(Washington, DC | April 12, 2013) The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) applauds the United States' draft resolution calling for a human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism in MINURSO, the United Nations (U.N.) Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps outside Tindouf, Algeria.
This groundbreaking proposal by the United States reverses decades of silence from the international community on this ongoing human rights crisis. The U.N. members currently negotiating the MINURSO resolution, which is up for renewal at the end of April, are known as the Group of Friends of Western Sahara and are comprised of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and Spain.
“The mission in Western Sahara is the only U.N. peace-keeping mission that was designed without a mandate to investigate and report on human rights violations in the last several decades,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center. “This resolution from the United States government would right that wrong and protect hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Four decades after the UN declared a ceasefire, the Sahrawi people suffer torture, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances, and other human rights violations at the hands of the Moroccan government. And more than 100,000 refugees are left living in what were intended to be temporary camps outside Tindouf, Algeria, separated from their families since 1976 and afraid to return home.
“If human rights is a pillar of the United Nations, then it must find a way to implement an effective human rights mechanism to protect the Sahrawi people,” said Santiago Canton, Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights and former Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “We are calling on the U.N. Secretary General, U.N. Special Envoy to Western Sahara, U.N. Members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council, The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to take a simple, bold stand for human rights in Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee camps.”
Over the last six years, the RFK Center has been a leading voice in the global movement to include a human rights mandate in the MINURSO peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara. In 2008, the annual RFK Human Rights Award was given to Aminatou Haidar, a courageous woman known as the "Sahrawi Gandhi," kicking off a multi-year partnership. The RFK Center has worked hand-in-hand with Haidar and other Sahrawi rights activists to call on the international community to take action for human rights in Western Sahara.
Upon returning from the 2012 delegation to Western Sahara, the RFK Center released a Preliminary Report summarizing our findings. A full report will follow in the coming weeks. This week, Horizon Magazine, a travel periodical offered to Wall Street Journal subscribers in the United States and Toronto Star and National Post readers in Canada, published a gripping report on the RFK Center's 2012 delegation.