US to redeploy troops as Morocco axes war game

Some 1,400 US soldiers, sailors and Marines who arrived in Morocco this week for the "African Lion 2013" joint maneuvers with the kingdom's armed forces are to be redeployed after Rabat cancelled the exercizes at the last minute. The move was apparenly taken in retaliation for the Obama administration's support for an initiative to broaden the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, MINURSO, to include human rights monitoring. "It is an attack on the national sovereignty of Morocco and will have negative consequences on the stability of the whole region," said Mustapha Khalfi, Rabat's communications minister. (BBC News, AFP, Military Times, April 17)

Human Rights Watch notes that MINURSO is one of the few modern UN peacekeeping missions that does not include a mandate to observe and report on human rights conditions. "The Security Council should put an end to the anomaly whereby MINURSO conducts de-mining activities and border patrols but has no mandate to report on the police violence, unfair trials, and restrictions on assembly that routinely confront Western Sahara residents," said Philippe Bolopion, UN director at HRW. The Security Council is to vote later in April on renewing MINURSO's mandate. If approved, the new mission would include monitoring rights abuses both within Morocco-controlled Western Sahara and the Tindouf refugee camp across the border in Algeria, controlled by the Polisario Front rebels. (HRW, APril 17)


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