Report of the Secretary-General on the situation concerning Western Sahara
1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2099 (2013), by which the Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2014 and requested the Secretary-General to provide a report to it on the situation in Western Sahara well before the end of the mandate period. It covers developments since my report dated 8 April 2013 (S/2013/220) and describes the situation on the ground, the status and progress of the negotiations and the existing challenges to the Mission’s operations, as requested by the Council in its resolution 2099 (2013).
2. The situation in Western Sahara, as it presents itself to MINURSO, is generally calm. The ceasefire continues to hold and the people can live without fear of a resumption of armed conflict in the medium term.
3. That part of Western Sahara under control of Morocco, west of the berm marking the ceasefire line, continued to witness considerable Moroccan investment in infrastructure and in the social and cultural sphere. Public life proceeded peacefully, and holidays brought large numbers of people into the streets, generally without incident. This was at least in part due to the extensive presence of security forces.
4. An increased number of delegations from foreign legislatures and diplomatic missions, as well as governmental and non-governmental institutions and journalists, visited the western part of the Territory. Moroccan authorities showed increased openness to and engagement with such visits, although on occasion visitors deemed hostile to Moroccan interests were denied access to or expelled from the Territory.
5. Some underlying discontent, however, remained perceptible among the Saharan population, expressing itself in sporadic demonstrations in Laayoune and other towns in the western part of the Territory throughout the reporting period. These were usually small in scale, but at times the participation of up to 300 demonstrators was reported. These demonstrations aimed at drawing attention to human rights concerns, socioeconomic issues and political demands, including the right to self-determination. They were swiftly dispersed by Moroccan security forces. On most such occasions, there were credible reports of heavy-handedness on the part of security forces, as well as violence, such as stone-throwing, on the part of demonstrators. At times, the regional offices of the Moroccan National Human Rights Council (Conseil national des droits de l’homme) in Laayoune and Dakhla deployed observers and tried to defuse tensions and prevent clashes.