As the Sahrawi in El-Ayoune were marching so were their brothers and sisters in France. More than 300 Saharawi workers participated in a rally in Paris to "reaffirm their will to continue the struggle for freedom and independence under the leadership of POLISARIO Front", which will celebrate its 35th anniversary in May the 20.
Sahara Watch meanwhile reports, "Peter Van Walsum, personal envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the festering, nearly 33-year-old conflict in Western Sahara, dropped the diplomatic equivalent of a nuclear bomb on international legality this week. The problem is, no one seemed to notice."
In the lead-up to the Security Council’s now ritual extension of the Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) at the end of April, Van Walsum, whose credibility is supposed to rest on his impartiality, said that ‘an independent Western Sahara was not a realistic proposition’.
Since the U.N.brokered 1991 ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario Front, "realism" has become associated with Morocco's insistence that full independence for the territory is not possible. Morocco believes the final agreement should focus only on autonomy under Moroccan authority, which it says is the only realistic way to resolve the dispute.
Frank Ruddy, who previously served as deputy chairman of the U.N. Peacekeeping Referendum for Western Sahara, told World Politics Review that Morocco's "latest autonomy plan is a joke" and would grant the Sahrawi people "autonomy in everything, except everything that counts."
But that sort of things doesn't seem to matter to the UN Security Council.
Following Van Walsum’s dropping of the R-bomb (for realism) the US along with France and the UK took things a step further and immediately opposed requests to include human rights in the Council's resolution on Western Sahara. The U.N. Security Council then passed a resolution calling for "realism" in Western Sahara in what diplomats saw as a boost for Morocco in its dispute with the Polisario independence movement.
The council passed the resolution unanimously after several hours of haggling over the details and despite strong objections by South Africa, Panama and Costa Rica to language they said implied support for Morocco in the dispute. In the end, those countries caved under pressure from France and the United States.
The Council's president at the time, South African Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, objected to what he perceived as powerful countries' bias toward Morocco in the dispute.
Kumalo complained that the resolution drafted by France, Russia, Spain, Britain and the United States omitted any reference to human rights, a sensitive subject for Morocco. He said such an omission was a case of double standards.
Kumalo pointed out the obvious farther reaching aspect of the resolution. He said the reference to realism could set a precedent in other conflicts, such as that between Israelis and Palestinians, that the principle "might is right" would hold sway.
Still he voted for the resolution.
The following is from The Sahrawi Association of Victims of Grave Human Rights Violations Committed by the Moroccan State.
Three young Sahrawis detained, maltreated
5 May 2008
On the occasion of the celebration of the International Workers’ Day, 1st May 2008, in El-Ayoune, Sahrawi citizens took part in workers marches organized on this occasion. The Sahrawi participating in these marches denounced the social and economic conditions of the Sahrawi people and called for respect of right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people as they have demanded the immediate release of Sahrawi political prisoners in different jails of Morocco.
The security forces responded to the demands of protesters by arresting young Sahrawis: Mr. Najem ELALLAWI (21 years), Mr. Mohamed ELMEHDI (18 years), Mr. SABBAR (17 years), Mr. Said HADDAD (20 years and disabled) and Miss. Fatima Laaziza BELGASM (16 years). These five young Sahrawis claim to have been ill-treated at the place of the demonstrations by police officers in plain clothes under the orders of the officer Mr. Aziz ANNOUCHE, known by the nickname ‘Touhima’. Miss. Fatima BELGASM, according to her testimony, was taken to hospital ‘Belmehdi’ in El-Ayoune, where a nurse has injected an unknown product with large syringe in her feet.
Following, the testimony of Mss. Fatima Laaziza Belgasm:
"After my participation in the march of 1st May, during which national slogans were shouted, and specifically around 12: 30 GMT, the torturer Aziz ‘Touhima’ arrested me with a group of police officers in plain clothes . After they have beaten me and kicking me on different parts of my body, I lost consciousness and I fell on the ground because of torture. I was taken to hospital ‘Belmehdi’ and I was put in a room alone. After a few minutes a nurse came in with police officers in plain clothes and began to torture me with a savage way, under orders of police officers, with a large syringe stinging me more than thirty times under my feet. The nurse and police officers continued to torture me physically and psychologically while my family was forbidden to enter the hospital for more than three hours."