MOROCCO, ALGERIA FACE ACCUSATIONS AS POLISARIO REPRESENTATIVE, EX-OFFICIALS ADDRESS FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARING OF PETITIONERS IN DECOLONIZATION DEBATE
MOROCCO, ALGERIA FACE ACCUSATIONS AS POLISARIO REPRESENTATIVE, EX-OFFICIALS ADDRESS FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARING OF PETITIONERS IN DECOLONIZATION DEBATE
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
morocco, algeria face accusations as polisario representative, ex-officials
address fourth committee hearing of petitioners in decolonization debate
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its hearing of petitioners today, a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) said Morocco had reneged on its commitment to hold a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara, while a former POLISARIO official claimed it was merely a tool of Algeria, created, financed and coordinated by that country.
Hearing 12 petitioners and one representative of a Non-Self-Governing Territory as it continued its general debate on decolonization issues, the Committee heard POLISARIO Front representative Ahmed Boukhari note that 24 days from the thirtieth anniversary of Morocco’s invasion and illegal occupation of Western Sahara, the referendum promised 14 years ago had not been carried out and Morocco had reneged on its commitment, solemnly made before the United Nations. While the POLISARIO Front had respected the ceasefire, accepted the United Nations-brokered Settlement Plan, the Houston Agreements and the Baker Plan, as well as released all Moroccan prisoners of war, that good faith and cooperation had not resulted in a resumption of the peace process. Morocco’s proposals of autonomy or administrative decentralization were absurd and the path to peace was outlined clearly in the Settlement Plan and the Baker Plan.
However, Ghallaoui Sidati of the Institut des Etudes African said he had been POLISARIO’s ambassador in Italy and its secretary for foreign relations, and from that experience he could state that the Front was not an independent organization, but rather a tool created, financed and coordinated by Algeria in all its structures. In Italy, any diplomatic activity had to be carried out in consultation with the Algerian embassy. For example, that embassy had once ordered him to stop a humanitarian aid convoy on the grounds that it was up to Algeria to determine priorities. After that and other events, he had decided to return to his homeland, the Saharawi provinces of South Morocco.
Such divergent views were also evident among other petitioners. Addressing the situation in the Tindouf refugee camps, in Algeria, Latifa Aït-Baala, for instance, drew attention to the international community’s 30 years of silence regarding the tens of thousands of Moroccans who had been locked up in the camps and who had become hostage to the conflict between Morocco and Algeria. Algeria’s claim that the people there were refugees did not accord with the Convention on Refugees because they had never been persecuted in their country of origin. The media paid no attention to the harsh realities of the Tindouf camps, which were virtual Mafia fiefdoms where the only law was that of terror.
JoMarie Fecci of Paris Tempo Productions said that for the last few years her company had been working on a documentary entitled Western Sahara, Africa’s Last Colony, which examined the situation of the Saharawi people and gave voice to the refugees. They had been surviving on hope and confidence in the international community, which could not continue indefinitely without some progress towards a solution. The problem at the root of the continued separation of families was the Moroccan refusal to accept the negotiated Settlement Plan and to allow the holding of a self-determination referendum.
Ali Najab of l’Association des Ex-prisonniers de l’intégrité Territoriale recalled his 25 years as Moroccon prisoner of war in Tindouf and described treatment that violated the Geneva Conventions as well as international standards on torture and deprivation of medical care. Both Algeria, on whose territory the prisons were situated, and the POLISARIO Front had been responsible for that treatment and despite the fact that all Moroccan prisoners of war had been released or accounted for, dozens had disappeared, their fate unknown.
Ronnie Hansen of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara said his organization had sent a delegation of human rights observers to the occupied Western Sahara capital of El Aaiún to attend the 5 July trial of 16 Saharawi arrested for demonstrating against the Moroccan occupation of their homeland. Only a few hours after the delegation’s arrival, one of its Saharawi contacts had been arrested and tortured. The delegation had been detained and then evicted. A message from a Saharawi political prisoner in the infamous “Black Prison” had described torture, force-feeding, isolation and deportation to Moroccan jails.
