States call for Saharawi self-determination in Human Rights Council
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Several UN Member States have today recommended Morocco to hold the long-overdue referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara.
Published 02 May 2017

Morocco today went through its third Universal Periodic Review; a peer review by other UN Member States of the country's human rights slate. Twelve intervening States took the opportunity to ask questions about or put forward recommendations on Western Sahara. But what's more, several countries explicitly called for the exercise of the right to self-determination in Western Sahara; a Non-Self-Governing Territory the size of the UK that has been largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. This constitutes a step forward from 2012, when 11 out of the 48 intervening States raised the issue of Western Sahara but did not call for the right to self-determination to be respected or fulfilled. Nevertheless Morocco's 2012 UPR was already an advance with respect to its first review in 2008, when not a single State mentioned Western Sahara.

A video of Morocco's third UPR session is available through the United Nations website: access the video directly here.

WSRW had submitted a stakeholder report for this particular UPR cycle, focusing on Morocco's failure to respect, protect and fulfill the right to self-determination and the right to resources in Western Sahara. Find our submission here.

Please note that the transcripts included below are non-official transcriptions, made by Western Sahara Resource Watch.


Thank you very much president. Uruguay wishes to welcome the delegation of Morocco and we thank them for the presentation of their report.
We congratulate them for having ratified the convention on the protection of persons against enforced disappearances and that in line with this the draft penal code has a specific crime of enforced disappearances.
We believe that since the last UPR cycle, four mandate holders from special procedures visited Morocco and we hope that the country will consider a standing invitation in line with the recommendation previously made by Uruguay and accepted by Morocco.
Uruguay reiterates the recommendation already made to Morocco to accept the establishment of a standing human rights component to MINURSO in Western Sahara, given that there has to be ongoing independent oversight of the human rights situation in Western Sahara.
Finally, in line with the recommendation submitted by the human rights committee, aiming to end the social stigmatization of homosexuality and of discrimination and violence on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender, Uruguay recommends that there be decriminalization of same-sex consensual relations and to free those who are in prison because of this. Thank you.


Thank you Mister Vice-President. Zimbabwe welcomes the delegation of the kingdom of Morocco to the country state cycle UPR and thanks them for their report. The fact that the country submitted a mid-term report in 2014 is a testimony to its commitment to the UPR process. Since its last review Morocco has made significant strides in a number of areas, including the consolidation of sectoral policies on human rights such as the plan for gender-equality, integrated public policy on child protection, national strategy for youth.
Also during the period under review, Morocco has consolidated its cooperation with the human rights mechanisms.
My delegation is however disheartened by the lack of reference in Morocco’s national report to the reported undesirable human rights and humanitarian situation in Western Sahara. We recommend that Morocco enables the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination through a democratic referendum and undertakes to fully cooperate with the UN and in particular the Secretary-General’s special envoy for Western Sahara. I thank you Mr. Vice-President.


Thank you Mr Vice-President. Estonia welcomes the delegation of the kingdom of Morocco to its third UPR and thanks for the presentation of its national report. We note positive developments in the country, including the increase in school enrollment for girls especially in rural areas. We also highlight that the new provisions in the draft criminal code and the draft code of criminal procedure among others designate among other the need to monitor the conditions of police custody. Here we call on Morocco to step-up its ongoing efforts to designate the national preventative mechanisms under the OPCAT.
We take the opportunity to reiterate some of our previous recommendations for Morocco. First, to ensure that the penal code is fully in accordance with the ICCPR. Second, ratify the second optional protocol to the ICCPR. And third to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Finally, we encourage Morocco to guarantee access to journalists and human rights defenders to Morocco and Western Sahara.
Estonia wishes the kingdom of Morocco a successful UPR.


Thank you Mr Vice-President. Iceland welcomes the honourable delegation of Morocco to the UPR. While acknowledging Morocco for being one of the most progressive countries in the Arab region when it comes to women’s rights, we regret the persistence of gender-based discrimination in law and practice. Further, we are concerned about reports of discrimination against the LGBTI community. My delegation urges the government of Morocco to improve the human rights situation in Western Sahara, while Iceland continues to support all efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General with a view to ensure that the people of Western Sahara enjoy the right to self-determination.
Iceland makes the following recommendations to the government of Morocco. To repeal legislation in particular article 489 of the penal code, criminalizing consensual conduct between same-sex adults. Secondly, develop and implement independent and credible measures to ensure full respect for human rights in Western Sahara, including the freedom of expression and assembly. Thirdly, ensure that procedures governing the registration of civil society organizations including those advocating for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination are in conformance with international law.


Ireland welcomes the Moroccan delegation and thanks it for its presentation. We welcome Morocco’s efforts to advance human rights domestically and acknowledge the progress made under [inaudible] Morocco’s leadership at the UN.
We welcome steps taken in gender-equality and urge Morocco to withdraw its reservations to CEDAW. Ireland recommends that Morocco revise the penal code and associated law for compliance with international standards to guarantee equality between men and women, criminalize marital rape, decriminalize sexual relations outside marriage, abolish discrimination against children born outside of marriage, increase the minimum age of marriage to 18, decriminalize consensual same-sex relations and develop public awareness programs to address stigmatization of LBGTI persons.
We regret limitations on expression, association and assembly, including assemblies focused on the right to self-determination. We recommend that Morocco create and maintain in law and practice a safe and enabling environment for civil society and human rights defenders, including in and in relation to Western Sahara. Through a revision of the criminal code, to remove limitations on freedom of expression, review of the system for registration of associations and notification of assemblies and consistent application of rules to all peaceful assemblies, irrespective of their topic. Thank you.


