"I want to see a free society in Western Sahara – where we are able to decide for ourselves how we will share our natural resources with the world, and where the economic benefits will come to my people, not to the settlers who come with the support of the King and the Moroccan army to take our territory and property", leading Western Sahara human rights activist Aminatou Haidar stressed in a letter to the European Parliamentarians today.
The below letter was sent from Aminatu Haidar to the Members of European Parliament today. Haidar is president of the Saharawi human rights organisation CODESA.
Haidar was herself nominated for the Parliament's Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010.
She has won several awards for her work, including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award (2008),
Solidar Silver Rose Award (2007), Bremen Solidaritet Award (2013), Civil Courage Prize (2009). Dozens of Saharawis that protested against the EU fisheries agreement with Morocco - for the waters of Western Sahara - were injured from police violence this week-end.
A Message From Aminatou Haidar
Dear Member of the European Parliament,
The human rights situation in Western Sahara is well described in Charles Tannock’s recent report referring to the Sahel region and Western Sahara , which was approved on 22nd of October, 2013 by the European Parliament. His report recognize that "Moroccan officials have detained individuals on political grounds, subjected Sahrawi inmates to torture and rape, kidnapped and abandoned protesters in the desert in order to intimidate them, and deliberately and frequently targeted pro-independence advocates, including in their homes".
Your Parliament also described forced disappearances and unfair trials, and called for the immediate release of all Saharawi political prisoners. For the human rights defenders of the occupied Western Sahara, this was a tremendously positive signal from the representatives of European democracy.
I am myself a former political prisoner, and have suffered torture at the hands of Moroccan forces. In many quarters approval of the new Protocol under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement would be seen as a prize for Morocco, not just financially, but in terms of its claims over the territory. Approval, without clauses to exclude the territorial waters of Western Sahara, would send a signal that the European Union is willing to put its commercial interests before its concerns for human rights.
But now you have another choice to make. The new Protocol under the EU-Morocco Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which will be put to the vote on 10 December, has the weakest human rights provisions of any fisheries agreement proposed by the EU in recent years.
I want to see a free society in Western Sahara – where we are able to decide for ourselves how we will share our natural resources with the world, and where the economic benefits will come to my people, not to the settlers who come with the support of the King and the Moroccan army to take our territory and property.
You have a chance now to support democracy, human rights and freedom. I hope, therefore, that you will be willing to vote against this Agreement when it is presented to the Parliament.