday (still considered by the UN as the de jure "administering power") and by Morocco today. This colonization currently involves a massive presence of Moroccan police and military forces in the main cities of this territory, forces whose mission today is to stifle any Sahrawi peaceful protest  movement.  It  also  involves  an  unabated  exploitation  of  the  territory's  natural  resources,  in particular phosphate and fish stocks, the main coveted resources of Western Sahara. This colonization still passes through a voluntarist policy of population transfers, rapidly unbalancing the sociology of the territory. Finally, it passes through a planned acculturation of Saharawi society, based on an ostensible policy of folklorization of local culture that shrouds a more cynical enterprise, especially in schools, of marginalization of this same culture.

Mr. President of the Republic, how can the French State endeavor in recent years to claim a major role in maintaining regional political order in the Sahara-Sahel, in particular through its involvement in the Barkhane  Operation  and  in  the  constitution  of  the  G5  Sahel,  while  delaying  the  application  of international law in Western Sahara? How can colonization be qualified as a "crime against humanity" (your declaration in Algiers in February 2017), while preventing the decolonization of the last colony in Africa, which the United Nations has been calling for since 1963, as well as the OAU-AU and the EU? How  can  France  plan  and  implement  a  referendum  on  self-determination  in  New  Caledonia  on  4 November 2018, while constantly postponing a similar enactment elsewhere?

The signatories of this letter believe that nothing can justify this French position any more than very shortsighted  economic  and  geostrategic  interests,  the  consequences  of  which  are  deplorable  for  the stability of the Maghreb and for irregular emigration to Europe. How can the home of human rights turn away  from  a  population  that  has  placed  its  future  in  the  hands  of  international  justice  in  order  to express freely its right to self-determination? How can the French State, with its status in the Security Council, indirectly sentence the Sahrawi refugees of Tindouf to a new decade of misery, distress and frustration?

The Sahrawi authorities agreed to trust the United Nations and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict by laying  down  their  arms in  1991 in  exchange  for  the promise of  a referendum  on  self-determination, which has still not taken place, giving rise to a growing feeling of betrayal of the great powers, France, in particular. The young people born in the camps of Tindouf have no other hope than turn to irregular emigration towards Europe to try, legitimately, to invent a future for themselves. Among these would- be migrants, more than 400 Sahrawi asylum seekers have settled in unstructured camps in downtown Bordeaux for nearly four years to obtain an asylum that France cannot refuse to them today, because France is among the first parties responsible for their misfortune.

The Sahrawi youth, who have known only exile or occupation, ultimately wish today to have access to dignity, which their peaceful struggle since the ceasefire of 1991 must legitimately grant them. At a time when, in the Euro-Mediterranean area, a certain number of disillusioned young people are espousing extremism of all kinds, it is time to show political courage by giving a future to this young Sahrawi nation of tomorrow, educated in and aspiring only to the values of freedom, equality and fraternity, which are those of the French Nation.

Mr. President of the Republic, it is perhaps still time for the French State to correct its position in favor of the application of the law in Western Sahara, by playing a leading role in a peaceful resolution of the conflict alongside international institutions. Having a European UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and his personal envoy, Horst Koehler, also a European, for the first time since the ceasefire of 1991, represents an unprecedented opportunity for Europe, with France in the lead, to play its natural role in contributing to the success of the process in an area strategically and historically vital for Europe. We, therefore, ask the French State whose destiny you preside, to put the question of Western Sahara on the agenda of the next meetings of the G5 Sahel. We also ask you to encourage the Moroccan State to respect  scrupulously  international  law  and  international  humanitarian  law,  to  release  the  Sahrawi political detainees, and to support the rapid resumption of the organization of a referendum on self- determination. Any proposed solution must abide by and respect international law.

If  the  French  State  persisted  in  its  unconditional  alignment  with  the  Moroccan  position,  it  would inevitably  exclude  itself  from  playing  any  credible  role  in  the  political  settlement  process  conducted under the auspices of the UN. The European leadership that you wish to give back to France would run the risk of being adversely affected, for the European Union does not only advocate respect for the law in domestic policy, but also places its foreign policy within the framework of respect for and application of international law.




Courtesy of CISP
Publication date of original article: 17/04/2018
URL of this page :


Tags: Occupied Western SaharaMoroccan occupationMINURSOEU-Morocco AgreementsUNFrancePOLISARIO FrontSADR

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