Recruitment of Children by Polisario, a War Crime – Ambassador –

The recruitment of children in Tindouf camps, in Algeria, by the “Polisario” is considered as a war crime, said Morocco’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Omar Hilale. Regarding the recruitment of children in Tindouf camps by the “Polisario”, “this is considered as a war crime, which the international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights law and the Refugee Convention, prohibits and condemns,” Hilale pointed out in an interview to the prestigious US magazine “Newslooks”. Hilale recalled, in this regard, that the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1977, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and its additional Protocol of 2000, call on eliminating the recruitment of children and their use in armed conflict, as a matter of urgency. Furthermore, just recently, the Security Council adopted, on 29 October 2021, a unique resolution (S/RES/2601) that strongly condemns all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to arm conflict as well as their re-recruitment and demands that all relevant parties immediately put an end to such practices and take special measures to protect children, the Moroccan diplomat said. Moreover, and on the occasion of the World Children’s Day, on 20 November 2021, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and the Director-General of the International Labor Organization, made a Call for Action and Renewed International Commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children once and for all by 2025, he added. “Despite all this international legal framework and calls for action, the children of the Tindouf camps continue to be forced to take part in military trainings, subjugated to all forms of exploitation and abuse by the “Polisario” militia, under the indifferent eyes of the host country, Algeria, and in total defiance to the International Community,” Hilale pointed out. The place of the Tindouf camps’ children is not in military training camps, but in schools, said the ambassador, adding that they need to access to knowledge and learn peace, not hatred, war and terror. “They deserve to go to school and get the qualifications and skills needed to build a successful and brighter future. They deserve a peaceful and prosperous future.” The International Community must prevent “Polisario” and the host country, Algeria, from making of the Tindouf camps’ children of today, the terrorists of tomorrow, as is currently doing Boko haram in Nigeria, Daesh in Afghanistan and in the Sahel, and Al Shabab in Somalia, Hilale said. Women in the Tindouf camps also are subjected to the worst forms of violence, including sexual violence and rape, the diplomat added. “You are certainly aware, that the head of “polisario’s” militia, brahim ghali, is on trial by the highest jurisdiction in Spain, for crimes against humanity and rape.” The egregious situation in the Tindouf camps poses a question: how can a country, Algeria, which violates the human rights of its own population, protect the human rights of refugees?, he wondered. Regarding the international community role to investigate Algeria’s responsibility for these crimes and put an end to it, Hilale said that the Tindouf camps are the most guarded and militarized camps in the world. “No one can access or leave them without the permission of Algeria and its armed militia Polisario.” The diplomat noted in this regard that Algeria does not respect the 3 solutions provided for by International Law to the Tindouf camps population: it refuses to let them return to the motherland, it opposes their integration locally and it rejects their installation in a third State, namely in Europe. “The only solution that Algeria leaves to these sequestered populations is to flee the camps at the risk of their lives. This is how thousands of people managed to reach Morocco, to be able to voice their concerns and denounce the lawless situation in Tindouf camps. Only God knows how many have perished in the desert during their escape,” Hilale underlined. Answering a question on the exposure of these humanitarian crimes within the corridors of the United Nations, the diplomat noted that such findings have left the international community in shock and astonishment that a UN member States is not fulfilling its legal obligations and allowing such crimes to be perpetrated on its territory. “The revelations and exposure certainly allowed to shed light on the grave human rights violations in the Tindouf camps, said Hilale, adding that the situation in these camps poses a real legal, political and moral problem due to Algeria’s resignation from its international responsibility, by ceding its sovereignty over a part of its territory where these camps are to “Polisario”. The United Nations have been made aware of these humanitarian crimes for some time by Morocco, and other member States, as well as petitioners from NGO’s and Think tanks, who have been reporting on the dire situation in the Tindouf camps, he said. Moreover, many member States, express their concerns over these human rights violations in their interventions before the UN fourth Committee and C24, hilale added, noting that they regularly request the conduct of investigations for the identification of those responsible of these atrocities, which are not only committed by elements of the armed group “Polisario” but also by the security services of the host country, Algeria. Fortunately, the UN and other organizations are now reporting regularly, even though not enough, on these violations, he said, adding that in 2018, for example, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed its concern over the de facto devolution of authority by Algeria to Polisario, especially jurisdictional authority; as such, a situation is inconsistent with Algeria’s obligation with regard to International law. “These same concerns were reiterated by the UN SG in his reports to the Security Council, in 2018 and 2021 and by the UN Working Group on Enforced disappearances in 2020,” he recalled. Of course, Algeria, the host country, is fully aware of the human rights violations and abuses committed against all the populations on its territory, including the population in the Tindouf camps, the diplomat stressed, adding that Algeria is not only aware, but it also encourages and participates in these violations. “It has done nothing to end them. Two persons from the Tindouf camps were killed by Algerian security forces in October 2020. Two other persons from the same camps were killed on 21 November 2021 by Algerian forces. Unfortunately, this is neither the first nor will it be the last time. Indeed, Algeria is responsible and directly involved in all the egregious violations in the Tindouf camps,” he pointed out. It is worth recalling that the UN Human Rights Committee stated, two years ago, that “Algeria is responsible, as a host country, for human rights violations that are perpetrated on its territory,” said Hilale. The international Community, particularly, the United Nations human rights mechanisms, cannot access the camps, because Algeria categorically refuses to allow visits of the OHCHR, nor the special rapporteurs on human rights to the camps or to Algeria in general, the Moroccan ambassador added. The host country refuses to cooperate with human rights mechanisms and has one of the lowest rates in the world, in terms of answering their communications and requests for information, Hilale pointed out. “This obstructionist stance by Algeria has only one explanation: it is meant to hide the egregious violations of human rights and humanitarian law and to keep the Tindouf camps as a symbol of the problem of the Sahara,” he stressed.