The New York Bar Association has issued a document recommending that a referendum be held in Western Sahara which follows the same lines as the South Sudan referendum on independence, making references to international law and claiming that such a right to independence is covered by its terms.
The document issued by the New York Bar Association is called The Legal Issues Involved in the Western Sahara Dispute*. The document recommends that the UNO supports a process identical to the one in which South Sudan voted for independence (the Machakos Protocol), which would provide the Saharawi people with the right to vote in favour of autonomy within the occupying power, Morocco, or else go for full independence.
The 107-page legal report drawn up by the New York Bar Association, which has sent a copy to the US Congress, states: “After six years of negotiations on a settlement policy conflict, the people of South Sudan won the right to a referendum with the option of independence. A similar approach for Western Sahara would be supported by international law”.
The report goes further, claiming that international law supports the claim to a right for independence made by the Frente Polisario, representing the occupied Sahawari people: “The people of Western Sahara has clearly the right to self determination under international law. International law requires that the Sahrawis have the opportunity to determine their political status and that determination must include the option of independence”.
It continues: “any plan that eliminates the option of independence of the exercise of self-determination is illegal under international law clearly defined,” while calling on the international community to avoid “imposing” the Saharawi measures contrary to that point.
Also of interest:
UNDRIP is the permanent solution to Western Sahara
The Arab spring revolution and its ‘domino effect’ in North Africa lend urgency in the region to the United Nations’ efforts to resolve the long-festering problem of the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara. Since 1975, Morocco has asserted its sovereignty over Western Sahara, and for over 37 years, the indigenous peoples of Western Sahara have struggled for independence.
In 1991, the United Nations crafted a solution to the Western Saharan problem in the Minurso mandate. The Plan provided for a transitional period during which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General would have sole and exclusive responsibility over all matters relating to a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara would choose between independence and integration with Morocco. Furthermore, it is intended for the establishment of a long term comprehensive and a just resolution to the conflict with Morocco over its self-determination and full independence.
Full implementation of this mandate has been blocked in the Security Council by Morocco’s ally, France, thus depriving the indigenous peoples of Western Sahara of their basic human rights. Therefore, in order to achieve the lofty objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is fundamentally necessary for the International community to come to a consensus on the question of Western Sahara and find a solution to this thirty seven year old stalemate. Western Sahara is recognized by the U.N and the ICJ as a territory which was inhabited by Indigenous people prior to the Spanish colonization; therefore it is not a terra nullius. Then, it is necessary for the U.N to adhere the population of Western Sahara under the protection of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, so they too can enjoy the minimum human rights as prescribed by the universal declaration.
The UDHR guarantees “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Yet, these basic human rights are denied to the indigenous people in the occupied territory of Western Sahara thanks to a succession of events, which involve Morocco’s political scheming in the region, and the influence of France in the Security Council.
While everything else has been tried to find a solution to the conflict to only reach a deadlock, it is imperative to add the population of Western Sahara to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, for the establishment of these rights.
There are three steps to this policy recommendation to prove why it is fundamental to adopt the principles of the UNDRIP in Western Sahara. First, it will be on the history of the territory. Then, it will discuss the argument of the ICJ concerning the status of Western Sahara and the illegal claim of Morocco over it; and thirdly it will find the appropriate definition from the many on indigenous people to be applied on the Sahrawi population, and will show which articles should be the basis to this argument.
When other people enjoy “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as mentioned in the Universal declaration of Human Rights, the said human rights are inexistent in the occupied territory of Western Sahara.
Morocco’s political scheming in the occupied territory and its strong hold on the media, which prevents the world from knowing about the suffering of the indigenous people of the last African colony, should be sanctioned. And the influence of its allies in the UN Security Council that tends to be problematic to the mechanism and the function of the Minurso mandate in the territory should be stopped.
Although Western Sahara is recognized by the U.N and the ICJ as a Non Res nullius territory which gives it a legal status; and recognizing the failure of the U.N mandate in implementing its fundamental goal for a referendum, which is intended for the establishment of a long term comprehensive and a just resolution to the conflict with Morocco over its self-determination and full independence, and which only ended in reaching a deadlock. Therefore, and in order to show a sign of good will attention, the U.N should include the population and the territory of Western Sahara under the protection of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, so they too can enjoy the minimum human rights as prescribed by the universal declaration. This solution should be acted upon, by the international community, as a rightful thing to do to show a sign of good will in finding a permanent resolution to the question of Western Sahara.
- In Limbo in the Saharan ‘Free Zone’ (ipsnews.net)
- #WesternSahara’s Overlooked Arab Spring (lissnup.wordpress.com)
- The Last Colony: On The Moroccan Occupation Of Western Sahara – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Western Sahara: Deferred Referendum Or Lasting Settlement? – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)