domingo, 16 de novembro de 2008

Adress of Kerry Kennedy

Special: Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award

Remarks by Kerry Kennedy
25th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, November 13th, 2008
Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC
As Prepared for Delivery
On the eve of my father, Robert Kennedy’s 83rd birthday it is a fitting tribute to his life and legacy that we honor Aminatou Haidar, the "Sahrawi Gandhi," with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Aminatou is a courageous leader in her peoples’ almost half-century long battle to realize their inalienable right to self-determination.

In 1975, the Government of Morocco invaded Western Sahara on the eve of its anticipated referendum on independence from Spain. The invasion was in defiance of a clear ruling by the International Court of Justice holding that the arguments presented by Morocco "do not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco." Indeed, the Court aligned itself with United Nations resolutions regarding decolonization of the Western Sahara, and emphasized in its opinion "the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the [Sahrawi] people…."

In response to the invasion, the Polisario launched an armed struggle against the occupying Moroccan forces. The Polisario established the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in February 1976, which has subsequently been recognized by numerous countries and is a full member state of the African Union. Most of the indigenous Sahrawi people fled the Moroccan troops and went into near permanent displacement, primarily in Polisario-run refugee camps in Algeria. Morocco’s military forces eventually assumed control of most of the territory, including all major towns.

Since the first calls for decolonization in the 1960s, widespread international support for the Sahrawi’s right to self-determination has consolidated. As the U.N. Secretary General recently stated, "no member state of the U.N. recognizes Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara." To the contrary, in Resolution 2625 the U.N. General Assembly has stipulated that "no territorial acquisition resulting from the threat or actual use of force shall be recognized as legal," and the United Nations has passed dozens of resolutions affirming and reaffirming the right of the Sahrawi to determine their own future.

In 1991, based on Morocco’s promise to hold an internationally supervised referendum on the future of the territory, the Polisario and Morocco agreed to a ceasefire. But the Government of Morocco refused to allow the referendum to move forward. Instead, it engaged in a relentless campaign of violence as a military strategy to maintain territorial control and suppress civil and political rights. Moroccan troops and government authorities have silenced dissent, suspended rights to free expression and assembly, and harassed, threatened, jailed, tortured, and "disappeared" countless Sahrawi. , Mock trials on trumped-up charges are standard fare, followed by unspeakable cruelty.

For years, the suffering of the Saharawi was virtually muted by the Moroccan authorities.
But that silence has been broken by one woman. One woman on a mission to give voice to a repressed and impoverished people in a remote portion of the Sahara desert. Aminatou Haidar’s unyielding quest to raise the profile of her beloved homeland has brought the plight of the people of Western Sahara to the corridors of power throughout the world.

Aminatou was born in 1967, and grew up amidst the human rights atrocities committed by Morocco’s occupying forces. In 1987, at the age of 21, she joined a peaceful demonstration organized during a visit from a U.N. mission.

In response, Moroccan police arrested her along with more than 400 peaceful demonstrators, of whom 70 would lengthen the list of the disappeared. Seventeen of the women, including Aminatou were targeted for unimaginable torture.

Abducted by Moroccan police in plain clothes, she was gagged, starved, sleep deprived, subjected to electric shock, severely beaten - and worse. Her meager rations were infested with insects, and lice covered her body. Throughout her captivity, Aminatou’s tormenters refused her access to her family, her lawyer, or any contact with the outside world.

To this day, her detention haunts her. She regularly passes her torturers on the street. Threats from police and others are a frequent occurrence.
But Aminatou will not be stopped.

Aminatou began organizing against the occupation and led efforts for the release of prisoners of conscience. She spoke eloquently regarding the rights of women and children, and the importance of non-violent protest.

In June 2005, Aminatou was arrested once again, tortured, and incarcerated in the "Black Prison" of El-Aaiun. A kangaroo court sentenced her to 7 months in jail for her outspoken support of human rights in Western Sahara. Despite the torment, Aminatou refused to be cowed. On the very day of her release she defiantly issued this public statement.

"The joy is incomplete without the release of all Saharawi political prisoners and without the liberation of all the territories of the homeland still under the occupation of the oppressor."

Although human rights organizations cannot legally register in occupied Western Sahara, Aminatou serves as the President of the Sahrawi Collective of Human Rights Defenders (CODESA). CODESA is at the cutting edge of social change, advocating for basic rights and defending the oppressed.

Bravery is most commonly associated with a single act of daring at a precise moment in time; often in war. But battlefield bravery pales in comparison with the quality of courage exemplified by Aminatou, who, despite bloodshed, torture, starvation, disease, and the savagery of an occupying army which brought death to many of her people, and the rape of her beloved land, has made it her mission to speak the truth to those in power about the plight of her people. She will not be dismissed, and all of us here today will work to ensure that she will not be silenced.

Nobel Prize Laureate and holocaust survivor Elie Weisel says that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is indifference. For years, indifference has characterized the international community’s posture toward the Western Sahara. But Aminatou’s love for her people is so affecting, and her words of so full of truth and promise, that she may yet turn the tide of history itself and renew our faith that good ultimately triumphs over evil.

The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease."It is an honor now to join another woman who, like Aminatou, personifies the predominance of courage over timidity and

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