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‘2011: The year for justice for Western Sahara’

Campaigners attending a meeting this week will be told that 2011, the 20th anniversary year of the UN ceasefire in Western Sahara will be a crucial year in the future of the region.

‘Under the terms of the United Nations ceasefire in 1991 a referendum on self-determination was guaranteed to the Saharawi people,’ said Sidi Brahim, the Deputy Representative for the Polisario Front in the UK. ‘This referendum has been blocked by Morocco for two decades but as international pressure grows we are confident 2011 will bring Western Sahara closer to justice.’

Morocco’s occupation of the country of Western Sahara began in 1976 when the Spanish colonizers departed and has continued for 35 years, despite over 100 UN resolutions and an opinion by the International Court of Justice. A 15-year war between the indigenous Saharawi people and the occupying army ended in 1991 with the promise of a vote on self-determination. That promise has been repeatedly broken, with Rabat only offering Western Sahara a form of limited autonomy.

International pressure is growing on the European Union not to renew its controversial fisheries agreement when it terminates in March. The agreement signed with Morocco allows European countries to fish Western Saharan waters in breach of international law and there is growing consensus among European parliamentarians that it should not be renewed.

In April the UN will vote on whether to extend the remit of its peacekeeping force in Western Sahara (MINURSO) to include the monitoring of human rights. MINURSO is the only UN peacekeeping force without such a remit despite repeated reports of human rights abuses in the territory from organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

‘As the referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan last week shows, with support from the international community obstacles can be surmounted and disagreements set aside,’ continued Mr Brahim. ‘We hope that in 2011 we will see significant progress towards a similar successful outcome in Western Sahara.’

The meeting will be on Wednesday 19th January.
44-48 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7JP. 6.30pm-8.30pm
If you would like to attend please visit http://freesahara.ning.com/events/activists-meeting-london-3

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