WSAF 2016 Briefing

The routine violation of human rights continues to be inflicted upon the indigenous people of Western Sahara. This should not be tolerated by an international community of nations that has made extraordinary progress towards giving all the opportunity of a life of dignity and security in recent decades. WSAF WSAF 2016 Briefingaims to help the trend towards human rights, by calling for action in Africa’s last colony. The WSAF 2016 Briefing follows on from our presentation to the UN Fourth Committee in October 2015. It looks in more detail at the numerous human rights violations committed against the people of Western Sahara, as these challenges form the key obstacle in regional security cooperation at a time when it is desperately needed.

In a year dominated by the growing threat from terrorism worldwide, the past 12 months have seen a continuation of the stalemate in Western Sahara in northwest Africa. For 40 years the local population has suffered under Moroccan occupation, with a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission being present since 1991. Known as “Africa’s last colony”, Western Sahara rarely makes it into the news, and yet the impact of the status quo has profound implications for security in the Sahel region. With the increased prevalence of sleeper cells and attacks linked to the Islamic State throughout the Maghreb, the violation of the rights of the people of Western Sahara continues to be perhaps the greatest obstacle in relations between the region’s two major powers: Morocco and Algeria. This is a huge drag on regional security cooperation in the wider war against the Islamic State.


To the United Nations Security Council:

  • Set a date for a free and fair referendum to be carried out in Western Sahara with an option for independence on the ballot paper, consistent with the established international legal norm of self-determination.
  • Develop a robust plan under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to enforce the outcome of the referendum, if any of the parties do not respect the decision of the Saharawi electorate.
  • Grant the MINURSO peacekeeping operation the legal mandate to monitor and report on human rights in territories controlled by the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente POLISARIO. This body must report its findings directly to the UN Security Council and be a permanent presence until the referendum.
  • Demand an end to the extraction of natural resources from Western Sahara through deals which disregard the interests and wishes of the indigenous Saharawi.


The briefing can be found here: The Push for Security in Northwest Africa: Human Rights in Western Sahara (2016)

Previous briefings are also available:

Stolen Future: The Taking of Natural Resources from Occupied Western Sahara (2015)

Crimes Without a Witness: WSAF Briefing 2014 (2014)