Consequences of Persistent Dependency Relations Examined in Fourth Committee as Petitioners Express Unyielding Positions over Disputed Territories
Consequences of Persistent Dependency Relations Examined in Fourth Committee as Petitioners Express Unyielding Positions over Disputed Territories
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
3rd Meeting (PM)
Consequences of Persistent Dependency Relations Examined in Fourth Committee
as Petitioners Express Unyielding Positions over Disputed Territories
Situations in Western Sahara, Gibraltar,
Turks and Caicos, New Caledonia, Guam Considered
As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met to hear petitioners on its annual draft of decolonization issues, many decried the violation of the human rights of Western Saharan refugees, including what some claimed was the exploitation of their natural resources by Morocco.
During the meeting, one petitioner, from the Algerian National Committee for Solidarity with the Saharan People, spoke about the dramatic situation of the Saharan population in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, and the “alarming dangers” they faced due, he said, to repression by the occupying Moroccan authorities. He described serious human rights violations, which had generated an atmosphere of terror and dissuaded people from reporting the atrocities.
In his view, the whole of Western Sahara was subjected to a military siege and a media blackout, as the Moroccan authorities had made it very difficult for non-governmental organizations, international media and observers to gain access. Both men and women of all social categories were subjected to serious human rights violations, which included forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, genocide, and internal forced displacement.
Speaking of the Saharans who lived in the refugee camps, another petitioner, from Not Forgotten International, praised their incredible patience, as they waited for the champions of freedom of the world to let them determine their own future as a nation and a shining example of democracy and commitment to peace. But their patience was wearing dangerously thin and there was growing sentiment that they would rather die fighting for their own country than be known as the longest-lasting refugees who died committed to a peaceful solution.
Attention was also drawn to what a petitioner called Morocco’s “shameful spoilage” of Western Sahara’s natural resources. Member States were urged not to be accomplices to crimes against Western Sahara’s future generations. Petitioners also argued that international aid was insufficient, amounting to less than 50 cents per day per person. Refugees were desperately short of everything, including food, health care, housing, water and education, they said.
However, some speakers countered that Morocco had served as a beneficial steward to Western Sahara and its people. According to a petitioner from the University of Delhi, Morocco had continued to complete its process of integration, which was happening in phases. Morocco had invested in many positive initiatives and guaranteed all Saharan people, both inside and outside the region, a participatory role without discrimination, he said.
Petitioners also argued that the new constitution proposed by Morocco was based on the principles of unity and inclusion, took into account the diversity of the region, and would provide for an adequate division of powers among state and regional and local authorities.
Another petitioner, of Depute Parlementaire de Laayoune, spoke about the despair and frustration that, in his view, resulted from the activities of the leaders of the Polisario Front. The people in the camps were hostages of “this fictitious Republic”, he said. Algeria must understand that there would be serious consequences for providing logistic support to the separatists and playing with the territorial integrity of their neighbours.
On the question of Gibraltar, that territory’s recently elected Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said that Spain was playing “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” with Gibraltar, preaching freedom and democracy to the world while denying Gibraltarians the right to have a say in their own future. The proposal by Spain to resume bilateral talks with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of Gibraltar “ignored” the wishes of the people of Gibraltar. Gibraltar’s sovereignty was a bilateral issue only for the people of Gibraltar and the British Crown, he stated, and Spain must drop its claim to the land.
Emphasizing that the people of Gibraltar enjoyed a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, he added that despite the “intolerable” actions by the Spanish Government, the people of that Territory wished to continue their positive engagement with the Government and people of Spain over the issue of the Bay of Gibraltar. The threatening attitude of the Spanish Government, he said, resembled the attitude of General Franco, who had believed that Gibraltar would “fall like a ripe fruit” after the closure of the border between it and Spain. But Gibraltar remained steadfast and “unripe” as ever, he stated.
Also speaking on the question of Gibraltar, the representative of Spain stated that the principle of territorial integrity was of the essence. Gibraltar was very different from most Non-Self-Governing Territories and, therefore, solutions must also be different. There could be no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, he stressed, which, as the United Kingdom had recalled on various occasions, made unfeasible the independence of Gibraltar without Spain’s consent.
Echoing sentiments expressed throughout the afternoon, a speaker from the Turks and Caicos Islands Human Rights Commission noted that despite all the efforts of the United Nations to rid the world of the curse of colonialism, it still reared its ugly head. Colonialism remained an indelible stain on the fabric of civilization, he said, and the international community must prevent its overreaching hand from eroding the authority of the elected governments and impinging on those people’s democratic rights.
