Geneva Call/SCBL - On 27 February, the Polisario Front’s mine action team destroyed 3’321 antipersonnel mines in Tifariti, Western Sahara. This is the Polisario Front’s second stockpile destruction since it signed the Geneva Call “Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Antipersonnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action” in November 2005. By signing the Deed of Commitment, the Polisario Front committed to destroy all antipersonnel landmines in its possession and to collaborate in mine action in the areas it controls.
High-level Polisario officials, including Secretary General Mohamed Abdelaziz, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (as recognized by the African Union and many States), attended the ceremony.
Geneva Call, the Saharawi Campaign to Ban Landmines (SCBL) and Landmine Action UK (LMA) inspected the destruction site before and after the operation. International delegates and media representatives also witnessed the event, among them Major General Kurt Mosgaard, Force Commander of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
During the ceremony, Pascal Bongard, Geneva Call Programme Director, commended the Polisario Front’s determination to turn its commitment into concrete action. “Mine action has progressed rapidly since the signing of the Deed of Commitment in November 2005. The Polisario Front has destroyed a large portion of its antipersonnel mines stockpile, LMA began a survey and explosive ordnance disposal project in Polisario-controlled areas, and a prosthetic workshop is expected to open soon in the Saharawi refugee camps. Similar progress must be observed in Moroccan-controlled areas for Western Sahara to become mine free.”
The Minister of Defence Mohamed Lamine Bouhali expressed “his satisfaction that the Polisario Front honours its promise and contributes to eradicating the threat posed by landmines in Western Sahara.” He regretted that Morocco had yet to accede to the Ottawa Convention, despite continued mine incidents in areas under its control. Boybat Cheikh Abdelhay, the President of the SCBL, said that “this destruction is a courageous step that demonstrates once again the Polisario Front’s resolve to comply with the international norm against landmines established by the 1997 Ottawa Convention.”
Geneva Call and the SCBL congratulate the Polisario Front for a successful destruction operation. This achievement illustrates how engagement of non-State actors such as the Polisario Front on the landmine ban can bring concrete humanitarian results, despite the unresolved status of the Western Sahara conflict.
Geneva/Tifariti, 1 March 2007
For further information, please contact:
Pascal Bongard, +41 76 588 19 68 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Boybat Cheikh Abdelhay, +213 62993169 or email@example.com