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PRESS CONFERENCE BY DELEGATION FROM MOROCCO

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

7 October 2005

Autonomy for Western Sahara -- as part of Morocco -- would be the best solution to the political question there, according to a Moroccan delegation, which addressed the situation this morning at a Headquarters press conference, while also charging Algeria with responsibility for the condition of Moroccan prisoners held in camps in the south-west of that country.

The delegation, composed of native Saharans, had come to the United Nations to take part in the work of the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), it said through a statement read out by Mohamed Rachid Douihi, a member of the Royal Consultative Council of Sahara.

Mr. Douihi introduced the other members of the delegation as Hammeti Rabbani, a former member of the political structure of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO); Guejmoula Ebbi, a member of the Association to Gather Sahawari Families; Bouh Mustapha Barazani, one of the founders of POLISARIO; Sidati El Ghallaoui, a former representative of the POLISARIO in Rome; and Ali Nejabi, who was detained as a prisoner of war for 27 years in POLISARIO jails.

In his statement, Mr. Douihi said that the tension that had engulfed the Arab Maghreb for some 30 years was the result of the continuing attempt of Algeria to gain regional hegemony and its obstinacy in rejecting all practical solutions to maintain peace and security in the region.

“We call on the international community to respect the choice of the majority of the residents of the Sahara, who live in the region and who favour the incorporation of the area into the Kingdom of Morocco, which will guarantee the region’s stability, remove the threat of civil war once and for all, and prevent the balkanization of the area”, he continued.

He said that the delegation also wanted to call the world’s attention to the inhuman conditions which its fellow citizens were forced to endure in camps in south-west Algeria, underlining that Algeria remained fully responsible for clarifying the number of people who disappeared in prisons, compensating torture victims, returning the remains of those who died, and bringing the perpetrators of all such crimes to justice.

Finally, he said the various organizations which provided support to the POLISARIO were complicit in the violations that had been carried out in the camps.

A correspondent asked why Spanish Parliamentarians had not been allowed to visit prisons in Western Sahara controlled by Morocco, after 37 prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest conditions.

“The era of Muhammad VI is an era of democracy and respect for human rights recognized by the international community,” Mr. Douihi explained. The delegation had come because they had personally witnessed the suffering of thousands in the Algerian camps, he said. There might have been abuses by Moroccans in the past but those were being investigated. The POLISARIO, however, continued its violations in the camps.

Mr. Nejabi then related his experience of 27 years of captivity, which he said included years of living in holes, labour he was forced to perform through whippings, and propaganda he was forced to provide to journalists, in letters home and on radio. Recaptured prisoners were put in cells to die, without food or care; the last such incidents occurred in 2000, he said.

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For information media • not an official record



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