The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) urges you to add a human rights monitoring mechanism to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) mandate when you vote to renew MINURSO's mandate. Unfortunately, the MINURSO reauthorization draft does not include a human rights monitoring mechanism. In the days before the vote, we urge the Security Council to amend the reauthorization resolution to include such a mechanism. Including a human rights monitoring mechanism is the best way to ensure that the rights of the Sahrawi people are protected while the parties continue to look for a political resolution to the dispute.
MINURSO is the only modern peacekeeping mission without a human rights monitoring and reporting mandate. To fill this void, the RFK Center and Sahrawi civil society organizations operating in the region monitor the human rights situation in Western Sahara and the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria. We have reported numerous human rights violations since MINURSO was reauthorized last year without such a mandate. The RFK Center sent an international delegation to Western Sahara in August 2012 and heard testimony directly from victims recounting instances of summary executions, torture, and crackdowns on demonstrations designed to prevent free assembly and free expression. Those on the ground now report that the trend has only gotten worse since MINURSO was reauthorized last year without a human rights monitoring mechanism. You will find our most recent report enclosed, which covers the last several months and identifies numerous instances of arbitrary arrest, restrictions of peaceful demonstrations, and physical and verbal abuse by the security forces.
A human rights monitoring mandate that covers both the occupied territory and the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria, will ensure that the individual human rights of the Sahrawi people are protected while the parties negotiate a political solution to the conflict. If there is not enough support for a human rights mandate within MINURSO, it is imperative that the reauthorizing resolution contain language reflecting the increasing concern of the international community regarding violations in Western Sahara, and provide for a mechanism to monitor and report on human rights on a continual basis.
President, RFK Center
Santiago A. Canton
Executive Director, RFK Partners for Human Rights Program