Geneva International Observatory for peace and Human Rights-IOPDHR holds Panel discussion on protection of refugees in the Tindouf Camps

This situation, which is supposed to be temporary, constitutes an anomaly with regard to the international humanitarian law to which the Tindouf camps are subject


In the framework of the 52nd Ordinary Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the “Geneva International Observatory for Peace and Human Rights” (IOPDHR) will organize, on the 10th of March 2023, a conference-debate on “The protection of refugees from the Tindouf camps and the responsibility of the Algerian State: the alarming escalation of violations by the Polisario organization”.

This conference will focus on the reading of the IOPDHR-Geneva report on the human rights situation in the Tindouf camps post-pandemic during the period 2020-2022. It will be presented by Ms. Aicha Duihi, President of the International Observatory for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights in Geneva.

Opening a discussion on the issue of the protection of the population of the Tindouf camps in the face of systematic violations committed by the Polisario Front and the responsibility of the Algerian State, as host country, towards its relevant international obligations, this conclave will address the following issues

-The alarming increase of human rights violations in the Tindouf camps: A reading of the Observatory’s report on the situation of rights and freedoms in the camps after the pandemic;
-Algeria’s responsibility towards the Tindouf camps, as a host country, with regard to international humanitarian law and the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees;
-The return of the Polisario Front to arms and the state of insecurity in the Tindouf camps: what prospects for protecting the population from human rights violations?

It should be noted that in the absence of a legislative framework on asylum in accordance with international agreements, the situation of the Saharawis in the Tindouf camps has not changed at all, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees bears full responsibility for this situation in the absence of the involvement of the host country.

This situation, which is supposed to be temporary, constitutes an anomaly with regard to the international humanitarian law to which the Tindouf camps are subject. Algeria, as a State party to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, bears the responsibility to protect the camp population present on its territory, subjecting them to the laws in force in the country party and to the same legal treatment in force, including the right to take legal action. However, Algeria has never worked to protect these Saharawis and has left them vulnerable to the leadership of the Polisario Front, thus flouting their rights.

Algeria also bears responsibility for all internationally illegal acts and actions committed on its soil by the Polisario Front, including its renunciation of the 1991 international ceasefire agreement and its declaration of return to arms, as an ‘entity’ not part of the Algerian state, but that the latter allows and authorizes it to carry out these actions on its soil, and its responsibility is confirmed for any actions committed by the Polisario Front as an armed group that Algeria has sponsored, supported, trained and financed.

On the other hand, in terms of international human rights law, the transfer by the State party of all its political, military, judicial and administrative powers, including the protection of human rights, raises many concerns in the international community.

Apart from the fact that the situation is unacceptable and represents a violation of the rules of international law, it constitutes a greater challenge to international law, since the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights cannot be respected, and the victims of violations have no recourse to the courts of the State party, thus being deprived of the possibility of exercising their right to justice, which is a natural consequence of the exclusion of this region and its inhabitants from the application of national laws and the relevant international obligations.

Algeria’s justification of its mandate to the Polisario Front as an act of hospitality is, in fact, an evasion of Algeria’s international obligations as a host country and a continuation of the path of imposition by a de facto state, The management of the Tindouf camps by the Polisario Front has become de facto unacceptable, as it constitutes a flagrant violation of the rules of international law, particularly with the presence of an entity that has the elements of a “state” within the state, with a security, military and judicial service. There is no “delegation” of sovereignty and therefore responsibility by the state to a non-state entity, moreover military, on its territory.

For almost five decades, the Tindouf camps in southwestern Algeria have been living in a legal anarchy unprecedented in the history of “refugee camps”, where thousands of Saharawis live in inhumane conditions in tents or mud houses and depend mainly on international humanitarian aid for basic necessities. The Polisario runs the camps in place of the host country, the Algerian state, contrary to the rules of international law and far from the eyes of the international community, while international observation operations are sporadic or partial and cannot fully reveal the systematic nature of serious human rights violations committed against the population of the camps.

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