Mohsen Abdelmoumen: What is the human rights situation in the occupied territories of Western Sahara?
Gianfranco Fattorini: A distinction must be made between the indigenous population, the Saharawi people, and the Moroccan settlers. For the Saharawi people, the human rights situation in Western Sahara is catastrophic: practically all economic, social and cultural rights are violated, not to mention the refusal by the occupier to exercise the first of a people's fundamental rights, the right to self-determination and independence in accordance with UN resolutions and practice.
How do you explain the human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara by Moroccan colonialism?
In fact, these violations are intimately linked to the occupation itself and the will of the Kingdom of Morocco to exploit the natural wealth of the territory, exactly as the former colonial powers did, without any real benefit to the Moroccan people. The big difference is that we have entered the era of all-out communication, including in Western Sahara, hence the need for the occupying Power to deny access to the Territory to any independent observer and to silence those who testify from within and those who claim to be able to freely exercise the right to self-determination and independence.
In your opinion, why does the UN remain inert in the face of the tragedy that the Sahrawi and Palestinian peoples are living?
Here too a distinction is necessary, between the expert bodies and the political bodies of the UN: if, on the one hand, several special procedures of the Human Rights Council and certain treaty bodies have indeed noted the violations of the fundamental rights of these peoples (in particular the right to self-determination, arbitrary detentions, the systematic use of torture, etc.), on the other hand, the UN has not been able to make a clear distinction between these violations and the violations of the fundamental rights of the Sahrawi and Palestinian peoples. On the other hand, it is true that the UN Secretary General, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights and some powers within the Security Council pretend to ignore international judicial decisions, the text of the UN Charter and the resolutions on Non-Self-Governing Territories in the case of Western Sahara.
Why do you think the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) failed in its mission to organize a referendum on self-determination for the Sahrawi people? What is the purpose of MINURSO?
Exactly for the reasons I have just outlined. In the context of the East-West confrontation of the last century, the two permanent members of the Security Council (France and the United States) supported from the outset, even militarily, the expansionist adventure of the Kingdom of Morocco, and even today the United States still provides nearly 90% of the armaments to the Kingdom of Morocco. Once the latter began to oppose any kind of motive for postponing the organization of the referendum, firmer arrangements should have been made for MINURSO to complete its mandate. Geopolitical and economic interests are preventing MINURSO from carrying out its core mission.
You have pleaded for "a broad international coalition" to honor the Sahrawi people's right to self-determination, what is the impact of your appeal? Why do you think the great powers at their head, France, support Moroccan colonialism?
I would say that it is above all the Western powers that support Moroccan colonialism for the reasons I have just indicated, to which can be added, as far as European countries are concerned, the permanent blackmail of the Kingdom of Morocco in the fight against drugs, against terrorism or to limit migratory flows when everyone knows that Morocco is the leading producer and exporter of cannabis in the world, that very often Moroccan citizens are involved in attacks on European soil and that the control of migratory flows is exercised through the use of inhumane treatment, about which these powers prefer to look away.
Faced with this situation, a group of states was formed in Geneva to defend the right to self-determination and independence of the Saharawi people, and it is hoped that this group will soon expand. Non-governmental organizations are also mobilizing: 260 NGOs from all continents have come together around a platform for the defense and promotion of the rights of the Sahrawi people.
Isn't my country, Algeria, the target of these imperialist powers that crush the peoples?
The Western powers and their allies continue to make Algeria pay for the unfailing and sincere support it has given and continues to give to the Arab, African, Latin American and Asian liberation and independence movements. One can only regret that beyond the incantatory speeches, even if the form has changed, the colonial policy of these powers is still going on in the 21st century.
I have interviewed MEPs who confirmed the existence of Moroccan lobbying within the European institutions. We also learned that Morocco has corrupted European and American politicians and journalists. How do you explain these degrading and immoral practices?
We can also add international officials to your list. The practice is essential for a small country like the Kingdom of Morocco to secure the support necessary to continue an illegal military occupation. One can only be pleased when the corrupt are unmasked.
By using widespread corruption to block the referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people, isn't Morocco a rogue state?