Taking up the question of New Caledonia, the Committee heard a petitioner from that country, Roch Wamytan of the Comité Rhébu Nuu, who emphasized that independence for the Territory’s Kanak people was non-negotiable and that the decolonization process must be completed. The Nouméa Peace Agreement, signed by the Front de liberation nationale Kanak socialiste (FLNKS), France and other parties, was not a peace agreement but a decolonization agreement. However, seven years after its signing, the main issues contained in that accord had not been addressed. Deserving of particular attention was the pollution of the environment due to mining activities. In addition, the plunder of natural resources had intensified, undermining the potential viability of the emerging Kanak State.
The Committee was also petitioners representing the Committee for Saharawi Families Reunion (COREFASA) and Yaakaare-REDHRIC; Rabbani Mohamed Abdelkader and Mustapha Bouh, both former POLISARIO officials; and retired United States Ambassador Frank Ruddy.
Carlyle Corbin, Representative for External Affairs of the United States Virgin Islands, also addressed the Committee.
In the ensuing general debate on decolonization issues, Venezuela’s representative expressed concern over the way in which Fourth Committee’s very existence had been called into question during negotiations on the final Outcome Document adopted at the 2005 World Summit. Venezuela did not support the use of the issue of General Assembly revitalization as a pretext for snuffing out the Committee before it could carry out fully its mandate of eradicating colonialism.
Other speakers in the general debate included the representatives of Botswana (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community); Zambia; the Congo and Malaysia.
Speaking on a point of order was the representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the representative of the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
At the outset of the meeting, Committee Vice-Chairman Alexander Gerts ( Netherlands) expressed its members’ deep sympathy and condolences to the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India for the loss of life caused by massive weekend earthquake in South Asia.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday 11 October, to conclude its general debate and take action on draft resolutions.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this morning continued its consideration of decolonization issues and its hearing of petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Statements by Petitioners
At the outset of the meeting, Committee Vice-Chairman ALEXANDER GERTS ( Netherlands) expressed its members’ deep sympathy and condolences to the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India for the loss of life due to the massive earthquake in South Asia.
ALI NAJAB, l’Association des Ex-prisonniers de l’intégrité Territoriale, said he had spent 25 years at Tindouf with other prisoners of war, now liberated, and had been exposed to the rigours of the climate, in contravention of the relevant Geneva Conventions. All that had been built in Tindouf had been constructed by the prisoners of war, day and night. The prisoners had given their blood to the construction of the hospital in Tindouf; they had been forced to read radio statements and tortured when they refused. They had been forced to handle tons of weapons and ammunition to be used against their own people. They had been deprived of medical care and tortured when caught trying to run away. Those and other treatments were all against the relevant Geneva Conventions.
Describing the United Nations as the greatest defender of human rights, he said that since the ceasefire, the Organization had called numerous times on the Algerians to alleviate the circumstances of the prisoners of war. Despite the fact that all Moroccan prisoners of war had been released or accounted for, dozens had disappeared and their fate was unknown. That needed to be clarified. The results of an inquiry by France Liberté showed the responsibility of Algeria and the POLISARIO Front for their treatment. Algeria was responsible because the prisons were on Algerian soil and it had not prevented inhuman treatment. The Algerian authorities must also see the return of hundreds of remains of prisoners of war. No less than 50 articles of the Third Geneva Convention had been violated by “Algesario”, and although all prisoners of war had now been liberated, civilian Saharawi still lived in the Tindouf camps in precarious conditions.
FRANK RUDDY, retired United States Ambassador, said that over the past 30 years, lawyers had come up with ingenious arguments to make Morocco’s land grab acceptable to the international community. Morocco, which had rallied against Spain’s colonization of Western Sahara, now replaced Spain as the new colonizer. Morocco had sought an opinion from the International Court of Justice as to their rights over Western Sahara, and the Court had denied their right to sovereignty over the area. But to hear the Moroccan version, the Court had supported their position. As if that were not enough, the Security Council had twice condemned Morocco’s invasion, yet Morocco continued to occupy, colonize and terrorize Western Sahara and its inhabitants without a care. When it came to violating international law, some countries, like Iraq, invaded and paid a price. Others, like Morocco, invaded and got away with it.