The Committee also heard additional speakers on the questions of New Caledonia, Guam, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Western Sahara.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of the United Kingdom and Spain.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on 10 October to continue its consideration of decolonization issues.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of decolonization issues, for which it is scheduled to hear from representatives of Non-Self-Governing Territories and petitioners. (For background, see Press Release GA/SPD/504 of 8 October.)
FERNANDO ARIAS ( Spain) stated that the case of Gibraltar was very different from that of most of the Territories subjected to decolonization and therefore the applicable solutions had to be different as well. In the case of Gibraltar, the principle of territorial integrity was of the essence. The General Assembly had made that clear in successive resolutions urging both Spain and the United Kingdom to negotiate. For Spain, the solution entailed a restitution of the Territory, the one transferred by the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, as well as the land that was later occupied by the United Kingdom without any legal basis.
He said the United Kingdom, as the administering Power and the international responsible party for the Territory, was the one to attend to the needs of the inhabitants. On its side, the Government of Spain had stated on several occasions its readiness to establish mechanisms enabling local cooperation for the welfare and economic development of the inhabitants of the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar. However, that did not imply the acceptance of a right to the self-determination in this case. Such a right was ascribed to the population of a colonized Territory, not to the settlers imposed by the occupying Powers in detriment of the native inhabitants.
He went on to say that there could be no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, which, as the United Kingdom had recalled on various occasions, made unfeasible the independence of Gibraltar without Spain’s consent. He called on the United Kingdom to resume bilateral dialogue on the decolonization of Gibraltar in accordance with the United Nations mandate.
FABIAN PICARDO, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said that Spain was playing “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” with Gibraltar, preaching freedom and democracy to the world while denying Gibraltarians the right to have a say in their own future. The proposal by Spain to resume bilateral talks with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of Gibraltar “ignored” the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and referred only to their “interests” being taken into account. He recalled that the United Kingdom had repeatedly said she would never enter into an arrangement whereby Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against the wishes of its people. The sovereignty of Gibraltar was a bilateral issue only for the people of Gibraltar and the British Crown. He referred to a recent statement by King Juan Carlos of Spain, who said that, in his view, it was not time for politicians in Spain to be chasing “pipe dreams” or “Chimeras”.
Mr. Picardo said that it was now 299 years since, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain had agreed to cede Gibraltar’s sovereignty to the United Kingdom, and there had now been 308 years of uninterrupted British sovereignty over it. The Treaty was now clearly defunct and overtaken by subsequent international treaties and texts, not least, the United Nations Charter and decolonisation resolutions. In short, there were too many arguments against Spain’s position to set them out in the current forum. The only way forward was to remove Gibraltar from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Spain must drop its claim to the land.
The people of Gibraltar, he said, enjoyed a constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, approved by referendum, in keeping with General Assembly resolution 2625 (1970). If not delisted on the basis of that relationship, the people of Gibraltar should be told how their present constitutional arrangements did not achieve the maximum possible level of self-government, short of independence, so that they might deal directly with the United Kingdom to resolve it. Nonetheless, he remained strongly committed to a trilateral process of dialogue. The United Kingdom had expressed its strong commitment as well.
The people of Gibraltar, despite the “intolerable” actions by the Spanish Government, also wished to continue their positive engagement with the Government and people of Spain over the issue of Bay of Gibraltar, he said. Illegal incursions by Spain into British territorial waters had been going on for several years, and while they had not yet resulted in any human injury, that risk existed every day that the incursions continued. Furthermore, there was much more that could be done to develop the economy of Gibraltar and the neighbouring Spanish towns if they were able to engage in meaningful cooperation with Spain. The sad fact was that the threatening attitude of the Spanish Government, including in the media, and attacks against their economy at every opportunity. That resembled the attitude taken in the 1960s by General Franco, who believed that Gibraltar would “fall like a ripe fruit” after the closure of the border between it and Spain. Yet there had been five different political administrations in Spain, and Gibraltar remained steadfast and “unripe” as ever. The Spanish “time warp” must end.
HAROLD MARTIN, President of the Government of New Caledonia, stated that recent election results in his country had prematurely launched the campaign for general election of May 2014, and as a result, the Government would have great difficulty in convincing ministers to vote for major initiatives to reduce social inequality. Briefing the Committee on socioeconomic development in the Territory, he said that New Caledonia had begun the new school year in good condition. The new civil society centre would soon be operational.
