UN urges 'right of return' for hunger striker
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling for Aminatou Haidar’s right to return to her Western Sahara.
Lanzarote – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday called for Western Sahara activist Aminatou Haidar, who is on a three-week-old hunger strike at a Spanish airport, to be allowed to go home.
Haidar has consumed only sugared water since 16 November, days after Moroccan authorities denied her entry to her native Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Rabat in 1975, allegedly confiscated her passport, and sent her back to Spain's Canary Islands.
The 42-year-old award-winning activist, who campaigns for the Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, has vowed to continue her hunger strike at the airport in the Canary island of Lanzarote "until there is a solution".
The Spanish government Tuesday denied accusations by Haidar that it was putting pressure on her to end the protest, but said that she would be hospitalised if her life was in danger.
"I'm following the case... and I've been in touch with both governments," Pillay told a news conference in Geneva.
"I'm especially concerned about her health conditions. I hope for a quick resolution. I'm calling for Aminatou's right of return to her country."
Her comments followed a statement by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who late Monday reiterated the appeal made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for Spain and Morocco "to consider any measure that could facilitate a resolution of the issue and end the current impasse".
"The UN is looking for ways it can help to resolve Ms Haidar's situation," spokesman Martin Nesirky told a press briefing.
Haidar accuses Morocco of violating Article 12 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which states that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."
Rabat has charged Haidar refused to "carry out the usual police formalities and denied her Moroccan nationality" when she arrived at the airport in the Western Sahara capital of Laayoune in November.
A judge on Monday ruled that her state of health did not justify any hospitalisation or force feeding, something Haidar has strongly opposed, as doctors and legal experts remained divided over the legality of any such move without her consent.
Spain's Socialist government appeared ready to prevent her death at all costs.
"It is up to her to decide and take responsibility... But yes, if there is a serious deterioration in her condition the judge will again intervene" and send her to hospital, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told a news conference in Brussels.
Haidar warned that she would take legal action if she is forced to end her hunger strike.
Any action "that takes place against the freely expressed will of Aminatou Haidar," particularly concerning an admission to hospital, "falls within the scope of criminal law," her lawyer, Ines Miranda, said in a statement.
It added that Haidar is "in full possession of her mental faculties".
A friend, Bachir Lekhfawni, told Spain's ABC newspaper from Laayoune that Haidar "will continue until death, that's certain. The family will not intervene."
AFP / Expatica