There was supposed to be a referendum in 1991 to allow the people of Western Sahara to decide whether to be free or be part of Morocco, he said. In 1994, the referendum had begun in earnest. The problem was that Morocco had sabotaged the referendum with the help of a feeble and feckless representative of the Secretary-General. The Moroccans had effectively taken control of MINURSO, screening and terrorizing the local population. Once they had seen the desire of the Saharawi people to reject unity with Morocco, they had seen to it that there would never be a referendum. Morocco had acted lawlessly and notoriously, and the question was whether the United Nations was willing or able to restrain its lawlessness. Shamefully, the answer so far had been an unequivocal no.
DOUIHI MOHAMED RACHID, Membre du Conseil Consultatif pour le Sahara, questioned the statement by the preceding speaker, saying that the relationship between Morocco and the Western Sahara was historic and legal. The speaker had accused Morocco of invading the Territory and ignoring Security Council resolutions of 1975. But he could not disregard the fact that the King of Morocco in the 17th century had stated his control over the Sahara and Morocco.
He said the Western Sahara question should have been withdrawn from the United Nations agenda in 1975, which Morocco considered as the real year of decolonization, when the Spanish army had left the Territory during the Green March. The POLISARIO Front was attracting humanitarian assistance under the pretext of defending Saharawi refugees. After the withdrawal of the Spanish authorities, Morocco had been surprised by Algeria’s interference, which had embroiled the region in tension. Algeria was continuing its diplomatic campaign, using to its own gain the suffering of prisoners of war and detainees.
The Moroccan people had responded positively to all the initiatives taken by the former Secretary-General, he said. Yet the POLISARIO Front and Algeria had manoeuvred to deprive the Saharawi of their participation in the referendum. It was regrettable that some speakers in the last couple of meetings had supported Algeria. They had not responded to the main questions about Western Sahara, particularly the human rights questions, including the suffering of those who had spent years in Algerian prisons.
LATIFA AÏT-BAALA drew attention to the international community’s 30 years of silence regarding the tens of thousands of Moroccans locked up in the Tindouf camps who had become hostage to the conflict between Morocco and Algeria. The situation was intolerable and must be condemned. How could the international community condone those people’s continuing to live in tents and in complete destitution in one of the harshest regions of the planet? They lived in a small area, controlled by the Algerian military, in violation of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regulations. They had no international protection and were at the mercy of an armed militia headed by the Algerian army. A complaint of war crimes regarding the situation had been submitted to the International Court of Justice.
She said UNHCR had never been authorized to take a census in the camps. Algeria claimed that the people were refugees, but that was not in accordance with the Convention on Refugees, because they had never been persecuted in their country of origin. Returnees had never suffered any discrimination. Reports had described torture and named some torturers, and there was not a single testimony in which Algeria had not been cited as being involved. The media did not pay any attention to the harsh realities of the Tindouf camps, which were virtual Mafia fiefdoms where the only law was the law of terror. Admittance to the camps was only reserved for non-governmental organizations that closed their eyes to mass graves and torture centres. The Committee must ensure that Algeria would apply international law and that the actions of the Algerian military in the camps were condemned.
GAJMOULA EBBI, COREFASA, said that three decades ago one of the most absurd conflicts had been unleashed. Thirty years had gone by and there had been devastating consequences in the number of human lives lost and the material damage done. The Saharawi were living in sub-human conditions in the Tindouf camps. POLISARIO had set itself up as a totalitarian organization and had killed hundreds of people. The international community must not let that go unanswered.
She drew attention to the diversion of humanitarian aid by POLISARIO, which had given rise to a nouveau riche class fattened by war. Women were forced into hard labour and children indoctrinated with dogmatic values and infused with slogans and catchphrases. The Secretary-General was to be thanked for his tireless efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement of the dispute, bring about a peaceful, just and lasting solution, and reconcile the parties, namely Morocco and Algeria.
GHALLAOUI SIDATI, Institut des Etudes African, said he had been a representative of the POLISARIO Front, its ambassador in Italy and Secretary-General for Foreign Relations. From that experience he could state that it did not exist as an independent organization. It was but a tool created, financed and coordinated by Algeria in all its structures. In Italy, any diplomatic activity had to be done in consultation with the Algerian embassy. For example, that embassy had once ordered him to stop a humanitarian aid convoy to Tindouf that he had been organizing with some non-governmental organizations, on the grounds that priorities were to be determined by Algeria.
