Right Livelihood Award 2019 Lecture at the University of Zurich with Aminatou Haidar, 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate 11/ 2019 Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt

HRC46: The UN should not leave the Sahrawi people behind

News 01.03.2021

On March 1st, during the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council, on the occasion of the General Debate on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report, Aminatou Haidar, 2019 Right Livelihood Laureate, delivered a statement denouncing the recent escalation of violence in Western Sahara. She expressed grave concern over the breaking of the ceasefire by the Moroccan authorities in November 2020 and the continuous reprisals targeting Sahrawi’s activists. She urged the High Commissioner to organise a technical mission to Western Sahara with utmost urgency and for the UN to carry out their responsibility towards the decolonisation of Western Sahara. 

The situation in Western Sahara has been fragile for decades due to the 45-year long occupation by the Kingdom of Morocco, and it escalated in the second half of 2020. Last September, Aminatou Haidar and other members of her recently created organisation ISACOM (Sahrawi Organ against Moroccan Occupation), were subject to a police siege and daily repression by the Moroccan police forces, unable to leave their home without fear of persecution. The situation further worsened on November 13, 2020, when the Moroccan army broke the ceasefire agreements, by entering the area of Guerguerat to disperse Sahrawi demonstrators who were peacefully protesting. Since then, violence has been on the rise once more in the occupied territories, but the international community has so far remained silent. On the contrary, on December 10, former President of the United States Donald Trump, recognised Western Sahara as part of Morocco, an act that the Foundation vehemently criticised and which came with the risk of further eroding the young Sahrawi’s trust in the international community and peaceful resistance.

Haidar’s address to the Council therefore comes with an urgent call for action.

Read the English version of her statement below, or the original French version here.


Madam President, Madam High Commissioner,

My name is Aminatou Haidar, a human rights defender from Western Sahara, a territory occupied by the Kingdom of Morocco. A violent occupier, which incarcerates, tortures and abducts anyone claiming their fundamental rights to freedom and to self-determination.

On November 13, 2020, the Moroccan army broke the ceasefire agreements, entering the area of Guerguerat, to disperse Sahrawi demonstrators, who were exercising their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Subsequently, Morocco stepped up its repression against Sahrawi civilians, particularly human rights defenders, including myself and members of my organisation ISACOM. Soltana Khaya and her family are currently under police siege and daily repression.

The situation in the occupied territories of Western Sahara is deteriorating by the day and the international community continues to turn a deaf ear, allowing the occupier to continue to act in total impunity.

Madam High Commissioner,

Young Sahrawis have lost trust in the international community and in peaceful resistance, which I have always supported. It is of utmost urgency for the UN to act, to avoid an escalation of violence.

Your commitment to organise a technical mission to the territory gave us hope. However, the situation cannot wait any longer. I therefore invite you to arrange it as a matter of urgency. I also reiterate my call to the UN to include a mandate concerning the Human Rights monitoring within MINURSO, but above all to assume your responsibility for the decolonisation of Western Sahara.

The UN and the Member States have committed to leave no one behind. The Saharawis must not be forgotten.

Thank you.

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