The European Parliament has appointed for the first time and to the surprise of observers a rapporteur to investigate human rights in Western Sahara. Charles Tannock, a British conservative Member of the European Parliament, was appointed on December 12 as Special Rapporteur of the European Union for human rights in Western Sahara.
The information was received in Rabat with astonishment and skepticism, as the British MP is already known for his hostile stances towards Morocco even when it comes to conclude partnership agreements between the EU and the kingdom.
Charles Tannock, who is also one of the fiercest opponents to Muslim Turkey’s accession to the European Union, is entrusted with drafting reports on the situation of human rights in the Sahara and in the Tindouf camps in south-western Algeria as well as in the Sahel. The reports will be exposed before the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament.
Tannock’s appointment took place following the adoption in Strasbourg of a resolution on the 2011 Annual Report of the EU on human rights.
The initial report did not mention the Sahara conflict, but a group of 96 pro-Polisario European MPs succeeded in introducing an amendment to the original text and had it adopted by the plenary session of the European Parliament.
In this resolution, the European Parliament expressed “concern about the deterioration of human rights in the Sahara” and called for respect of “freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to protest.”
The amendment introduced does not mention at all the situation of human rights in the Tindouf camps, where all kinds of violations and abuses are constantly denounced by international human rights NGO and advocates.
However, this does not clear out the Polisario Front leaders’ fears as the new EU Special Rapporteur may change his mind on the Sahrawi separatist movement once he visits the Tindouf camps and sees on the spot the wrongdoings of a group that he used to know from far away .
Anyway, observers who are closely following the Sahara issue are eager to know the response of Moroccan authorities as well as that of the Polisario leadership to this appointment.