He said that after that and other events, he had become aware that he could not continue to work for an organization that was run by Algeria. Had he continued to go down that path he would not be able to decide freely what was right. He had decided to go back to his homeland, the Saharawi provinces of South Morocco, and had done so without any pressure. There were many people of Algerian origin living in the Tindouf camps and many POLISARIO officials who had no interest at all in a political solution, which was autonomy under Morocco. Everything should be done to pressure Algeria to allow family members held at Tindouf to return freely home to Morocco.
JOMARIE FECCI, Paris Tempo Productions, said that for the last few years she had been working on a documentary entitled Western Sahara, Africa’s Last Colony, which examined the situation of the Saharawi people and gave voice to the refugees. They had been surviving on hope and confidence in the international community that could not continue indefinitely without some progress towards a solution. Each time they were given new hope, it only ended in disappointment. When the identification process had started, many refugees had started to pack up their belongings in anticipation. Hope had again been given with the Baker Plan and the Family Exchange Programme.
She said that a humanitarian programme could not solve the problem at the root of the continued separation, which was the Moroccan refusal to accept the negotiated Settlement Plan and allow the self-determination referendum to be held. It was unconscionable to allow Moroccan intransigence to become a de facto annexation of the Territory without an act of self-determination. The Saharawi were strong in their determination to exercise their rights, and had spent decades in exile forging a nation, educating their people and improving their human potential. Many of the Saharawi now believed the United Nations had failed to keep its promises. Although many had made it clear that they did not want to return to war, their sense of frustration was palpable. It was a matter of great concern that the international community’s failure to resolve issues that had thus far blocked the referendum would become greater if the Saharawi were forced to revert to arms.
RABBANI MOHAMED ABDELKADER, a former POLISARIO Minister, said that the principle of self-determination was a sacred principle, as was the territorial integrity of States. Morocco had used those principles to restore areas that had been under Spanish control in the framework of restoring lands under the yoke of colonialism.
The POLISARIO Front was no longer a political movement and was not concerned with seeking a solution to the problem of Western Sahara, he said. It was controlled by Algeria, which claimed it was defending the right of peoples to self-determination. Yet it was Algeria itself that had proposed dividing Western Sahara. Algeria did not sincerely believe in the principle of self-determination but had expansionist interests. It had used the suffering of Moroccan prisoners of war as a bargaining chip, flouting all treaties and international agreements. POLISARIO would not allow itself to become a tool in the hands of the Algerians.
RONNIE HANSEN, Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, said his organization had sent a delegation of human rights observers to the occupied capital of Western Sahara, El Aaiún, to attend the 5 July trial of 16 Saharawi who had been arrested for demonstrating against the Moroccan oppression and occupation of their homeland. Only a few hours after its arrival, one of its Saharawi contacts had been arrested and tortured. The delegation had been detained and then evicted. A message from a Saharawi political prisoner in the infamous “Black Prison” described torture, forced feeding, isolation and deportation to Moroccan jails.
He said that the message, smuggled out of the jail yesterday, appealed to the United Nations to guarantee the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and independence; protect Saharawi citizens against Moroccan repression; protect Saharawi human rights activists; compel the Moroccan State to immediately release all political prisoners unconditionally; and force Moroccan authorities to allow international observers and mass media to enter Western Sahara to report on the flagrant violations of human rights perpetrated by the Moroccan State. Morocco had two options: either to continue to brutally suppress any hint of dissent in Western Sahara, or to start going down the path of respect for human rights, democracy and international legality. Morocco had obstinately followed the path of oppression and it was therefore high time the international community put pressure on it to immediately end its occupation of Western Sahara.
ANJA OKSALAMPI, Yaakaare-REDHRIC, said that one of her organization’s main goals was combating impunity. The international community should do all it could to open investigations into the missing Moroccan prisoners of war, and organize hearings for victims of torture and forced labour in the Tindouf camps. The international community should also ensure that compensation was given to prisoners of war for the torture imposed on them, and to the families of those that had died in detention. It was also important to recover the remains of those who had died in Algerian detention so they could have proper burials.