He reaffirmed that the timeline set forth by the Noumea Accord would be applied to the economic and social funds in spite of the global economic crisis. The situation remained satisfactory, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth and low unemployment. Budget credits allocated by the state would fuel business activity. The goals of economic and social rebalancing remained the Government’s first priority.
He highlighted, among other social improvements, a provision to provide men and women over the age of 60 with a decent monthly allocation. In other developments, New Caledonia’s relations with its neighbours were being scaled up, as were its bilateral cooperation activities, as it diversified cooperation through exchanges with Fiji, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands. The Territory also had participated in the recent meetings of the Pacific Islands Forum.
ROBERT GUBA AISI (Papua New Guinea) encouraging all the parties to respect the rights and dignity of the Kanak people in accordance with the provisions of the Noumea Accord, asked if the New Caledonian President could inform the Committee how many Kanak people had been trained and would be trained in the professional areas? How many doctors and engineers and civil engineers and bureaucrats were being trained so they could participate in the civil society of New Caledonia?
Responding, Mr. MARTIN stated that the job offers were four times higher than the requests for jobs. Yet, 7,000 people were still out of work, owing to a lack of training. Great efforts were being taken to train the young Kanak people through a special provision called “400 Managers”. Further, the University of New Caledonia had special training sessions to enable youths to attend the great French schools. Young people also participated in training conventions held in other countries, such as Canada.
TIARA R. NAPUTI, Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice, said that in April, a joint statement released by the United States-Japan Security Consultative Committee confirmed that approximately 5,000 Marines and their dependents would be relocated to Guahan. Since the United States military already controlled one-third of the island, the indigenous Chamorro people were in danger of being pushed further to the margins by the threatened inundation of the island with thousands of military members and associated personnel. The island’s dependency status impeded the indigenous rights of the Chamorro and their ability to participate in the decisions that affected their culture, land, and lives.
On the subject of a lawsuit filed by Arnold “Dave” Davis against the definition of “native inhabitant of Guam” as a condition for the self-determination plebiscite, she added that the case demanded attention from the United Nations. While it outwardly appeared to be a reverse discrimination case, it had nothing to do with protecting civil rights or preventing race discrimination. Davis’ lawsuit demonstrated an attempt by a Guahan resident to invoke United States’ domestic and legal processes and preemptively deny the long-colonized peoples of Guahan the opportunity to exercise the inherent right of self-determination.
DANIEL MALCOLM, Turks and Caicos Islands Human Rights Commission, said that despite all the efforts of the United Nations to rid the world of the curse of colonialism, it still reared its ugly head. Colonialism remained an indelible stain on the fabric of civilization. Its overreaching hand eroded the authority of the elected governments of the Non-Self-Governing Territories, impinging on their democratic rights as they grappled with the effects of recession and financial crises. He called for a revival of the Trusteeship System, which had worked well in the past. Towards that end, he asked the Committee to vet a draft resolution that would give access to the Trusteeship System by both dependent Territories and any administering countries appointed by the United Nations as mentors of the Territories.
O’BRIEN FORBES, The TCI People’s Referendum, stated that the Turks and Caicos was not a Crown colony won in conflict or acquired by purchase. The British “overseership” was to be “conditioned by consent of the people of Turks and Caicos”. However, recent experience had shown that those officials had been incautious enough to insist on their judgment against the public. He was therefore in favour of Daniel Malcolm’s proposed resolution, and asked that the mechanism of a United Nations trusteeship be revived in the case of Turks and Caicos.
CARLYLE CORBIN, International Adviser on Governance, Saint Thomas Virgin Islands, stated that it had long been established by the General Assembly that self-determination was a fundamental human right. It was therefore to be recognized that the status quo dependency models, however complex, were inconsistent with that principle and contradictory to democratic governance. The status quo was the problem. It could not also, simultaneously, be the solution.
ALI SAHEL, President, National Association for Youth Exchanges, said that there was a tragic situation facing the Saharan people, and youth in particular. Youth bore the consequences of the Moroccan colonization and were held hostage to a situation characterized by uncertainty and an unknown future. It was very important to concentrate on their particular problems and concerns. They had suffered first under Spanish colonization and now under Moroccan colonization, and the result was negative effects on their thinking, views, aspirations and hopes. Unemployment had reached 70 per cent among Saharan youth, and a high percentage did not have the necessary means to continue elementary school.
