The decision to include Western Sahara as part of Morocco is yet another sign that the current US administration is not intending to reverse Trump’s proclamation on Western Sahara.
Rabat – Joe Biden’s administration has yet again dismayed Polisario’s supporters and sympathizers with the release of the State Department’s country report on Human Rights. The report, published on March 29, lists Western Sahara as part of Morocco.
Polisario and its supporters have been eagerly waiting for the report to see whether the Biden administration’s human rights report would list Western Sahara as a separate entity or a part of Morocco.
Traditionally, the US would put human rights in Western Sahara in a different section.
The decision to include the region as part of Morocco is in line with the newfound US position on Western Sahara, with Washington having recognized Rabat’s sovereignty over the region.
On December 10, former US President Donald took the world by surprise when he recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara. The decision dismayed Algeria, Polisario, and a shrinking list of Polisario sympathizers.
A number of US representatives also expressed anger against the move and called on Biden to reverse the recognition.
Biden’s administration, however, has abundantly made it clear the US has no intention in changing its position on Western Sahara.
Several official websites, including that of the CIA, the State Department, and NASA have already adopted an undivided Moroccan map featuring Western Sahara.
Senior US officials have also hinted that Biden is not planning to reverse Trump’s recognition. One such signal came on Monday this week during a meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
During the virtual meeting, Blinken reiterated Washington’s position regarding Western Sahara, citing its support for the UN-led political process.
Blinken also asked Guterres to speed up the process of appointing a new envoy for Western Sahara.
The language used in the meeting indicated that Washington intends to uphold Trump’s proclamation on Western Sahara.
While the inclusion of Western Sahara in Morocco’s section of the US State Department report suggests a tacit recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the territory, there is one caveat.
Essentially, the document does not explicitly mention that the US has recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory when referring to the territorial dispute and the Polisario. The report uses the same language as in previous reports.
The implication, significantly, seems to be that while the Biden administration has not backtracked on former President Donald Trump’s decision, it has yet to come to terms with it and fully embrace it as the backbone of its Western Sahara policy.
This underscores the need for Morocco to launch sustained and effective lobbying efforts with the Biden administration and members of Congress to build on the diplomatic gains it has achieved in recent months.
Human rights in Morocco
The State Department’s report on human rights in Morocco cited the country’s efforts to address challenges in the field.
The report cited NGOs accusing Morocco of torture or arbitrary arrests against human rights activists and journalists.
While it stressed that the Moroccan government has received criticism for some of its decisions, the document also indicated that the country is making efforts to investigate all torture allegations.
Reports of torture have “declined over the last several years” in Morocco, it added.
The report also emphasized Morocco’s government involvement in finding measures to combat violence against women.
Citing data from Moroccan NGOs on domestic violence, it noted that domestic abuse against women increased during COVID-19 due to lockdown.
“The government and NGOs expanded programming and outreach that provided shelter, assistance, and guidance for survivors of domestic abuse.”
The report emphasized that the government adopted “protective measures,” including putting in place shelters for victims of domestic violence in the first half of the year in 2020.
“On May 28, the government adopted a bill to create a national registry for social support programs for women and children. Several NGOs adapted services provided to victims of domestic violence, providing hotlines, shelter, resources, guidance, and legal support.”
The state department warned, however, that some reports flagged the absence of shelters for people with disabilities.