She said she was concerned about the fate of the 400 or so Moroccans still locked up in the Tindouf camps and wished to alert the international community to the situation of the Saharawi refugees living in those camps. It was feared that, since Moroccan prisoners had been released, the POLISARIO Front would resort to using minorities and black Africans to do the hard labour that previously had been done by Moroccans. POLISARIO, despite its good intentions, did not deal with tribalism, slavery and racism in a proper manner. Some Saharawi people, mostly black Africans, had been enslaved upon entering Tindouf, from where they had fled in 1975, hoping for a better future. There should also be an investigation into the fate of black African prisoners taken during the POLISARIO Front’s war against Mauritania and imprisoned by the POLISARIO.
AHMED BOUKHARI, Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front), said 24 days from now would be the thirtieth anniversary of Morocco’s invasion and illegal occupation of Western Sahara. The referendum promised 14 years ago had not been carried out and Morocco had reneged on the commitment it had solemnly made before the United Nations. The then Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy had corroborated that assessment in an interview with the American TV Channel PBS on 19 August 2004. The POLISARIO Front had accepted the Baker Plan, but Morocco continued to reject the offered opportunity. Unfortunately, certain signs, such as the intention of the European Union to sign a fisheries agreement with Morocco, involving Saharawi waters, had been understood by Morocco as encouragement. Hopefully, the European Union would recognize the illegality of the agreement.
He said the POLISARIO Front had respected the ceasefire, accepted the Settlement Plan, the Houston Agreements and the Baker Plan. It had responded favourably to the calls made by the Security Council and the General Assembly to release all Moroccan prisoners of war. However, that good faith and cooperation had neither resulted in the resumption of the peace process, nor induced a positive change in Moroccan behaviour regarding Saharawi prisoners of war and hundreds of civilians who had disappeared. On the contrary, there had been an aggravation of the violations of human rights in the occupied territories.
The question of Western Sahara had been on the United Nations agenda as a decolonization problem for more than 40 years, he said, stressing that it could not be resolved without respect for the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. Proposals by Morocco for autonomy or administrative decentralization were absurd. The path to peace was outlined clearly in the Settlement Plan and the Baker Plan. The forthcoming visit to the region by the new Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, Peter Van Walsum, would be an opportunity for the international community to assess whether the long-standing Moroccan attitude of non-cooperation, the main obstacle to peace, was reversible.
MUSTAPHA BOUH, a former member of POLISARIO’s political bureau, said the Western Sahara issue had been brought as a matter of decolonization, but in fact it was a struggle for regional supremacy on the part of Algeria. The Saharawi people were being used as a tool. In 1975, Algeria had plotted against Morocco and had begun supporting the POLISARIO Front, creating the Tindouf camps. Late in 1976, Algeria had taken over command of POLISARIO and therefore was responsible for what it had done on Algerian territory.
Algeria claimed that it had noble and good intentions but it was primarily responsible for all the actions taken by POLISARIO, he said. Furthermore, it was the President of Algeria who had suggested that the territory be divided. There must be an investigation into the fate of civilians locked up in the Tindouf camps, who were completely destitute. Why had Algeria prevented UNHCR from holding a census of the people there in order to monitor distribution of food? A solution should be found urgently in the interests of the Saharawi people, and the autonomy of Western Sahara would be the best guarantee for security and peace for all in the area.
Question of New Caledonia
Speaking on the question of New Caledonia, ROCH WAMYTAN, Comité Rhébu Nuu, said that independence for the Territory’s Kanak people was non-negotiable and that the decolonization process must be completed. The Nouméa Agreement, signed by the Front de liberation nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS), France and other parties, was not a peace agreement but a decolonization agreement. However, seven years later, the main issues contained in that accord had not been addressed. The Kanak people were still marginalized and European settlement had continued. There had been a loss of Kanak cultural resources and a marginalization of its young people. The Nouméa Agreement was supposed to provide for Kanak involvement in the civil services, including the police, but that had not happened.
He said there were also contentious land issues around towns. $1.2 million should have been provided for the acquisition of lands near the towns for Kanak people, but many had been driven from their lands. Deserving of particular attention was the pollution of the environment due to mining activities, which had caused many people to be displaced without compensation. There had been delays in dealing with election issues and some people had been omitted from voting lists. The Kanak were absent from the political arena and were only used as labour.
The plundering of natural resources had intensified, which undermined the potential viability of the emerging Kanak State, he said, asking how self-determination could be achieved in a country that had been plundered. The United Nations must be vigilant and not abandon the Kanak people. Help was needed for a successful decolonization process. He supported the proposal to hold the 2006 Decolonization Seminar in Nouméa.
