By Moundir Al Amrani
By Moundir Al Amrani
Rabat – On August 20, 2012, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights announced in a press release that a delegation from the center presided by Kerry Kennedy would pay a visit from 24 to 31 August 2012 to what it refers to as “the Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and to Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.”
The objective of the delegation, according to the same press release, was “to assess the human rights situation on the ground.” Immediately after concluding the visit, the delegation issued a press release in which it presented its preliminary observations on the situation of human rights in the region. The delegation’s preliminary report makes it clear that the delegation failed to maintain its impartiality. A brief reading of the preliminary remarks by the delegation suffices to demonstrate this failure.
The RFK delegation to the region was supposed to express neutrality and impartiality with regard to the situation of human rights in this region of the Maghreb. However, the delegation’s report disappointed most observers. What first attracts attention is the delegation’s use of some expressions and statements to refer to the region. In addition to referring to Sahara as “Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara,” the delegation bestows legitimacy and credibility on the Sahrawi separatists by referring to the separatist movement as “a national movement committed to self-determination for the Sahrawi people.”
This cannot be taken as a neutral statement or impartial stance. Describing the Sahara as “Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara” is an implicit expression of an‘occupation’ of the “Western Sahara’’ by Morocco, which betrays the delegation’s self-proclaimed neutrality. The same could be said about referring to the Polisario Front as a movement defending Sahrawi people. Indeed, this is a recognition of the existence of a Sahrawi people represented and defended by the Polisario Front regardless of its notoriety.
The delegation’s bias is further revealed by its recognition of the self-proclaimed state in the Sahara. In the delegation’s preliminary report, dated September 3, 2012, the reader encounters a direct and open bias towards the separatists’ claims. On page three of the report, we read that “the RFK Center delegation visited El-Ayoun, the capital of Western Sahara.” There cannot be more evident proof of the delegation’s bias in favor of the Polisario Front.
The report’s biases do not stop here; it further engages in a methodic process of defamation of Morocco. Speaking of the refugee camps in Tindouf, Kerry Kennedy turns to the international community and accuses it of playing the role of the passive bystander for too long, watching the Sahrawi people “subsist in abject poverty in extremely isolated refugee camps in the middle of the Sahara Desert.”
It is clear that by this statement Kerry Kennedy is accusing Morocco of perpetuating the refugee problem, forgetting that the late King Hassan II issued general amnesty to refugees returning back to their homeland. Since then, thousands and thousands of former supporters of the Polisario Front have rejoined their families after breaking loose from the Polisario’s detainment at the refugee camps, and now they enjoy their life in equality with their fellow Moroccans. No mention was made either of the embezzlement by the Polisario leadership of humanitarian aid destined for the population living in the harsh conditions of the camps. Nor does the report mention the situation of the Saharawi Najm Allal, who the Polisario has suppressed and subjected to house arrest, for the simple reason that he dared to criticize and denounce the separatist movement’s leadership.
In its report, the delegation continues to represent the situation of human rights in Morocco in the worst terms, despite its recognition of the efforts and progress made by the country in this sense. The report mentions the omnipresence of police and/or military vehicles and considers this to be intimidating. This claim is substantiated by the delegation’s allegations of what it describes as “police brutality against non-violent demonstrators.” The report further alleges that the RFK delegation was subject to intimidation and harassment that “impeded” its mission.
Contrary to the dark image of Morocco represented in the delegation’s report, the other face of the very same report represents the so-called Polisario administration in a bright light. The delegation says that the Polisario Front has established institutions in the refugee camps. During its visit to the camps, the delegation says it had full freedom in the camps and it visited the prisons there and talked to the detainees. From this, the delegation concludes that “civil society appears to be free to associate and women have a very prominent role in society and in the administration of the camps.” But in doing so, Kennedy’s delegation failed to mention the case of Mustapha Salma Oueld Sidi Mouloud, who has been separated from his family for two years when he dared to state publicly, in August 2010, that the Moroccan autonomy plan, presented in April 2007, was more likely to put an end to the Sahara conflict.
The delegation shows its sympathy with the refugee population in the camps and voices its concern about the future of the refugees there. To make her argument clearer, Kennedy systematically incriminates Morocco and praises the efforts exerted by the Polisario Front in order to better the living conditions of the population living in the Tindouf camps.
According to the RFK report, the whole responsibility of the refugees’ misery in the camps falls on the shoulders of Morocco. And while Morocco is putting the population into abeyance, the presence of the Polisario Front is depicted as being the refugees’ only salvation, since its “organization and the administration of the camps have brought a sense of stability and normalcy.”
In a nutshell, the RFK Center’s report relies on binary representation of the facts encountered during the delegation’s visit. If the delegation witnessed some human rights violations as it says, this does not mean that the other party is an angel and without fault. The report makes one wonder how can the Polisario Front maintain stability in refugee camps while the people there suffer from food shortage and harsh living conditions? One also wonders about the kind of expectations Kerry’s delegation had when they already view Morocco as a “colonizer.” Kerry Kennedy and her delegation should have been smarter than letting the Polisario drag them by the nose to witness just what they wanted them to witness.
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