European Parliament to report on human rights situation in Western Sahara

“Dr Tannock is not in a position to answer your questions as the report has not been written and dates have not been set yet,” the personal assistant of the recently appointed Special Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Human Rights in Western Sahara, Dr Charles Tannock, wrote in a reply to Africa Contact.

The Danish solidarity organisation that has campaigned for justice and independence for Western Sahara for several years had requested information about the details of the report on the human rights situation in Western Sahara that Charles Tannock is in the process of writing.

Charles Tannock has been a member of the European Parliament for the British Conservative Party since 1999. He is presently Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Spokesman for the UK Conservative delegation, as well as being a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Human Rights subcommittee.

According to Charles Tannock’s personal assistant, the subject of the report will be about human rights in the region, not solely about Western Sahara. “DR Tannock accepts the right of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara and that this is subject to a UN process involving a referendum, but this report is not specifically about a political solution to the territorial question but about fundamental human rights for the peoples of the region. The title is probably going to be Sahel and the Sahara so it will be a regional report, not exclusively about Western Sahara.”

As the UN mission in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, MINURSO, is the only UN mission that is not allowed to monitor the human rights situation, since independent human rights organisations such as Amnesty International report that the Saharawis are routinely subjected to “torture”, “ill-treatment”, and “restrictions on their freedoms of expression, association and assembly”, and since Morocco maintains a virtual media-blackout in Western Sahara, reports such as the one Tannock is writing are crucial.

Charles Tannock has in fact spoken about the Western Sahara conflict on several occasions previously, describing the many human rights violations, but maintaining somewhat even-handedly that he is both in favour of self-determination for Western Sahara and a stable Morocco.

In October 2005, Tannock stated in the European Parliament that “Morocco has continued its repression, including the recent alarming allegations of arbitrary arrests, ill treatment of prisoners in custody and even allegations of torture,” further stating in November 2010 that “we should, in the light of the report of violence against the people of Western Sahara, give the UN mission there a mandate to monitor the human rights situation of the Saharawi people.”

In February 2012, he said that he both supported “self-determination for the Saharawi people through a referendum, as agreed by the UN resolution” and that he was “in favour of all measures which ensure that Morocco remains a prosperous and stable country.”

Tannock does seem to realise, however, that the EU is an important part of the solution, or lack hereof, to the Western Sahara conflict. In 2010, he acknowledged this much in a speech given in the European Parliament, where he said that “we do have a lot of leverage over Morocco here in the EU, particularly over fishing rights and aid.” Time and the report will tell whether he intends to make use of this influence.

Update: April 2013

“I have continued work on my forthcoming human rights report on the Sahel region of Africa, made a well-received speech on Mali, and met both the Moroccan and Sahrawi sides of the long-running Western Sahara conflict,” Charles Tannock wrote in his April Newsletter on his website.

Read more:

Read the article in Danish

Charles Tannock – Conservative group in the EP

Charles Tannock – European Parliament

Charles Tannock – personal website

Charles Tannock – Twitter

Charles Tannock – YouTube

Charles Tannock – writings at Project Syndicate

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