Western Sahara: Open Letter to UN SG

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Western Sahara: Open Letter to UN SG
By: Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara
16 April 2021

Open Letter to the UN Secretary General

Geneva / Bir Lehlu, 16 April 2021

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. –Archibishop Desmond Tutu


On the occasion of the upcoming UN Security Council’s meeting on Western Sahara, the Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara, including the Saharawi National Commission for Human Rights (CONASADH) and many Saharawi organisations working in the field of Human Rights, convey to you the message of the Saharawi people from the Occupied Non Self-Governing Territory and of the Saharawi diaspora: “We don’t appreciate anymore UN neutrality.”

To be more precise, it is the persistent silence observed by the UN Secretariat, with the exception of UNSG Ban Ki-moon declarations at the end of his second term, which makes it clear that the United Nations Secretariat is not neutral in the question of the non-application of resolution 1514 (XV) in Western Sahara, but that it favors the continuing illegal occupation of the Territory by the Kingdom of Morocco. The Saharawi people consider that the UN is partly responsible of the recent resuming of the armed conflict in Western Sahara.

Of course, the position of two major Powers (US and France) is detrimental to the free exercise of the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara and both governments are objectively accomplices of the systematic and serious human rights violations and breaches of International Humanitarian Law norms in Western Sahara.

But this cannot impede you to speak out clearly and call to action for Human Rights in Western Sahara, including the right to self-determination and independence in accordance with UNGA resolution

1514 (XV).

In recent years several Human Rights Council’s Special procedures and Treaty Bodies have expressed their concerns about human rights violations (including the right to self-determination) committed by the Occupying Power in Western Sahara (see Annex).

The Kingdom of Morocco is systematically rejecting all allegations, all decisions and opinions adopted by the UN human rights mechanisms. There are no independent inquiries about act of torture in the Kingdom of Morocco or in Western Sahara, while the practice is systematic against Saharawi human rights defenders and journalists. This is the case, for example, of the prisoners of the Gdeim Izik Group, in particular that of Mohamed Lamine Haddi, a Sahrawi political prisoner on hunger strike who has been forcibly fed for two months, and of Sultana Khaya, who is being arbitrarily detained in her home following the encirclement of her home by the occupation forces.

While the Kingdom of Morocco has ratified in May 2013 the Convention on Enforced Disappearances, it has yet to present its first report to the Committee. The Kingdom of Morocco is the only African country that has not adhered to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In these conditions, it is shocking to see that in your last report to the Security Council (S/2020/238) you summarized the human rights violations committed by the Kingdom of Morocco in two paragraphs and that you gave space to the Occupying Power’s propaganda about alleged human rights violations in the Saharawi refugee camps.

The Saharawi people would very much appreciate if you express your concern about the systematic and serious violations of the refugees’ civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as a consequence of the longstanding illegal military occupation of their land by the Kingdom of Morocco; including the continuing illegal plundering of their natural resources1 by international and Moroccan companies, some of them owned by King Mohamed VI, whose personal fortune has increased from 1 to 5 billion US$ since his accession to the throne according to Forbes magazine.

They also would very much appreciate if you refer extensively about the allegations contained in the documents listed in the annex: there is material for pages dedicated to human rights violations in your report on Western Sahara!

In 1966, the UN General Assembly invited the administering Power (Spain) to determine, at the earliest possible date, in conformity with the aspiration of the indigenous people of Spanish Sahara, the procedures for the holding of a referendum under UN auspices with a view to enabling the indigenous population of the Territory to exercise freely its right to self-determination (Res. 2229 – XXI, 20 Dec. 1966).

It is 55 years now that the indigenous population of the Non Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara is waiting for the referendum to be organized under UN auspices.

Two years after former President Horst Köhler resigned from his position of Personal Envoy, it is clear now for everyone that it will be impossible to find a well experienced diplomat acceptable for the two parties to the conflict who may take the position. To prolong the search for such a person indefinitely is to support the illegal occupation by the Kingdom of Morocco. We therefore invite you to resume the process immediately by inviting the two parties to the conflict and their neighbours (Algeria and Mauritania), as observers, to your offices in New York and to report to the Security Council.

There are no reasons to leave the Saharawi people behind!