A rogue is a person who has not had an education, yet both the king and his closest collaborators and his agents in diplomacy and business have received a good education, especially in the universities of Western countries, which has precisely allowed them to know the workings and integrate the codes of the political and economic elites of the former colonial powers, to weave their networks and finally to blend into the mold of these powers and use the same weapons to satisfy excessive ambitions.
What is your reaction to the behavior of the outgoing US President Trump who offers Western Sahara to Morocco as if it is the good of his family in return for the normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel, by acting in this way is not US President Trump an outlaw president?
This may be only the latest manifestation of President Trump's ignorance of international public law and his contempt for oppressed peoples. In fact, it is the U.S. government that is often outlawed by international law when it intervenes militarily on the other side of the world to destroy a country (Iraq), when it kidnaps and holds prisoners in secret prisons (including in Morocco), when it systematically uses torture (for which Bush Jr. was an apologist), when it carries out summary executions (Bin Laden and others), when it violates the norms of International Humanitarian Law: it is not by chance that the United States refuses to submit to any international criminal jurisdiction. It is a constant policy of the United States, whether the Democrats or Republicans are in power. Finally, it should not be forgotten that the United States was created by European settlers who exterminated the indigenous peoples and who still illegally occupy Alaska, Puerto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands.
Why are the media silent when it comes to the rights of the Saharawi and Palestinian people? Why do you think that most Western politicians are silent about the crime against humanity committed by Moroccan colonialism against the Saharawi people?
Among the media, a distinction must be made between those belonging to conglomerates and those that are independent. The former are intimately linked to the circles of political power and it is easy to understand that they do not do anything that could embarrass these circles, or even the conglomerate to which they belong, which may also develop financial, industrial or commercial activities in the occupied territories. On the other hand, the majority of political leaders, despite the major principals they often call upon, do not wish to jeopardize their careers in order to defend the rights of a people who are practically invisible in their constituencies.
Don't you think that a war in this region would be a global catastrophe?
The war that has resumed in Western Sahara undeniably presents an additional danger in an already highly destabilized region where several armed groups that have developed as a result of the dismantling of the Libyan state, following the illegal intervention of France and its allies, are rampant. There is indeed a danger of infiltration of one or more of these groups in the conflict in Western Sahara that could also hit the Moroccan state on its soil. In addition, the recent formalization of the Moroccan king's support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine has brought thousands of Moroccans onto the streets, giving them additional reason to resent the king and the Moroccan ruling political class.
You are a human rights defender committed to the just cause of the Sahrawi people, what is your analysis about the opening by the United Arab Emirates of a consulate in the occupied territories of Western Sahara?
The new generation of leaders of the Gulf monarchies have followed the same path as the Moroccan elites I mentioned before. Thus, the United Arab Emirates also aspire to become a power that can decide the future of other peoples. Unfortunately, it is not only the UAE that has opened a consulate in Western Sahara. In fact, it is mainly African countries that have opened consulates in Western Sahara, in total violation of the African Union Charter. They act as good vassals of their former colonial power (France) who seem to want to play the role of colonizer in the 21st century. In law, this is called "complicity in crime".
Why does Morocco persist in wanting to take over a territory that has never belonged to it?
On the one hand, there is a political movement (Istiqlal), which since its creation in the last century supports the monarchy and calls for the (re)constitution of a ghostly "Greater Morocco" which would include, in addition to Western Sahara, a large part of Algeria and Mauritania. On the other hand, the Moroccan colonial adventure in the Western Sahara was launched in order to occupy an army that, in the early 1970s, had twice tried to overthrow the Alaouite throne. Today, King Mohamed VI, whose personal fortune (according to Forbes magazine) has increased from 1 to 5 billion dollars since his accession to the throne, has direct interests in Western Sahara through his holdings.
You are the permanent representative of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ) to the United Nations, can you tell us about your organization's missions?
The AAJ was created in the last century with the fundamental goal of fighting the fascist dictatorships supported by the United States in South America and to defend the fundamental rights of peoples, including indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. Even today the members of the AAJ remain faithful to the ideals of the struggle for the freedom and equality of peoples on the American continent as well as in Africa and elsewhere.
Interview realized by Mohsen Abdelmoumen
Who is Gianfranco Fattorini?
AAJ Representative to the UN-Geneva
Co-Coordinator of the Support Group for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Western Sahara