Morocco hits back at W Sahara rights criticism
07 November 2013, 20:59
Rabat - King Mohammed VI reacted angrily to international
criticism of Morocco's human rights record in the annexed Western Sahara late
Wednesday, insisting the kingdom needed no lessons from anybody.
The king said the human rights situation was far worse in
the small part of the former Spanish colony controlled by the pro-independence
Polisario Front and in the refugee camps it runs in the Tindouf region of
In a speech commemorating the so-called Green March of 1975
in which Morocco sent in tens of thousands of settlers to lay claim to the
territory, the king reserved particular anger for Algiers, Rabat's regional
rival and the Polisario's main backer.
Morocco would not be lectured to, "particularly by
those who systematically trample on human rights," he said, in a clear
allusion to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who sparked angry protests
in the kingdom's economic capital Casablanca last week with a speech hitting
out at its policies in the Western Sahara.
"Anybody who takes issue with Morocco only has to go
down to Tindouf and check the numerous human rights violations in the
surrounding area," he said in allusion to the Sahrawi refugee camps around
the Algerian oasis town.
In a speech in the Nigerian capital Abuja last week,
Bouteflika hit out at the "massive and systematic human rights violations
that take place inside the occupied territories to suppress the peaceful
struggle" of the Sahrawi people for independence.
He said international monitoring of the human rights
situation was needed "now more than ever".
The Algerian leader was referring to US efforts at the UN
Security Council earlier this year to give the UN peacekeeping force for the
Western Sahara unprecedented human rights monitoring powers, a bid that failed
in the face of intense Moroccan lobbying.
The king made veiled criticism of the US move in his speech,
which came less than a week before a visit to Rabat by US Secretary of State
John Kerry on a tour that will also take him to Algiers.
"Is there a crisis of confidence between Morocco and
certain decision-makers in its strategic partners on the human rights
issue," he asked.
Bloody clashes erupted between pro-independence protesters
and Moroccan police during a three-day visit to the Western Sahara last month
by UN envoy Christopher Ross.
Earlier this year, Morocco called on UN chief Ban Ki-moon to
replace Ross, accusing him of bias, but in his speech the king expressed
confidence in the envoy.
He promised Morocco's "co-operation with the UN chief,
his envoy and friendly countries" in their efforts to "find a
definitive political solution to the conflict".
Morocco has offered wide autonomy for the Western Sahara
under its sovereignty but the Polisario insists it will not give up the Sahrawi
people's right to decide their own political future in a UN-supervised
The two sides have observed a UN-monitored ceasefire since
1991 but the deep divisions between Morocco, and the Polisario and its Algeria
backers have prevented any lasting settlement.