CARLYLE CORBIN, Representative for External Affairs of the United States Virgin Islands, said that over the years the territorial government had sought to widen its participation in United Nations organizations. In 1984, the United States Virgin Islands had achieved associate membership in the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and served as chairman of the United Nations Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC), from 1988-89. It presently served as a Chair of that regional body. The Virgin Islands was pleased to have worked closely with ECLAC member States in gaining consensus on two ECLAC resolutions, in 1998 and again in 2004, supporting the principle of participation for the Territories in the activities of the ECOSOC. The territorial government was rather puzzled, however, at the reversal of position when the issue had come to ECOSOC several months ago, especially given the flexibility shown by Member States in granting consultative status with ECOSOC to hundreds of non-governmental organizations over the years.
By virtue of their non-self-governing status, the Territories could not be represented in United Nations organizations without the concurrence of the administering Power, he continued. That was the prevailing condition that could only be addressed through a successful decolonization process. Accordingly, members of the Fourth Committee should show flexibility, adopt the specialized agencies’ resolution by consensus and follow up to ensure that the actions contained in the resolution were carried out by the United Nations system. Continued support for the principles of decolonization was useful, but tangible support was needed if the Non-Self-Governing Territories were to make progress towards a full measure of self-government.
Continuation of General Debate on Decolonization
PRASANNA KUMAR PATASANI ( India) said colonialism was contrary to the tenets of democracy, freedom, dignity, progress and human rights. The midpoint of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism had now been reached, with 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories still on the list. The way ahead must be a judicious mix of urgency and activism on the one hand, and sensitivity and circumscription on the other. It must take into account the needs and aspirations of the people of the Territories and their special circumstances. Appropriate timing and format were important.
He said the dissemination of information on decolonization to the peoples of the Territories was a critical tool, as they often might not be aware of their legitimate political status options. The role played by United Nations visiting missions in bridging the information deficit was important. The regional seminars were no less significant. They served as an effective forum for focused discussion on matters of concern to the Non-Self-Governing Territories and afforded opportunities for representatives of the Territories’ peoples to present their recommendations.
The role of the administering Powers was a deciding factor, he said. A spirit of cooperation and flexibility had largely imbued their actions in recent years, and they should build further upon that, in particular to devise tailored action plans for the decolonization of certain Territories in their quest for self-determination. The role of the Special Committee of 24 in furthering the decolonization process deserved special mention. India supported moves to concentrate efforts on the plan of implementation for the wider United Nations system in order to organize actions already called for into concrete activities in furtherance of complete decolonization by 2010.
FERMÍN TORO JIMÉNEZ ( Venezuela) stated his concern at the way the very existence of the Fourth Committee had been called into question during negotiations around the final Outcome Document adopted at the 2005 World Summit of the General Assembly. Venezuela did not support the use of the issue of General Assembly revitalization as a pretext for snuffing out the Committee before it was able carry out fully its mandate of eradicating colonialism.
He expressed his country’s steadfast solidarity with peoples the world over who were living with any form of colonization, saying he was deeply disquieted at the deadlock in the settlement process with regard to Western Sahara and demanding compliance with the relevant General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. Those resolutions were the only way to bring about the full exercise of Saharawi self-determination. Additionally, the United Nations must hold a transparent referendum with the aim of ending the illegal occupation of Western Sahara.
The Malvinas islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands were part of Argentina’s territorial integrity, he continued, adding that in that case, the principle of self-determination could not be invoked as the people had been transplanted by an invading Power, and had not been subjugated. The Puerto Rican people still had not exercised their right to self-determination and independence, and the international community must help them overcome their colonial relationship with the Federal Government of the occupying Power. The international community could not move forward as long as some sought to recast international law.
ALFRED M. DUBE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the independence struggle fought in that sub-region had been fought largely on the basis of decolonization and the principle of self-determination for peoples under foreign occupation. The Special Committee had been examining the application of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples for more than four decades. However, since the independence of East Timor, no remarkable progress had been made in the decolonization process, which needed to be expedited without further delay. SADC endorsed the outcome of the 2005 Decolonization Seminar held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which had been a clear manifestation of the international community’s commitment to implement the Plan of Action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.
