Washington—Today, the Committee on House Administration approved the Congressional Western Sahara Caucus, which is chaired by Congressmen John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) and Joseph R. Pitts (PA-16). The bipartisan caucus was formed with the intent of highlighting the needs for self-determination and human rights monitoring for Western Sahara.
|Dean of the U.S. House|
John Conyers, Jr.
"The re-establishment of this Western Sahara Caucus will be important to encouraging the Obama Administration to use its leverage in the United Nations to resolve the last colonial issue on its agenda for the African continent," said Rep. Conyers. “While the State Department played an important role in renewing the U.N. peacekeeping mission for Western Sahara, I hope that Congress can push for a greater emphasis on human rights monitoring and scheduling the referendum necessary to resolve the long running controversy. Though progress has recently stalled, I am optimistic that U.S. advocacy for self-determination for the peoples of Western Sahara can lead to a durable peace in the region.”
“As a past co-chairman of the Western Sahara Caucus, I’m very proud to help restart it in the 114th Congress,” said Rep. Pitts. “The gravity of human rights violations in the country and the security environment in the region compel our government to address this longstanding crisis. United States policy has long sought for a United Nations driven resolution, and I will continue to encourage Congress and the Obama Administration to advocate on behalf of the long deferred self-determination rights of the Sahrawi people.”
Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa. According to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, it is a Non-Self-Governing Territory with the right to self-determination regarding its political status. Its people have been waiting to exercise that right for more than forty years, following the withdrawal of Spanish colonial rule. After over a decade of fighting between the Moroccan government and the Polisario Front, Western Sahara’s national liberation movement, the two parties agreed to a United Nations sponsored ceasefire. In exchange, the Sahrawi people were promised a referendum to decide their political future, in keeping with international law. Twenty-two years later, this referendum still has not taken place.
The U.S. Department of State and international organizations have extensively documented the ongoing and widespread human rights abuses in some parts of the territory. Despite these abuses and the UN Secretary General’s call for human rights monitoring, the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (“MINURSO”) is the only U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world without a mandate for human rights monitoring.
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