Minister: Morocco could improve rights in Western Sahara
LAAYOUNE, Morocco – Morocco's minister for human rights admitted his country could do better in the way it deals with civil rights in the disputed Western Sahara, as the North African kingdom warned it could act against the Polisario Front independence movement in the region.
Mustapha Ramid told The Associated Press on Monday that Morocco is "working to enhance the institutional framing of human rights. Morocco is not hell for human rights, but it is not a heaven."
Ramid spoke days after Morocco's foreign minister warned that all options, including military action, are on the table if the United Nations doesn't act against alleged plans by the Polisario Front to build military posts in U.N.-monitored buffer zones in Western Sahara.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and fought the Polisario Front, a movement seeking independence for mineral-rich Western Sahara. The U.N. brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor the truce.
Morocco considers Western Sahara its "southern provinces" and has proposed giving the territory wide-ranging autonomy. The Polisario Front insists on self-determination through a referendum for the local population, which it estimates at between 350,000 and 500,000.
Political parties from across the spectrum met on Monday in Laayoune, Western Sahara's largest city, to condemn the latest actions of the Polisario Front.
Speaking at the rally, head of government Saad Eddine El Othmani confirmed Morocco "is ready to use all means at its disposal to defend its territory."
Lawmakers attending the gathering signed a statement proclaiming political unity in defending the territorial integrity of Western Sahara.
The statement condemns and rejects "actions carried out by the enemies of our territorial integrity at all levels, especially the recent acts of hostility by the Polisario ... in flagrant violation of the cease-fire agreement and in total ignorance of the will of the United Nations and Security Council resolutions."
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned both Morocco and the Polisario Front against actions that could slow down the resolution of the conflict.