The Saharawi people have lived under Moroccan occupation since 1975, denied their right to self-determination and exposed to regular human rights violations at the hands of the Moroccan occupying forces.
This is the report of the first ever British parliamentary delegation to the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara, which took place in February 2014. The delegation consisted of MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Mark Williams, along with John Gurr, coordinator of the Western Sahara Campaign, and John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want.
The delegation met with Saharawi human rights organisations, local government officials and the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara, MINURSO. In its report, the delegation called on the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of MINURSO to include the monitoring and protection of human rights.
(Download the report below the text)
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara is an officially recognised cross-party body of the UK parliament whose purpose is to promote issues of mutual concern between British MPs and Western Sahara. In the pursuit of this mandate, the Group had long wished to send a delegation to the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara to witness the human rights situation facing the Saharawi people living under Moroccan occupation and to report back to parliament on the prospects for the Saharawi people to exercise their right to self-determination.
The delegation was finally able to visit the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara in February 2014. This report provides details of the meetings held by the delegation with Saharawi human rights groups, trade unions and other civil society organisations. It also includes details of the meetings held by the delegation with representatives of the Moroccan authorities in Occupied Western Sahara, and with the UN peacekeeping mission MINURSO. While time constraints meant that the delegation was based solely in and around the capital El Aaiún (sometimes also written Laayoune), it was also able to meet there with representatives of civil society groups from other parts of the Occupied Territory such as Dakhla, Smara and Boucra.
The delegation consisted of the following four members:
– Jeremy Corbyn MP (Labour, Islington North), Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara
– Mark Williams MP (Liberal Democrat, Ceredigion), Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara
– John Gurr, Coordinator of the Western Sahara Campaign and secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara
– John Hilary, Executive Director, War on Want
This was the first British parliamentary delegation to the Occupied Territory of Western Sahara. Previous delegations of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Western Sahara had visited the Saharawi refugee camps in Algeria, while other parliamentary groups had been taken to Occupied Western Sahara by the Moroccan state authorities during visits to Morocco.
The delegation held a public meeting in the UK parliament on 25 February 2014 to report back on their visit, which was also addressed by the prominent Saharawi human rights defender Brahim Dahane and by Amnesty International researcher Sirine Rached. The meeting was well attended, testifying to the high level of concern at the continuing denial of basic rights to the Saharawi people living under Moroccan occupation. Members of the delegation also gave their impressions from the visit in a number of interviews and media articles published in February 2014; two of these are also included in this report.
The delegation wishes to put on record its appreciation to all those Saharawi people who made the visit possible and who gave up their time to meet with us. Some are named in this report, but we are equally grateful to the many others who are not named here. In particular, the delegation wishes to thank Mohamed Salem Lakhal of CODESA for his invaluable contribution in organising the visit, coordinating between different civil society groups, transporting the delegation to meetings in and around El Aaiún and providing interpretation variously between English, French, Spanish, Hassaniya and Arabic. Without his services and the assistance of Hassan Abba, who performed the same duties once Mohamed Salem Lakhal’s car had been impounded by the Moroccan police, the delegation would not have been able to gain anything like the required level of insight into the true situation facing the Saharawi people living under Moroccan occupation, and we are truly grateful.
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Mark Williams MP