Thank you very much. We welcome the delegation of Morocco and we recognize the cooperation by the country with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We note that there is a pending visit for the Special Rapporteur on Persons with Disabilities. We hope that a date will be found soon for that visit.
We wish to offer three recommendations; the adoption of a specific law on violence against women, that includes criminal and civil provisions needed to confront domestic violence and harassment, sexual harassment of women and girls.
Secondly, that they continue to adopt the legislate and political policy measures necessary to ensure education for the Amazigh and Saharawi populations at all levels, as well as ensuring their full enjoyment of their right to express themselves and participate in the cultural life of the country, conserving their traditions and identity.
Third, the decriminalization of consensual sexual relations between same-sex partners.
We wish the delegation of Morocco the greatest of success in this exercise. Thank you.


Mr. Vice-President, we welcome the distinguished guest of Morocco to their third cycle of UPR. The report at hand bears testimony of Morocco’s strides and implementation of the recommendations of the previous cycle. With a focus on accession to many human rights instruments and welcome the visits of special rapporteurs and submission of reports to human rights treaty bodies for which it should be commended.
Mozambique recommends Morocco to: one, comply with provisions of UN Security Council Resolutions 2351 which extends the mandate of MINURSO and to align itself with the principle of self-determination of the Saharawi people. Two, cooperate with the newly appointed UNSG special envoy on Western Sahara. Mozambique wishes Morocco a successful UPR exercise. We thank you.


Thank you Mr. Vice-President. Namibia welcomes the delegation of the kingdom of Morocco led by His Excellency Moustafa Ramid to this session of the UPR and commends them on their presentation of their national report.
We congratulate the kingdom of Morocco for ratifying several human rights treaties including the first optional protocol to the ICCPR. In the spirit of constructive dialogue, Namibia would like to recommend that the kingdom of Morocco considers abolishing the capital punishment. Two, that the kingdom of Morocco allows the Saharawi people to freely exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, in accordance with UN General Assembly’s Resolutions and that the government of the kingdom of Morocco in this context accepts a schedule proposed by the UN Secretary-General for the organization of a referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara. Three, that the kingdom of Morocco accepts the inclusion of the human rights dimension in the mandate of the MINURSO. Four, with reference to the recently expressed concern by ECOSOC about the presence of the Berm, continues to implement the de-mining program along the Berm and compensate victims. I thank you.


Mr. Vice-President. We commend Morocco for the work in the area of human rights and for the improvements made since the previous UPR, including the reinforcement of the national institution on human rights. Norway commends Morocco for the amendment of article 475 of the penal code, and for having started the process of adopting the law on violence against women. We recommend Morocco to implement the law swiftly. We recommend Morocco to revise the family code to prohibit polygamy and marriage of minors, as well as guaranteeing equality between men and women in inheritance matters and in the right to guardianship.
Norway recommends Morocco to ensure that procedures governing registration of civil society organizations, including organizations advocating for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, are in conformity with international standards.
We recommend Morocco to consider ratifying the second optional protocol of the ICCPR. Norway recommends Morocco to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and further align its legislations with all obligations under the Rome Statute.
Thank you very much.

Sierra Leone

Mr Vice-President. Sierra Leone warmly welcomes the distinguished delegation from Morocco to this third cycle and thanks them for today’s presentation. My delegation commends the delegation of Morocco for its government’s efforts to protect the rights of asylum seekers and migrants, as seen in the enactment of the trafficking in persons act of 2016, the regularization of migrants and the recent granting of asylum to over 1000 refugees.
Equally notable was the implementation of the gender-equality plan and the child protection program. Since 1993, Morocco has established a moratorium on the death penalty and has been considering the abolition of the capital punishment.
Sierra Leone makes the following recommendations.
One; strengthen measures aimed at eradicating child marriage and expedite the enactment of the legislation abolishing forced marriage of children.
Two; continue to work with OHCHR and UNHCR to establish the humanitarian aid program for the Western Saharan population.
Three; guarantee the full and equal access to socio-economic resources, including access to tertiary education and traditional language classes for the Amazigh and the Saharawis. Thank you Mr Vice-President.

South Africa

Thank you Mr. Vice-President. South Africa welcomes the distinguished delegation of Morocco to this UPR session and thanks the delegation for the presentation of its national report.
South Africa is encouraged by Morocco’s accession to the OPCAT and to the optional protocol to CEDAW. South Africa recognizes laudable reductions in the poverty and vulnerability rates. South Africa has taken note of the UNSG’s efforts to reinvigorate the peace process between the kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front and trusts that the parties will resume a political process leading to a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution. South Africa is committed to continuing efforts to ensure that the people of Western Sahara will pursue their right to self-determination. South Africa remains confident that a date for holding the referendum on the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara will be realized. In this respect, South Africa recommends that the government of Morocco fully cooperates with the UNSG Special Envoy and OHCHR on the situation in Western Sahara, continue the national debate on the abolition of the death penalty and adopt a comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Thank you.


Mr. Vice-President, Sweden wishes to welcome the distinguished delegation and express our thanks for its presentation.
Sweden would like to give the following recommendations to the government of Morocco.
One, to review all laws and practices that discriminate on the basis of gender and bring them in line with international law and standards, and take steps to further improve the protection of women who are subject to violence, including through amending the penal code to ensure criminalization of marital rape.
Two, to take measures to counteract the trend of judicial authorization of marriages involving minors, including through necessary amendments of the family code.
Three, to ensure the Constitution’s provision on freedom of the press, freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of assembly and association are respected, including for people who want to express their views on the situation of and in Western Sahara.
Four, to end the prosecution of journalists under the penal code for peaceful exercising the right of freedom of opinion and expression, and for ensuring the right to information.
Five, to remove obstacles to non-governmental organizations seeking registration from the authorities.
Finally, we wish Morocco success for the UPR. I thank you, Mr. Vice-President.

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