In addition, said the speaker, they were subjected to grave violations by Moroccan forces, who pursued a “hellish” policy of starvation and intimidation. The Moroccan forces were trying to destroy the social fabric of Saharan youth so that they would be unable to ask for improvement in their situation and were instead compelled to armed resistance. The Saharan people were ready to fight by all peaceful means in order to recover their rights and dignity. He appealed to the conscience of the international community to find a solution which would bring peace, stability and security to the Saharan people and the whole region.
OMAR SADOK, a concerned citizen, stated that the Saharan people must be enabled to exercise their right to self-determination. That Territory was known for its recognized borders, and it was crucial that, after colonization ended, the borders be recognized and stay as they are.
SAID AYACHI, Vice-President, Comité National Algérien de Solidarité Avec le Peuple Sahraoui, spoke about the dramatic situation of the Saharan population in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and the alarming danger due to the repression by the occupying Moroccan authorities. The Saharans were suffering serious violations of human rights, which had generated an atmosphere of terror and dissuaded people from reporting the atrocities. The whole of Western Sahara was subjected to a military siege and a media blackout as the Moroccan authorities had made it very difficult for non-governmental organizations, international media and observers to gain access. Both men and women of all social categories were subjected to serious human rights violations, which included forced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, genocide and internal forced displacement.
Morocco’s shameful spoilage of Western Sahara’s natural resources should also be denounced, he said, emphasizing that the Member States must not be accomplices to crimes against future generations of Saharans. International aid was also insufficient, amounting to less than 50 cents per day per person. Refugees were desperately short of everything, including food, health care, housing, water and education. The massive human rights violations carried out by the Moroccan administration must be recorded and the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) extended.
MHAND BERKOUK, Centre de Recherche Stratégique et Sécuritaire, said that Morocco had been unlawfully occupying the territory of Western Sahara for the past 37 years and that Africa had been intransigent in defending the right of the Saharan people to independence. Morocco continued its heinous policies of repression and human rights violations. It also continued with its dangerous pillage of the natural and fishing resources of the Western Sahara, in a flagrant violation of international law. The patience of the Saharans was running thin and more calls had been heard requesting a return to armed resistance.
To avoid a return to violence and bloodshed, it was imperative that the international community assume its responsibility by adopting a bold stance to end Moroccan colonial presence in Western Sahara, said the speaker. Actions included empowering the MINURSO with a more proactive mandate that would enable it to organize a referendum for self-determination; equipping the Mission with a new legal instrument to monitor the human rights violations; putting the Security Council resolutions on the matter under the United Nations Chapter VII; monitoring arms sales to Morocco; encouraging the emergence of an international consensus against any foreign investment aimed at pillaging Saharan resources, and banning the inclusion of those resources in all bilateral and multilateral trade agreements; and issuing a Security Council resolution that would mandate a sincere approach by Morocco in its negotiation with the Polisario.
NANCY HUFF, President, Teach the Children International, also highlighted a number of areas of concern: the lack of security in the Islamic Maghreb, particularly in the Tindouf camps, where aid workers were kidnapped; the Polisario’s practice of allowing only one family member at a time, instead of whole families, to participate in United Nations confidence-building measures; an inadequate stance by the United Nations to road-building from the towns of Smara in Morocco and Tindouf, Algeria; the lack of education in the Tindouf camps; and the lack of recording human rights abuses inflicted on those who leave the Tindouf camps.
GALE SHERRILL, Director, The Glenpool Outreach Center at the Landing, speaking on behalf of the trapped Saharan people in the refugee camps of Tindouf, Algeria, said that the situation concerning terrorist activity in the camps was escalating, making the urgency to remove the refugees to safer ground even greater. There were also confirmed reports of kidnappings at Raboni, which served as the staging and travel arrangement site for the nearby refugee camps. An increasing Al-Qaida presence in the region should sound an alarm at the United Nations to enlist permanent on-site monitors other than the ruling Polisario, which had diverted much of the United Nations aid for years.
The fault was not with the Saharan people, who lived in conditioned fear of taking steps to leave the camps, but with those who had the power to implement solutions, she said. She recommended oversight by Algeria of the camps; extensive preparation by the Moroccan Government to receive refugees, including housing, schools and retraining; and the granting of immigration status for all Saharan refugees and their children born in the camps since 1975. The politics of the refugee camps and the monetary interests of the terrorist gangs continued to cover up the truth, she said, asking the Committee to take further measurable steps on behalf of the Saharans in the coming year.
