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Western Sahara: Kerry Kennedy leads high level delegation to assess human rights situation amid ongoing attacks on peaceful demonstrators
Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F Kennedy Center and Mary Lawlor, Founder and Executive Director, Front Line Defenders and, will take part in a high level delegation to Western Sahara and Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.
MEDIA ALERT - 21 AUGUST 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Thursday 23 August Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F Kennedy Center and Mary Lawlor, Founder and Executive Director, Front Line Defenders will take part in a high level delegation to Western Sahara to assess the human rights situation on the ground in both Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara and in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.
The delegation will be hosted in Western Sahara by Aminatou Haidar, President of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) and one of Western Sahara's most prominent human rights defenders - SEE NOTE BELOW.
In Western Sahara the delegation will meet with CODESA (The Collective of Human Rights Defenders in Western Sahara) , survivors of torture, local authorities, UN authorities and Sahrawi NGOs
During the visit to the refugee camps in Algeria the delegation will meet with the opposition government, aid groups working in camps and the UN authorities in the camps.
TIMELINE 25/26/27 August The delegation will be in Western Sahara 28/28 August The delegation will be in Sahrawi refugee Camps in Tindouf
Both Mary Lawlor and Kerry Kennedy are available for interview
In addition to Mary Lawlor and Kerry Kennedy the delegation includes: Margarette May Macaulay, Judge of the Inter American Court of Human Rights; Eric Sottas, former Secretary-General, World Organisation Against Torture; Maria del Río, Board of Trustees of the Jose Saramago Foundation; and Marialina Marcucci, President of the RFK Center – Europe.
BACKGROUND NOTE ON WESTERN SAHARA - AFRICA'S LAST COLONY Western Sahara is known as "Africa's last colony." The current conflict has existed since 1975, when Morocco occupied Western Sahara, in spite of numerous UN Resolutions requesting the decolonisation of the non-self governing territory and the International Court of Justice ruling that Morocco did not have a legitimate claim to the territory.
This invasion has led to a decades-old conflict between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Rio de Oro (Polisario Front) - a national movement committed to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
With the war and Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara, its native people—the Sahrawi—were divided in two, those living under Moroccan occupation and those living in refugee camps in Algeria. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum of Western Sahara (MINURSO) was created in 1991 to provide an international presence overseeing a cease-fire between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front.
The mission was also tasked with helping to administer a referendum on self-determination for Western Sahara. In spite of the mandate's success at maintaining the ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the situation in Western Sahara is no closer to being resolved now than it was in 1991. The referendum on self-determination never took place and systematic human rights violations are recurring. In the decades since the creation of the MINURSO mandate, Morocco has consistently ignored the basic human rights of the Sahrawi people, particularly those who advocate for change in Western Sahara.
Biographical note on Aminatou Haidar:
Aminatou Haidar is President of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). Regularly referred to as the "Sahrawi Gandhi," Haidar is one of Western Sahara's most prominent human rights defenders and advocates for Western Sahara’s right to self-determination. Aminatou was herself victim of arbitrary arrests, disappearance, torture and expulsion from her homeland. Through non-violent means, Ms. Haidar has denounced Morocco's gross human rights violations against the Sahrawi and advocates for the fulfillment of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination.
In 2008, Aminatou Haidar, received the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her undaunted non-violent work, promoting the civil, political, social, cultural, and economic rights of the people of Western Sahara. Through the RFK Human Rights Award, the RFK Center joins CODESA and Ms. Haidar in their struggle to increase visibility and dialogue about ongoing rights violations in Western Sahara and to promote the protection of human rights in the territory.
For further Information or to interview either Ms Lawlor or Ms Kennedy please contact:
Jim Loughran, Head of Communications, Front Line Defenders Tel: +353 1 212 3759 -Mobile +353 (0)87 9377586