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Western Sahara: Human Rights

Volume 496: debated on Wednesday 9 September 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to ensure that the matter of human rights abuses in the Non-Self Governing Territory of Western Sahara related to calls for a referendum is raised with Morocco by EU officials in the next meeting of the sub-committee on Human Rights, Democratisation and Governance. (289057)

The UK considers the EU-Morocco Association Agreement Sub Committee on Human Rights, Democratisation and Governance to be an essential element of the EU-Morocco relationship. We have been engaged in the planning for the meeting on 24 July 2009 through our Missions in Rabat and Brussels. The agenda was agreed by member states on 13 July 2009, and will include, among other issues, women's rights, freedom of expression and the rights of detainees. Discussions will not exclude the territory of Western Sahara.

The EU engages regularly with the Moroccan Government on human rights issues at a local level with our EU colleagues by raising individual cases of concern as appropriate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy that there be a field presence from the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Western Sahara. (289058)

The Government believe that greater openness and transparency on human rights by all the parties would create a significantly better environment for political dialogue between the parties. We support the call by the UN Secretary General, in his latest report, for the parties to remain engaged in a continuous and constructive dialogue with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and to make progress on the human dimension of the conflict. If, as the result of such dialogue, a mechanism were to be established to allow OHCHR to further add value, for example by assisting and reporting on the situation in Western Sahara, the Government would support it.