SURESH KUMAR, Department of African Studies, University of Delhi, said that Morocco continued to complete its process of integration, which was happening in phases, similar to the way India achieved its complete independence in 1963. Since 2004, the Security Council had regularly called on the concerned parties to cooperate fully to end the current stalemate on the Western Sahara. Towards that goal, Morocco had invested in many positive initiatives and guaranteed all Saharan people, both inside and outside the region, a participatory role without discrimination. The new Constitution was based on the principles of unity and inclusion, and took into account the region’s diversity. It provided for an adequate division of powers among state, regional and local authorities, and representation of the people in the national parliament and other institutions.
JANET LENZ, Not Forgotten International, said the people of Western Sahara had been living under the rule of a Kingdom that had invaded their God-given homeland in 1975, and they did not have the freedom or means to speak to this body of world influencers. Those who lived in Western Sahara risked dire consequences for voicing their true desires for independence. She herself had been told by a Moroccan official to never again come to these hearings to testify. If Moroccan-paid individuals thought they could oppress an American citizen in her own country, just imagine what they were doing in the occupied territories, she said. The Saharans who lived in the refugee camps had suffered with incredible patience, waiting for the champions of freedom of the world to let them determine their own future as a nation and a shining example of democracy and commitment to peace. But their patience was wearing dangerously thin and there was growing sentiment that they would rather die fighting for their own country than be known as the longest-lasting refugees who died committed to a peaceful solution. It was time for the United Nations to take action and put an immediate end to the largest illegally occupied colony in the world, Western Sahara.
JEFFREY SMITH, Western Sahara Resource Watch, said that it was the Saharan people themselves who had the right to sovereignty over the natural resources of their territory. There were four natural resources currently exported from occupied Western Sahara: agricultural products, sand, phosphate rock and fish. In consequence, there was direct financial gain to the occupying Power and the corresponding denial of revenue to the Saharan people. The Fourth Committee, therefore, must address the issue in its recommendations proposed for adoption this year by the General Assembly. The Committee itself must study the problem of the development and export of natural resources from Western Sahara.
PEDRO PINTO LEITE, Western Sahara Human Rights Watch, said that Morocco was creating obstacles for the free cultural development of the Saharan people. The United Nations and the General Assembly must work to ensure that Morocco respected the cultural heritage of the Saharan people. The United Nations had the responsibility to protect the Saharan people, who continued to be tortured by the Moroccans. The Organization should gain the respect of the international community, not only by virtue of its existence, but through its activities. The way it handled the question of Western Sahara would determine how it was seen by current and future generations.
AYMERIC CHAUPRADE, a concerned citizen, stated that the issue of the Polisario could be compared to the question of Tuareg and fundamentalism. He called on Algeria, a "friendly country", to reconsider its position lest it fall victim to fundamentalism. It was crucial to bring a new perspective to the Western Sahara question, instead of the old cold war perspective.
AHMED LAKHRIF, Depute Parlementaire de Laayoune, stated that his family and tribe lived in terrible conditions in Western Sahara. Despair and frustration were the outcome of the activities of the leaders of the Polisario and the continued obstruction of the autonomy plan by Algeria. Populations in the camps were subjected to terrible conditions and hostages of “this fictitious Republic”. Algeria must understand that there would be serious consequences for providing logistic support to the separatists and playing with the territorial integrity of their neighbours. Those who played with fire would get burnt, according to an old Saharan proverb. He called on the international community and Algeria to recover reason as soon as possible.
PIERRE LEGROS, a concerned citizen, stated that a recent Spanish television programme about the dismantling of a camp in Western Sahara supposedly illustrated the alleged violence used by the Moroccan army with photos that were sent by the Polisario. But the photos had nothing to do with the reported dismantling. While freedom of press was essential, journalists should not manipulate public opinion. He had gone to Laayoune and requested to go to Tindouf, but he was not allowed to do so. Who was really violating human rights in this region? he asked.
