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Polisario Front provokes with its children's military parade in the presence of UN envoy for Western Sahara

Staffan de Mistura saw for himself the difficult situation in the refugee camps of Tindouf in Algeria
Staffan de Mistura

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The military parade of children organised by the Polisario Front in front of Staffan de Mistura, special envoy of the United Nations (UN) for Western Sahara, during his visit to the refugee camps in Tindouf in Algeria, had a great impact.

According to Al-Arab, the Polisario Front organised a children's military parade in front of Staffan de Mistura, who wanted to see for himself the difficult situation in the refugee camps in Tindouf. 

As reported by the Al-Arab media, human rights organisations described this activity as provocative and in defiance of international law, which categorically prohibits the military recruitment of children. Criticism was also aimed at Algeria, as an ally of the Polisario Front, for hosting such military events with children on its own territory, held in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algerian territory. 

Staffan de Mistura, enviado de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental, en los campamentos de refugiados de Tinduf en Argelia

The Polisario Front, among other events, welcomed the UN envoy with a military parade of children as a show of force, despite the fact that international human rights law prohibits the forced recruitment of children and the use of weapons by children, as Al-Arab media recalled. 

The International Alliance for the Defence of Rights and Freedoms condemned the recruitment and political use of children for military purposes in the Tindouf camps in Algerian territory. According to this French NGO for the defence of human rights and civil liberties, "this is an international crime that requires international prosecution and prosecution of all those involved", as reported by Al-Arab.

The organisation added that "all recruitment, exploitation and participation of children in conflicts and wars is completely prohibited and criminalised under international law", which places "all those responsible for this practice within the scope of responsibility and exposes them to international legal monitoring". 

Staffan de Mistura, enviado de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental, en los campamentos de refugiados de Tinduf en ArgeliaThe Polisario Front provided images showing the recruitment of children in military uniform and carrying weapons in "military parades", which is considered an international crime, according to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and international conventions that state that children in global conflicts must be protected first and foremost.

According to Al-Arab, international reports indicate that children are being recruited and forced to take part in military or politically biased acts, and that if they refuse, they can be severely punished. 

Nabil al-Andalusi, a Moroccan researcher in international relations, told Al-Arab that "the recruitment of children by Polisario Front militias is an act condemned at all levels, and a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law, and a crime that the statute of the International Court defines as a war crime considering its gravity and that it falls under the category of serious human rights violations".

Al-Andalusi noted that all relevant international conventions and covenants unanimously agree to prohibit the involvement of children in armed conflict, including the 1977 Geneva Protocol, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, in addition to relevant UN Security Council resolutions and General Assembly reports on the subject.

Staffan de Mistura, enviado de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental, en los campamentos de refugiados de Tinduf en Argelia

International law experts believe that this crime against children should prompt child rights organisations to bring cases before relevant international institutions, as well as UN mechanisms such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child or the committees of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child, stressing that Algeria, in turn, is accountable under international law as the crime occurs on its territory and allows these activities on its soil. 

Meanwhile, various organisations continue to denounce the difficult living conditions in the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf, aggravated by the current coronavirus pandemic. 

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was able to see for himself the complications for the tens of thousands of refugees in the camps, who are waiting for a political solution to be found. 

Staffan de Mistura, enviado de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental, en los campamentos de refugiados de Tinduf en Argelia

The option with the greatest international consensus for resolving the Sahrawi question is the one advocated by Morocco. The Alawi kingdom proposes a broad autonomy for Western Sahara under Moroccan sovereignty, an option supported by important nations such as the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany and the United Kingdom. Faced with this proposal is the initiative defended by the Polisario Front, which advocates holding a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi people, which has little support, including that of Algeria, Morocco's great regional enemy in the Maghreb. 

The Kingdom continues to advocate a constructive political dialogue between the parties involved, including the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania, under the auspices of the UN, in order to reach a political resolution of the conflict.

Recently, Spain and the United States expressed the need to join forces to reach a solution to the Western Sahara conflict, as indicated at the meeting held in Washington between José Manuel Albares, Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State. 

Staffan de Mistura, enviado de la ONU para el Sáhara Occidental, en los campamentos de refugiados de Tinduf en Argelia

Spain also showed signs of rapprochement with the latest statements by King Felipe VI, who sent a message of understanding between the Spanish and North African countries to ease the tension between two nations that have considered themselves neighbours and allies in recent decades, but which maintained a diplomatic confrontation following the presence last April of Brahim Ghali, leader of the Polisario Front, in Spanish territory to be treated for a serious respiratory ailment. The Alaouite kingdom protested at this situation and at not having been properly informed of the Polisario leader's presence on Spanish territory. 

This was followed by other episodes that made the situation tense, such as the illegal entry of immigrants through the Ceuta border and the withdrawal of the Moroccan ambassador from Madrid. 

Underlying all these problems is the fact that Morocco lacks Spanish support for its proposed solution to the Western Sahara conflict, support that has come from other countries such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.