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Western Sahara

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights kept the report of the visit by that office to Western Sahara in September 2006 secret; on what dates United Kingdom embassy officials, Foreign Office officials and the United Nations Secretary-General's special representative have visited the territory since September 2006; what were the dates since then of meetings between Morocco and the Polisario chaired by the United Nations; and whether they have made representations to the United Nations about the adequacy of the resources devoted to the situation there. [HL4229]

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited Morocco, Western Sahara, the Polisario-run refugee camps in Tindouf (Algeria) and Algiers in May and June 2006 to gather information on the human rights situation. The OHCHR shared its report privately with Morocco, Algeria and the Polisario on 8 September 2006, but did not publish it, in line with terms of reference agreed by all parties prior to the visit. The High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to maintain the position that the report should remain an internal document, not for official publication.

Staff from our embassy in Rabat visited Western Sahara in July 2006, and a further visit is planned. The UN Secretary-General's personal envoy to the Western Sahara, Peter van Walsum, visited the territory in September 2006, May 2007 and February 2008. Mr van Walsum hosted talks between the parties to the dispute in New York on 18 and 19 June 2007, 10 to 12 August 2007, 7 to 9 January 2008 and 18 and 19 March 2008.

The UK has not made any representations to the UN about resources for Mr van Walsum, for the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, or other resources dedicated to resolving the Western Sahara conflict.