Spain in favour of human rights monitoring in Western Sahara?
Growing rumours about Spain's alleged positive stance vis-à-vis human rights monitoring in its former colony, Western Sahara, seem to be confirmed by a statement from the country's deputy prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega. Or are they?
As France and the UK face off on whether to include a human rights mandate in this week's UN Security Council resolution on the Western Sahara mission MINURSO, Inner City Press on Monday asked Spain's deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega if her country supports the inclusion of the right mandate.
Yes, Fernandez de la Vega said. She said human rights must be part of the mandate. Until now, this had not been known to be Spain's position. But even in response to a follow up question, Fernandez de la Vega confirmed the position. Video here.
She was speaking at the UN Television stakeout position on the second floor of the UN's Temporary North Lawn Building, after she met with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. On Friday, Mohamed Abdelaziz, Secretary-General of the Frente Polisario, had met with Ban. The Press was told that he would speak at the stakeout at 5:15 on Friday.
But shortly before that, the UN announced over a loudspeaker that Mohamed Abdelaziz' stakeout had been canceled. Later on Friday, Ban issued a statement about the meeting.
On Monday, Inner City Press was told by a Polisario representative that Mohamed Abdelaziz' stakeout was canceled "after pressure from Morocco" to which the UN gave in. "The UN preferred to issue Ban Ki-moon's statement," the representative said. But by what right, one wondered, could the UN tell or even suggest to a party to a UN mediated conflict to not speak to the press?
There is a history here. Back when the Security Council was on the UN's second floor, the Polisario's representative was speaking before a UN TV camera went suddenly it went dark. When Inner City Press inquired, the UN's response was that it was an electrical problem. But it emerged that a Moroccan former UN official had called UN TV and told them to pull the plug.
Last week, Morocco's Ambassador was seen buzzing around the Security Council, even as they met about Chad. To cover their side of the argument, they point to an OLAF report that the Frente Polisario over estimates the number of people in the camps in order to get more food rations than are needed from the UN World Food Program, and then re-sell the rations for profit.
Fernandez de la Vega, after her statement that Spain supports inclusion of a human rights mandate in MINURSO, said that the big picture us a solution that both parties can agree to, allowing for self-determination. This seems a long way off. Will human rights monitoring be a start? The resolution will be adopted on Thursday. Watch this site.
Footnote: Inner City Press also asked Fernandez de la Vega if Spain's Alberdi, who got the top post at UNIFEM over an Indian candidate in a process determined, some say, by Spanish monetary contributions, is a candidate to head the forthcoming UN gender "super-agency." Fernandez de la Vega said that she is. "Now it's official," a Spanish correspondent said. So too with Spain's position on including a human rights mandate in the Western Sahara Mission?
Africa's last colony
Since 1975, three quarters of the Western Sahara territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco. The original population lives divided between those suffering human rights abuses under the Moroccan occupation and those living in exile in Algerian refugee camps. For more than 40 years, the Saharawi await the fulfilment of their legitimate right to self-determination.