The 276 organisations/members of the Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara respectfully call upon you to:

  • Recommend to the Security Council’s members the inclusion of a Human Rights component in the MINURSO’s mandate;
  • Recommend to the Security Council’s members the inclusion of a rule of law component in the MINURSO’s mandate; and
  • To engage your personal responsibility in conducting the negotiation for the organisation of a free referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people.

Yours sincerely.



Gianfranco Fattorini – AAJ

+41793265102 (Whatsapp / Signal)


Abba El Haissan – CONASADH

+213655366853 (Whatsapp)


Geneva Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara


1 https://vest-sahara.s3.amazonaws.com/wsrw/feature-images/File/146/60746fc07b385_Pforplunder2021_web.pdf


Case Law of the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

• Opinion No. 68/2020, 23-27 November 2020, concerning Walid Salek El Batal

• Opinion No. 52/2020, 24- 28 August 2020, concerning Ali Saadouni

• Opinion No. 67/2019, 18-22 November 2019, concerning the Student Group/Group of El Wali

• Opinion No. 23/2019, 24 April – 3 May 2019, concerning Ndor Laaroussi

• Opinion No. 60/2018, 20-24 August 2018, concerning Mbarek Daoudi

• Opinion No. 31/2018, 17-26 April 2018, concerning Mohamed Al-Bambary

• Opinion No. 11/2017, 19-28 April 2017, concerning Salah Eddine Bassir

Communications of the UN Special Procedures

 Communication AL MAR 5/2020 dated 7 January 2021, concerning Naziha El Khalidi, Aminatou

haidar, Mahfouda Bamba Lafgir (Lekfir), Yahya Mohame Elhafed Iaazza, Al-Hussein Al-Bashir

Ibrahim, Mohamed Radi Elili, Ali Saadouni and Nour Eddin El Aargoubi

 Communication AL MAR 2/2020, dated 7 September 2020, concerning Hussein Bachir Brahim

 Communication AL MAR 3/2020, dated 21 July 2020 concerning Khatri Dadda

 Communication AL MAR 3/2019 dated 8 November 2019 concerning Walid Salek El Batal

 Communication AL MAR 2/2019 dated 4 June 2019 concerning Naziha El Khalidi

 Communication AL MAR 1/2019 dated 3 April 2019 concerning Naziha El Khalidi

 Communication AL MAR 3/2017 dated 20 July 2017 concerning the Gdeim Izik Group

 Communication AL MAR 5/2016 dated 12 December 2016 concerning Amidan Said and Brahim


 Communication AL MAR 2/2016 dated 6 May 2016 concerning expulsion of defence lawyers

 Communication AL MAR 1/2016 dated 22 March 2016 concerning El Ghalia Djimi

 Communication AL MAR 6/2015 dated 3 August 2015 concerning Fatimetou Bara, Ghalia Djimi and

Alouat Sidi Mohamed

 Communication JAL AL MAR 7/2014 dated 13 November 2014 concerning M. Hassanna al-Wali

 Communication UA MAR 5/2014 dated 30 July 2014 concerning Mahmoud El Haissan

 Communication MAR 2/2014 dated 9 April 2014

 Communication JUA 1/2013 dated 24 May 2013

 Communication MAR 1/2012 dated 23 March 2012 concerning ASVDH

 Communication MAR 8/2011 dated 29 November 2011 concerning ASVDH

 Communication MAR 6/2011 dated 4 November 2011

 Communication MAR 1/2011 dated 3 February 2011 concerning the Gdeim Izik camp

UN Committee on economic, social and cultural rights

Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Morocco – E/C.12/MAR/CO/4*


UN Committee on Civil and political rights (Human Rights Committee)

Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Morocco – CCPR/C/MAR/CO/6 (02/11/2016).

UN Committee against Torture

Decision adopted by the Committee under article 22 of the Convention, concerning communication

No. 606/2014 – CAT/C59/D/606/2014 (15/11/2016).

Photo credit: Aegee Magazine.

• Access to natural resources
• Armed / ethnic conflict
• Cultural Heritage
• Demographic manipulation
• Destruction of habitat
• Discrimination
• Displacement
• Dispossession
• ESC rights
• Forced evictions
• Human rights
• Indigenous peoples
• International
• Land rights
• Landless
• Legal frameworks
• National
• Norms and standards
• People under occupation
• Population transfers
• Refugees
• UN HR bodies
• UN system

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