On August 24, the President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center), arrived in Laayoune leading a human rights delegation with distinguished international human rights advocates to visit Moroccan Sahara and then Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria. The objective of the visit is to assess the human rights situation on the ground.
"Our delegation will seek to assess the human rights situation on the ground by speaking to human rights defenders, government authorities, and ordinary families split apart by this conflict," said Kerry Kennedy. "We hope to raise attention to this issue and support the establishment of a human rights mandate for the UN Mission." So far, and I’m sure many will agree with me, is that any international or national human right organization has the full right to visit and assess human rights situation on the ground anywhere in the world. However, to issue such statement , RFK center has chosen to go beyond its human rights agenda by engaging in partisan political activity on behalf of the pro Polisario group. The Minurso mandate is clear agreed upon by the two conflicting parties and the international community represented in the UN. So now RFK and even before starting its « noble » mission has made its political objective clear. At first blush, it may seem that the objective is to encourage the United Nations to create a new human rights entity in the region but the truth is that it will hurt the Moroccan territorial integrity and promote a totally negative image of Morocco as a brutal violator of human rights in the region and thus weaken its negotiation power in any upcoming round organized by the UN. In pursuing this political objective RFK took deliberate aim urging the UN to adopt such decision. Therefore, RFk has totally moved from its human rights agenda and has become a political broker. Such statement is worthy of the best propaganda efforts of Morocco’s most vehement denigrators and detractors.
RFK center– of course -is perfectly entitled to engage in any activity it chooses and its president can say whatever she likes– but must be prepared to face any criticism that is subsequently leveled at its center's conduct. When such conduct also involves the possible use of funds donated to RFK to pursue human rights objectives – not political objectives – the actions of RFK are thrown more sharply under the public spotlight. If the RFK – or any other organization - want to also be power brokers - then it should add this new job description to its listed on its website – so that donors will be left in no doubt as to where their money is being spent. So, RFK or another human rights organization should stick and respect its human rights agenda. It should remain totally neutral and stand up if it encounters during its fact finding mission any arbitrary violation of human rights. Moroccan NGOs will be the first ones to support and denounce in case of any violation in the region. Morocco has opened its doors to many international human rights organization and they moved freely and met with whomever they judge worthy to be interviewed or just to meet with to enable them to issue a unbiased report on the situation on the ground. Therefore, RFK should carry out its mission within that professional spirit of neutrality and hopefully reflect the real situation on both sides.
Said Temsamani is a political observer and consultant, who follows events in Morocco and across North Africa.