UNICEF: Algeria violates international humanitarian law (Diplomat)
Algeria, which is sequestering the populations of the Tindouf camps on its own territory, is thus violating the very foundations and bases of international humanitarian law.
The remarks were made by Morocco’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Omar Kadiri, during a debate of the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), held in the presence of the Executive Director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell.
Omar Kadiri took the floor to respond to the Permanent Representative of Algeria, Ennadir El Arabaoui, who inadvertently mentioned the so-called “Sahrawi refugees in his country”.
Kadiri underlined that Algeria is trying “to instrumentalize the debate, to politicize it, to poison it in order to serve its biased political agenda on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara”, noting that it is the first time that the issue of the Moroccan Sahara is mentioned in the debates of the UNICEF Executive Board.
In his response to the baseless allegations of the Algerian diplomat, Kadiri stressed that “Algeria is trying to present itself as a responsible player in international humanitarian action by claiming to welcome so-called Sahrawi refugees.”
“The reality is different,” said the Moroccan diplomat who laid bare Algeria’s massive violations of international law.
“The populations of the Tindouf camps are not refugees. Algeria holds them against their will. Algeria does not protect the rights of these populations, including children. It violates these rights with impunity on a daily basis. Algeria does not grant humanitarian aid to these populations, it deprives them of it by diverting international assistance”, he said.
Algeria exploits the suffering of the populations sequestered in the Tindouf camps, he insisted.
Addressing the Algerian delegate, Kadiri wondered: “If these populations are not sequestered in the Tindouf camps, as Algeria claims, Algeria should then authorizes the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) to allow these populations choose one of the three durable solutions offered to them by the Refugee Convention, namely voluntary return, integration in the host country or resettlement in a third country”.
This situation is “unique and iniquitous in the world”, denounced the diplomat, adding that the Tindouf camps are heavily militarized, in violation of the civilian and humanitarian character of the camps.
He also drew the audience’s attention to the fact that Algeria and the polisario have been shamefully diverting the generous humanitarian aid sent by the international community to the populations of the Tindouf camps, for almost 5 decades. These misappropriations were confirmed in audit reports of the UNHCR and the World Food Program (WFP), as well as in the report of the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) of the European Union, he said.
“Children from the Tindouf camps, as young as 6 years old, are forcibly recruited by the separatist armed group linked to terrorism, the polisario, with the participation and the blessing of the host country Algeria. This enlistment, which deprives children of all their rights, is a violation of the international convention on the rights of the child, and its optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts, to which Algeria is a party,” stressed the diplomat, showing pictures of child soldiers from the Tindouf camps to the audience.
The enlistment of child soldiers in these camps is a crime against humanity and a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Kadiri pointed out.
He also denounced the ideological indoctrination of the children of the Tindouf camps by Algeria and the polisario which instill in them hatred and despair, while separating them from their families.
Running short of arguments in the face of irrefutable evidence of his country’s violations of international law, the Algerian delegate tried to convey lies about the situation of children in Morocco.
In response, the Moroccan diplomat underlined that the situation of children in the Kingdom is far better than that of their peers in Algeria, “who take boats to go to Europe”. “The Algerian population is leaving Algeria for Europe because their country, rich in gas and oil, has nothing to offer them, except despair and systematic violations of their rights,” he said.
The Moroccan diplomat pointed out that during the Hirak (protest movement), children “were raped at police stations in Algeria”, for having taken part in this movement which demands justice and the most fundamental rights.
As to the existence of a so-called “Sahrawi people” claimed by the Algerian ambassador, Kadiri said “there is no Sahrawi people, there are Moroccan Sahrawis. The whole population of the Sahara is Moroccan.” The populations of the Tindouf camps are exploited by Algeria for political purposes, he argued.
Algeria wants to satisfy its regional hegemony aims, and is trying to prolong the dispute over the Moroccan Sahara “to hide its internal problems,” he said.
The diplomat also exposed Algeria’s fallacious claim to be a mere observer in the Moroccan Sahara issue, recalling that it has been home to the separatist armed group for more than 46 years, that it is the only country in the world to finance the polisario, that it dictates its actions, that it devotes all its diplomacy to the issue of the Moroccan Sahara and that it is the only country in the world which breaks off its relations with countries for the sole reason that they support the Autonomy Initiative.
He added that the Sahara is Moroccan and that it is Algeria which has colonialist intentions on the Moroccan Sahara, through its pawn the “polisario”.
“Whether the Algerian delegate likes it or not, the Sahara is Moroccan. It will remain Moroccan. Morocco is in its Sahara. The history of this region proves that it has always been Moroccan. The population of the Sahara is Moroccan and will remain so until the end of time.”