ANTONIO ALBERTO NETO, President, Partido Democrático Angolano, stated that the territory of Western Sahara was an integral part of Morocco, based on historical reasons. When Spain left the territory, the administration of the land had not been transferred to the Polisario or any other liberation movement. Even those countries that did support the Polisario were asking themselves what the point was. The legitimacy of the Moroccan nation had been affirmed by various countries. Under the new Constitution, it was clear that Morocco could be a modern, democratic and constitutional State. An attitude of greed on the part of some should not destabilize or delay the economic development of post-colonial Africa. The United Nations was a good place to find an equitable solution, and in times of international crisis, no time should be wasted as peace was of “precious value”.
MOHAMMAD ZIYAD ALJABARI, Palestinian–Moroccan Friendship Society, quoted a Chinese proverb: “lies do not have legs”. Algeria had used human rights charges to denigrate Morocco, which had taken many great steps to entrench the protection of human rights in the country. The rights of the Saharans were violated by the Polisario with support from the Algerian army. There were violations at all levels. In particular, he emphasized the question of enslavement in the Hamada camps and the refusal to allow the camps’ residents to exercise free speech. Further, there were secret prisons for those that opposed Polisario policies. Those organizations that were pretending to fight for human rights were committing grave violations against the Saharan people and benefitting from the situation there.
DAVID LIPPIATT, International Executive Director, WE International Inc., noted that he had followed the situation in Western Sahara for years and had been at the camps there more than a dozen times. He said that the Saharans were looking to the international community for help. The United Nations needed to take action, or hear reports for the next 5, 10, or 15 years about the situation. It was clear that Morocco did one thing and said another. It said it wanted to bring about a referendum, but it never allowed it to be voted on. Morocco played allies to make them believe the Saharans were liars, but the truth was that Morocco lied.
He said Morocco exploited the natural resources of Western Sahara and committed gross human rights violations there. It argued that it had improved its human rights policy, but it had not improved it with regard to the Saharans. He cited as one example a peaceful protest of the Saharans, which led to the use of tear gas and live bullets and resulted in deaths, injuries and arrests. However, western media and MINURSO had not been allowed to see that. Morocco had no regard for human beings or for the United Nations. It had no qualms about suppressing the Saharan people, he said, appealing to the international community to do more.
OMAR DKHIL, Président de la commission de Législation et des Droits de l’homme à la Chambre des Conseillers, said that contrary to what was being stated by enemies of Morocco, the country had a strong democratic experience and had been doing its best to make United Nations initiatives a success. Enemies had said that the Polisario was the only representative of the Saharan people, but Mr. Dkhil said he belonged to one of the largest tribes of Saharans, yet he was a member of Morocco’s Parliament. Many Saharans had voted for him, proving that they were totally integrated into Morocco’s political life. The level of participation in this southern province was among the best in Morocco, and the elections were impartial. While the leaders of the Polisario did not represent Saharans, he could speak on their behalf and talk about their aspirations. They were against any separatist tendencies. The majority of the Saharans also had not left Western Sahara — they lived in Morocco in peace, and Morocco did its best to help them live in dignity. Security Council resolutions must be implemented and Saharans must be allowed to return to Morocco voluntarily.
AHMED BOUKHARI, Polisario Front, recalled that, every year, the Polisario came to this forum to convey the confidence and hope of the Saharan people in the United Nations. This Committee, he said, had drawn up resolution 34/37 requesting Morocco to “end its military occupation of Western Sahara”, but Morocco had not wanted to hear that message. It had betrayed its own commitment to hold a referendum and had unilaterally proclaimed its sovereignty over the territory. Moreover, Morocco was violating human rights and plundering the region’s natural resources, while it hid behind a “thin smokescreen”. Nevertheless, he remained confident that the United Nations was a key part of the solution and that it could help end 21 years of “Moroccan paralysis and deception”.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the United Kingdom said that Gibraltar enjoyed the individual and collective rights accorded by the United Nations Charter. A modern and mature relationship existed between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. That relationship had been modernized in a way that was acceptable to both parties. His country regretted the outdated approach of the Special Committee of Twenty-Four, which did not take that into account. The principle of territorial integrity was not applicable to the decolonization of Gibraltar. Independence would only be an option with Spanish consent. The referendum organized by the then Government of Gibraltar constituted a lawful act. The United Kingdom retained its full responsibility for the external affairs and defence of Gibraltar. It regretted Spain’s decision to withdraw from the trilateral forum and stood ready to explore new ways of dialogue on matters of mutual interest.
The representative of Spain said her country had not changed its position with regard to the waters around Gibraltar. Those were not included in the Utrecht Treaty.
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