Norway on MINURSO mandate, 2012

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs was in April 2012 asked about the Norwegian government's position regarding expansion of the mandate of the UN operation in Western Sahara, to also include human rights monitoring.

Published 13 August 2012

Unofficial translation to English by the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara.

See original parliamentary question and answer in Norwegian here. 

Written question from Borghild Tenden (Liberal Party) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. 
Document no 15:1213 (2011-2012)
Asked: 12.04.2012
Answered: 18.04.2012 by Minister Jonas Gahr Støre 

Borghild Tenden (Liberal Party):
Borghild Tenden (V): What is the government doing vis-à-vis the UN and French authorities so that the MINURSO operation in occupied Western Sahara shall be given a mandate to observe the human rights violations in the territory? 
The largest demonstrations in occupied Western Sahara since the cease-fire occurred in the autumn of 2010. Since then Sahrawi human rights activists have been imprisoned and exposed to harassment. Last year the UN Secretary General called for the use of UN mechanisms to monitor the violations in the area. This has not occurred. At the same time the UN operation in Western Sahara continues to be deployed in the territory, without having a mandate to report the human rights infringements they are witness to. Expansion of the mandate is denied by Morocco's closest ally, the veto power France. Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Støre has previously declared that it is important that MINURSO receive such a human rights mandate. It is, on the other hand, not known whether the Government has taken an initiative with regard to the Security Council or France to make this take place.
What is the Government doing with regard to the UN and French authorities to give the MINURSO operation in occupied Western Sahara a mandate to observe the human rights infringements in the territory?

Jonas Gahr Støre (Labour Party)
Jonas Gahr Støre: Norway's consistent line in the Western Sahara conflict has been to support the UN Security Council's demand to enable conditions for the right of self-determination for the population, and to emphasise the need for respect for human rights. As long as the parties Morocco and Polisario can not agree on a political solution of the conflict over the area's future status, the main activity of the UN's peace-keeping force in Western Sahara, MINURSO, is to ensure compliance of the cease-fire, mine clearing, and promotion of confidence-building measures. MINURSO's mandate is determined every year by the UN Security Council. During the past years the Security Council's members have not reached an agreement about expanding MINURSO's mandate to also monitor human rights. Norway's UN delegation is following the Security Council's imminent discussion of the renewal of MINURSO's mandate. The delegation has close contact with important UN Security Council members, and also with France, in order to discuss this demanding case.

The UN's Secretary General has, in his recently presented report on the situation in Western Sahara, not proposed to expand MINURSO's mandate. Furthermore, it has recently become known from our dialogue with the central parties that agreement about an expansion will probably not be reached by the Security Council this year either. Norway is concerned that all UN operations will be able to carry out their mandate efficiently and independently. In a situation in which there is not agreement about an expansion of the mandate, it is especially important that the parties arrange for MINURSO to be able to utilise its existing mandate fully. We note that the Secretary General also in his report, despite the limitations in the current mandate, nevertheless accounts for the human rights situation during the past year, including the concrete occurrences in Western Sahara. Norway is furthermore concerned about following up the agreement in the Security Council in 2011 that the UN Human Rights Council's special reporting mechanism is to be given unhindered admission to the area. According to the UN in Geneva, Morocco collaborates well with this special reporting procedures. A visit to Western Sahara by the special rapporteur for cultural rights was carried out in 2011, and a visit by the special rapporteur for torture is planned for 2012. 

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