Remarks by Hon. Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation at the High-Level Side-Event in the margins of the 52nd Session of the HRC Implementation of Art.1 ICCPR / ICESCR in Western Sahara, 01 March 2023
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my sincere honour to be able to say a few words today at this side-event arranged by the Geneva Support Group for Western Sahara, on the Implementation of Article 1 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in Western Sahara.
Your important discussion today seeks to propose measures, states should take to meet their obligations towards the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara, under article 1 (Paragraph 3) of the ICCPR, namely, to promote the realisation of the right to self-determination, and respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.
As you are aware, Western Sahara has been on the decolonisation agenda of the United Nations (UN) for more than fifty years and has been occupied by Morocco for 47 years. A plethora of UNSC resolutions have been adopted calling for the permanent sovereignty of the peoples of non-self-governing Territories, including the people of Western Sahara, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations on decolonisation.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) continues to meet and adopt Resolutions, to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, MINURSO, most recently until 31 October 2023. As MINURSO was created to oversee a referendum in Western Sahara its mandate is weak, as it inter alia, has no authority to monitor human rights violations. Over the past years the repression exerted by the Moroccan Occupying Forces against the Saharawi civilian population, notably human rights defenders, journalists and political prisoners, has dramatically increased, including with the use of modern technologies such as drones, to strike indiscriminately at selected targets in Western Sahara. The human rights situation in Western Sahara continues to be a major concern for the international community and repeated calls for the strengthening of MINURSO’s mandate to include the protection of human rights have been made to no avail.
Successive Special envoys of the UNSG for Western Sahara have failed to broker consensus from Morocco to allow for a credible referendum to be held and the fact that UNSC Mr Antonio Guterres took more than two appointed Mr Staffan de Mistura as his new personal envoy for Western Sahara, following the resignation of his predecessor Horst Köhler, in 2019, further stalled the process, particularly access to the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
We are well aware that the UN High Commissioner is consistently requested, by this Support Group, to report on the situation of human rights in the occupied territory of Western Sahara at each session of the Council; and to resume the technical mission to Western Sahara that was last on the ground in 2015. Such a mission sadly is yet to be undertaken.
Your Excellencies, please be assured that the Government and the people of South Africa are determined to support the Sahrawi people in their struggle to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination: a right that the international community has solemnly recognised for the people of Western Sahara on three specific occasions.
We look forward to the valuable contributions from the panellists, this afternoon, and wish the Geneva Support Group on Western Sahara, as well as the NGO Support Group on Western Sahara, all courage to continue to support the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination and to be able have control over their own national resources.
I wish you all fruitful deliberations.
I thank you for your attention.
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