Mr. Hague, considering Western Sahara, Morocco is not a strong example of peaceful reform and progress

s300_10535153794_3b1bf41e97_oA few days ago the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, met the Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane. In a short press note, the Foreign Office said that “Morocco stands as a strong example of peaceful reform and progress in North Africa, and the UK will continue to support the government’s reform process”.

Perhaps the Foreign Secretary forgot that since the mid-1970s Morocco occupies militarily a territory roughly the size of the UK: Western Sahara. A colony of Spain since the mid-19th century, the territory and its population were left on their own when Spain left shamefully in 1975-1976. Morocco immediately occupied the land upon the Spanish retreat. In an advisory opinion issued in October 1975, the International Court of Justice rejected the Moroccan sovereignty claims over Western Sahara. For fifteen long years, the Moroccan army and the Saharawi national liberation force (Polisario Front) fought a bloody war that scattered landmines across the territory and expelled tens of thousands of refugees to the neighbouring Algeria. The Polisario Front also fought against Mauritania until the latter’s withdrawal in 1979. After some years of military stagnation, in 1991, under the auspices of the United Nations Morocco and the Polisario agreed to a settlement plan that included a referendum where the local Saharawi population would have the chance to determine its own future. A UN mission (MINURSO) was set up to ensure the settlement was respected and fulfilled. However, to this day, Morocco has consistently refused the Saharawis the referendum they are entitled to by international law and the 1991 peace agreement. Morocco uses its military force to retain control over Western Sahara, while around 100.000 people survive in the refugee camps of Tindouf, in the Algerian desert. Those who remained in the occupied territories suffer continuous violations of their human rights, including torture, unresolved disappearances, restrictions to the freedom of association and discrimination in the access to work, education and healthcare. In the meantime, the natural resources of Western Sahara, particularly fisheries and phosphates, are plundered in front of the eyes of the local population, which doesn’t benefit from these industrial activities and doesn’t have a say on them. Continue reading “Mr. Hague, considering Western Sahara, Morocco is not a strong example of peaceful reform and progress”

Fisheries, the EU and Western Sahara: In line with international law… in the end

On 28 July 2005, the European Union and Morocco agreed upon a fishing agreement. Previously, both parties had adopted similar bilateral treaties in 1988, 1992, and 1995. According to Article 11, the Agreement applied “to the territory of Morocco and to the waters under Moroccan jurisdiction”, an expression used to refer to waters situated to the south of Cape Noun, that is, under the internationally recognised border between Morocco and Western Sahara.

According to article 12, the Agreement had to be applied for a period of four years. In February 2011, in spite of the critics, the EU managed to extend the agreement provisionally one more year. Yesterday, though, the European Parliament rejected the extension of the pact any longer. What happened? Continue reading “Fisheries, the EU and Western Sahara: In line with international law… in the end”

One full year putting human rights in context

It has now been a year since this blog saw the light. On 9 November 2010, we explained the point of this project in these terms:

The human rights community must contextualise human rights. This demands the use of the rights discourse and tools in order to hold back the effects of these crises or, in other words, in order to transform a crisis into a political opportunity for change.

We cannot afford a recession in human rights. This phrase summarises the point of Rights in Context. Continue reading “One full year putting human rights in context”

Constitutional reform in Morocco?

After 12 years in the throne and at a time of regional mobilization that has not left his kingdom untouched, Mohamed VI has announced today his intention to undertake a ‘comprehensive constitutional reform‘. According to his own words, he will give up part of his executive powers and will grant certain civil rights and freedoms in order to consolidate “our model of democracy and development“. Continue reading “Constitutional reform in Morocco?”

Victory in Egypt: The fight for social rights at the core of the fight for democracy

After 18 days of revolution, Mubarak has resigned today. Time will tell the specifics about when elections will be held, about how the military will lead the transition, how this shift will affect the process in Middle East… Nonetheless, this is a victory for Egypt, it is a victory for democracy and peaceful mobilisation of people. And Egypt is giving a lesson to countries that are still suffering the burden of dictatorship. What is it?

Continue reading “Victory in Egypt: The fight for social rights at the core of the fight for democracy”