NGOs: Polisario Provokes War, Uses Women, Children as Human Shields

The NGOs stated that “this behavior should be exposed and brought to the attention of the world.”

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Rabat – Polisario is using women and children as human shields. This is the message of several US NGOs who sent a letter to the UN’s Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Refugees. “The Polisario continues to transport women and children into the area,” the letter stated in reference to Guerguerat. “One can only surmise the intent is for the Polisario to provoke a war and use these people as human shields,” it claimed.

The eye-opening letter from NGOs became public knowledge after Morocco’s national press agency’s (MAP) New York office revealed its details. The NGOs have all worked in the Tindouf refugee camps in southwestern Algeria and decided to write to the UN’s top officials over its concerns regarding developments in Western Sahara, according to MAP.

The letter described Polisario’s activity that the NGOs witnessed as “deplorable.” The NGOs stated that “this behavior should be exposed and brought to the attention of the world.” The organizations specifically highlighted Polisario’s disregard for UN Security Council Resolutions 2414, 2440, and 2548. 

The group of American NGOs decried the Polisario blockade on the movement of people and goods across Morocco’s border, where they allege Polisario used women and children as “human shields.” In addition to the “despicable act” the letter described, it also stated the organizations had seen reports of a variety of illegal activity and harassment of civilians in the UN-controlled buffer zone.

Algeria’s support

The NGOs firmly pointed to Algeria’s culpability in the recent developments in Western Sahara. “The Polisario does not stand alone,” the letter stated. According to the NGOs, Algeria expressly approved the blockade. “They would never make such a bold move to disrupt the Guergarate buffer zone’s status quo without Algeria’s backing,” they wrote.

“For years, the Polisario has benefited from Algeria’s support,” the letter emphasized, adding that Polisario used “obvious acts of aggression” in order to disrupt “peace in the buffer zone to create a presence in what would ultimately lead to their takeover of the area in their false attempt to claim the territory.”

The NGOs considered the recent developments near Guerguerat as evidence that “Polisario intends to provoke to create a hostile environment,” calling it a “defiant statement to the international community.” The organizations stated that they stand with Morocco in the current crisis, thanking Morocco and the UN for lifting the blockade.

The NGOs’ letter exposing the alleged use of women and children as human shields comes after Spanish online outlet Tribuna Libre in February accused Polisario of conscripting child soldiers. With the group on an active war footing, such practices would likely become public knowledge if there are significant clashes in the near future.

Read also: International Reporters’ Guide to Western Sahara Tensions