Friday, November 18, 2005

Congressman Payne

Congressman Payne: The only just way to resolve Western Sahara’s conflict is to hold a referendum on self-determination
Washington, 18/11/2005 (SPS) Congressman Donald M. Payne considered that the only just way to resolve Western Sahara’s conflict is to hold a referendum on self-determination "to allow the Saharawi people to determine their own future", in his testimony before US congress’ Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations’ hearing on Western Sahara, held Thursday in Washington, under the title "Getting to “Yes”: Resolving the 30-Year Conflict over the Status of Western Sahara".
Here are some extracts of Congressman Payne testimony:
“1:30 pm in 2172 RHOB
November 17, 2005
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for calling this hearing on an issue whose resolution is well overdue. It is certainly time, as the title of the hearing suggests, to resolve the 30 year conflict over Western Sahara and the only just way to do so is to hold the referendum to allow the Sahrawi [SAW- ROW- EE] people to determine their own future.
The last remaining colony in Africa, Western Sahara remains one of the longest-running conflicts and I think we, as the United States, have a great deal of responsibility to pressure our close ally, Morocco, to agree to allow a referendum to be held.
If the Sahrawi [SAW- ROW- EE] people want their country to be integrated into Morocco, then that is what they will choose.
But we must provide the leadership as the U.S. to respect and uphold the right to self-determination or we are hypocrites.
We cannot say we want democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and allow the people to be free of tyranny and oppression there but not allow the people of Western Sahara that same right.
In my opinion, the International Court of Justice’s ruling in 1975 that Morocco has no claims to the territory of the Western Sahara should be respected by the international community. However, I understand we are at the point where the issue has been taken up at the UN for years on how to handle it. First former Secretary of State James Baker was appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and he tried several proposals. As we know, all failed because the parties did not agree at the same time on the same issues.
I welcome the naming of the new Special Envoy this past summer and hope that he will put forth a new plan which calls for a referendum to be held immediately.
I have serious concerns, Mr. Chairman, about the increasing repression and violence being carried out against Sahrawis by Moroccan officials in the occupied territory of El Ayun [EL- A- YOON]. There is a clear clampdown against human rights defenders in Western Sahara and I call for immediate investigation into these activities.
Since late 2005 there have been peaceful protests and an uprising in the areas of Western Sahara under Morocco’s control, 37 Sahrawi political prisoners are in jail as a result of theses demonstrations, among them are Mrs. Aminatu [A- MEN-A- TOO] Haidar [HAY-DAR], Mr. Tamek, and others.
I condemn in the strongest manner the death of a young Sahrawi who was a peaceful demonstrator, Mr. Lembarki, and the imprisonment of a human rights activists, Mr. Dahan for meeting with American officials from the U.S. Embassy in Rabat.
These kinds of activities are unacceptable and I call on the State Department to immediately take action against Morocco in response to these actions.
It’s simply unacceptable and we must be clear that – whether the country in question is a U.S. ally or not – this repression and abuse will not be tolerated.
Morocco is also known for propping up dictators in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea as well. So we have to set the proper example to our allies and encourage the right behavior, not what is currently taking place or what took place in the past.
Lastly, I want to welcome the former Prisoner of War, the Lieutenant, to the committee. I am sure you are happy to be home finally. You suffered terrible conditions over the years and I wish you and the other recently released POW’s all the best.
Mr. Chairman, I think that while this is certainly an issue that is thankfully resolved, there still remain many unresolved cases concerning Sahrawis.
According to Amnesty International, several hundred people were “disappeared” after arrest between the mid-1960’s and early 1990’s remain unaccounted for". (SPS)
060/090/000 181048 nov 05 SPS



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