He said SADC regretted that despite the efforts of the Secretary-General on the question of Western Sahara, the people of that Territory continued to be denied their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. Both the Settlement Plan and the Baker Plan remained unimplemented. SADC urged the Government of Morocco to accept the Baker Plan as the only viable option for resolving the question through the holding of a free and fair referendum. It welcomed the recent appointment of the Secretary-General’s new Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, and Special Representative Francesco Bastagli, and noted some recent and commendable initiatives, such as the exchange of family visits and the acceptance of the implementation of the second phase of confidence-building measures.
SADC strongly believed that as long as there were people who still lived under colonial and foreign occupation, there would be no peace and development, and no adherence to the respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, he said. Therefore, the eradication of colonialism should remain the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community as a whole.
TENS C. KAPOMA (Zambia) said that the people of Western Sahara, like people elsewhere in the world, should be free and have the inalienable right to self-determination and independence. Decolonization remained one of the unfinished assignments on the agenda of the United Nations and, in that regard, Zambia called upon the international community to take all steps necessary to bring about the complete and speedy eradication of colonialism in the remaining 16 Non-self governing territories.
Reaffirming Zambia’s strong support for the efforts of the Secretary-General, as expressed in the Baker Peace Plan, he said it constituted a mutually acceptable political solution to the dispute over Western Sahara. The Saharawi people should and must be allowed to exercise their sovereign right to self-determination. To that end, the United Nations and the rest of the international community should not fail them in their hour of need.
Point of Order
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking on a point of order, endorsed the essentials of the SADC statement, while noting that on the “thorny question” of Western Sahara, his country’s position remained the same. The Democratic Republic of the Congo reaffirmed its determination to help the parties involved to reach self-determination for the Saharawi people, and urged the parties to cooperate with the United Nations in order to end the deadlock and move towards a political solution.
LUC JOSEPH OKIO ( Congo) said the report of the Special Committee of 24 indicated that halfway through the Second Decade much remained to be done. Without specific steps to speed up development in the Non-Self-Governing Territories, and without the cooperation of the administering Powers, it would not be possible to attain the Decade’s goals. Hopefully, a real partnership would develop between the administering Powers and the Special Committee. The Congo hailed, in that regard, the encouraging efforts made by New Zealand regarding Tokelau and by the United Kingdom in facilitating a visiting mission to Bermuda, which had allowed the Special Committee of 24 to interact with that Territory’s people. But it had also revealed how little information on decolonization reached the peoples of the Territories and underlined the need for more coordinated efforts by United Nations bodies in translating resolutions into reality.
Visiting missions should occur more often, a wish also expressed by many petitioners, he said. The Congo welcomed steps taken by the Department of Public Information regarding the dissemination of information, and supported the work done by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Non-Self-Governing Territories.
The solution to the question of Western Sahara remained in a persistent deadlock, he said, inviting the parties to work in a spirit of compromise towards a political solution. The Congo welcomed certain positive developments, such as the release of prisoners of war.
HAMIDON ALI ( Malaysia) said the role of the Special Committee, and indeed that of the United Nations, was crucial in the decolonization process. Malaysia supported the recommendation by the Special Committee to embark on a public awareness campaign to help the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories to understand the self-determination options included in the relevant United Nations resolutions. In that respect, the United Nations information centres, especially those in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, could play a significant role in disseminating information, promoting public awareness and mobilizing support and assistance for any consultation process to be held in a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
The administering Powers also had an important role to play and the importance of their participation in the work of the Special Committee deserved serious attention, he stressed. Malaysia called upon them to fulfil their responsibility in a spirit of cooperation, understanding, political realism and flexibility. In that regard, the Special Committee should continue to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom with the aim of finding a solution to the question of the Falklands Islands (Malvinas). With regard to Western Sahara, Malaysia urged the parties concerned to achieve a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people in that Territory.
As the current Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Malaysia felt it necessary to highlight that body’s significant role on the issue of decolonization and the right to self-determination. NAM reaffirmed the right of all people still subjected to colonial rule or occupation to receive fair compensation for human and material losses suffered as a result of colonial rule or occupation. Colonizing countries should bear full responsibility and pay full compensation for the economic, social and cultural consequences of their occupation.
Right of Reply
The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, reserved the right to address, at a later date, statements made regarding the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
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