Last week, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) joined with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for clarification on the United States position regarding the people of Western Sahara and raising concerns about the situation of human rights defender Aminatou Haidar.
The United Nations and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Ross are currently working toward a democratic solution. Unfortunately, recent remarks from Sec. Clinton have been interpreted in Moroccan press as an endorsement of the Moroccan autonomy plan and could severely hamper diplomatic efforts to negotiate a resolution that would respect the right to self-determination for the Sahrawi people.
The human rights situation in Western Sahara has recently deteriorated. Moroccan authorities arrested Sahrawi human rights defender Aminatou Haidar and confiscated her passport preventing her travel to Western Sahara. She is currently on hunger strike demanding that, in accordance with international law, she be allowed to return to her home. Recent news reports have suggested that Haidar's health is worsening, and doctors have said she is in critical condition.
Rep. Pitts' statement follows:
"My colleagues and I were greatly disturbed to hear about the confiscation of Aminatou Haidar's passport by Moroccan authorities. As she now enters the third week of her hunger strike in protest of her treatment, we ask His Majesty King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government to act expediently to return Ms. Haidar to her homeland. Time is of the essence as Ms. Haidar's health is in serious condition."