Human rights organization Amnesty International has called on the United Nations to add human rights monitoring to the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
“The UN mission in Western Sahara is the world’s only modern peacekeeping operation without a human rights component,” said Heba Morayef, research director for Amnesty International in North Africa, in a statement issued ahead of next week’s UN Security Council vote to renew the peacekeeping mandate.
“It’s been over a quarter of a century since it was established and it is high time to upgrade its status to enable it to report on such violations.”
Amnesty said it has documented numerous cases of human rights violations in Sahrawi refugee camps, both in Western Sahara territories under Moroccan control and across the border in southern Algeria.
The global rights group alleges that abuses are committed by both Moroccan authorities and Polisario Front, the Sahrawi pro-independence movement that oversees the Algerian border camp at Tindouf.
Amnesty joins the African Union in reiterating the need for a human rights component to be included in the MINURSO mandate, which was encouraged but not included in prior reviews. MINURSO is tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between the Moroccan armed forces and the Polisario Front, as well as to implement a referendum to determine Western Sahara’s final status.
Political tensions have risen over breaches of the ceasefire agreement by both parties in the buffer zone near the Mauritanian border, adding to the urgency for human rights protections, the organization said.
On Tuesday, protesters in Paris gathered at France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to rally on behalf of Sahrawi political prisoners. They echoed the call for human rights monitoring to be added to the MINURSO mandate, along with the right of Sahrawi self-determination and enforcement of a December European Union ruling that found Western Sahara territories cannot be considered part of Morocco for trade purposes.
Image: UN File Photo