Letter sent by ELDH to the european governments about Western Sahara

Letter sent on 02/24/2010, by Mr Thomas Schmidt, General Secretary of European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH) to the european governments :

Dear Sir/Madam,

With interest but also with great concern we have read the Statement by the Council of the European Union after the Eighth Meeting of the EU-Morocco Association Council, dated 7th December 2009.

We fully agree with the statement of the European Union when mentions the need of promotion of human rights, the consolidation of the freedom of speech and the protection of sources and to the guaranteeing the freedom of the press in national legislation and its inclusion in the general framework of the protection of the freedom of speech&. We fully agree with the statement when it invites Morocco to safeguard freedom of association and freedom of assembly and to ensure the protection of defenders of human rights, particularly in Western Sahara and when it calls upon the government forces to show restraint in resorting to force.

We also agree with the statement when it considers that the ratification by Morocco of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, &the withdrawal of certain reservations on international conventions and accession to a number of optional Protocols, thereby reinforcing the application of several international human rights instruments, would represent significant advances.

According to the observations of Amnesty International and of Human Rights Watch, but also according to our own observations the Human Rights situation in the part of Western-Sahara occupied by Morocco, has not improved but on the contrary all reports say that it has deteriorated.

However the EU Statement fails to mention the illegal occupation of a great part of Western-Sahara by Morocco and the refusal of Morocco to tolerate the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi People.

Considering the more then 35 years lasting denial of self-determination to the Sahrawi People, considering innumerous resolutions of the UN Security Council in favor of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi People and in favor of their right to hold a referendum, and considering the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice we cannot find any justification for the European Union to exclude this very serious problem in the statement. When the EU seeks to develop particular close relationship with Morocco it cannot exclude the obligation of Morocco to apply international law and to respect the decisions of the UN Security Council.

I had myself twice the opportunity to visit the refugee camps of the Sahrawi People near Tindouf (Algeria), the second time was in October 2009. The suffering of the people who are waiting for more than 35 years to go back to their home country cannot be ignored any longer by the European Union. The EU should not evoke the impression that it is mainly interested in commercial relations with Morocco. The Swedish Government was completely right when it expressed its doubts about the legality and the politically correctness of the EU fisheries agreement with Morocco. This has now been confirmed by the legal opinion, the European Parliaments Legal Service (July 2009) in which it has declared fishing by European vessels in Western Saharas waters to be in violation of international law. The new opinion calls on the European Commission to suspend or amend the EU-Morocco agreement to ensure that EU-flagged vessels are excluded from the exploitation of the waters of Western Sahara.

We urge you therefore to reconsider the EU policy towards Morocco in a way that includes the right of the Sahrawi People to self-determination and to end their desperate fate in the refugee camps. If the European Union wishes to avoid the impression that it supports the illegal occupation of Western-Sahara by Morocco, the new EU-Morocco document which, according to the EU Statement, is supposed to replace the EU-Morocco Action Plan must have a strong obligation for Morocco to respect the right of Sahrawi People to self-determination. Before any renewal of the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, the population of Western-Sahara including the Sahrawi people living in the refugee camps near Tindouf – has to be consulted under supervision of the UN about the exploitation of its natural resources in order to comply with international law.

Yours sincerely

Thomas Schmidt


ELDH (European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights)

Thomas Schmidt (lawyer), Secretary General

Platanenstrasse 13


PHONE 0049 – 211 – 444 001

MOBILE PHONE 0049-172-6810888

eMail: thomas.schmidt@eldh.eu


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