Norwegian civil society activist Eric Cameron, President of the NGO World Action for Refugees, underlined the imprescriptible responsibility of Algeria for the humanitarian situation in the Tindouf camps in remarks he made for the Sahara Debate, a citizen-run show broadcast on social networks.
In a presentation meant as factual and objective, Cameron stressed that Algeria devolved to "polisario" authority on a part of its territory in violation of the Refugee Status Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol, as well as all conclusions of the Executive Committee of the UN Commissioner for Refugees.
This situation that is exceptional in regard of international humanitarian law allows “polisario” to perpetrate systematic human rights violations in the Tindouf camps in order to crush any challenge to its legitimacy. Thus, arbitrary detention, kidnappings, and torture perpetrated with the active complicity of Algeria are part of everyday life for the civilian population.
Indeed, the expert said, «Algeria’s moral, legal, and penal responsibility is fully engaged for violations committed on its territory, in the Tindouf camps”, as the host state is the holder of specific obligations to prevent, investigate, and punish violations of the rights of the persons on its territory, while ensuring legal redress.
The UN Human Rights Council expressed in 2018 its concerns over “the de facto devolution of authority to polisario, especially jurisdictional authority”.
Pursuing his analysis of the humanitarian situation in the Tindouf camps, Cameron underlined, citing reports, the embezzlement by Algeria and “polisario”of humanitarian aid intended for the civilian population, which UNHCR and the World Food Program have denounced following a joint inspection mission led in 2005.
The Norwegian expert pointed out that the two UN agencies led this mission upon the instigation of the EU Directore-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid, which had decided to half its humanitarian aid to the Tindouf camps populations after having noted embezzlement practices in the camps.
In 2007, it was the European Anti-Fraud Office’s turn (OLAF) to voice concern over the embezzlement of humanitarian aid by Algerian officials and “polisario”.
Since then, embezzlement continues at the same pace, at the expense of the health of the civilian population of the Tindouf camps. No later than June 9, 2020, NGO Light and Justice launched an appeal to the European Union for ending the illicit enrichment of “polisario” members through humanitarian aid embezzlement. The NGO underlined that, due to the sale of most humanitarian aid in some neighbouring countries, which is now a well-documented phenomenon, hunger and thirst haunt the inhabitants of the Tindouf camps.
According to Cameron, the systematic embezzlement of humanitarian aid, with total impunity, is only made possible by the stubborn refusal of Algeria to allow a census of the Tindouf camps populations to be conducted, in defiance of all resolutions adopted by the Security Council since 2011.
Conducting a census is however a statutory obligation of UNHCR and a fundamental protection mechanism, he said.
Cameron recalled in this context that the European Parliament denounced in a resolution it adopted on April 29, 2015 the absence of a census of the Tindouf camps populations more than thirty years after their arrival on Algerian soil, noting that it is an abnormal, unique situation in the history of UNHCR.
The Norwegian expert voiced concern over the fate of this population that is deprived of protection in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Algeria delegated the management of the health situation in the Tindouf camps to “polisario”, an armed group that has neither the legal authority nor the technical capacity to protect the population against the disease.
Eric Cameron made these remarks while participating in the Sahara Debate, a citizen-run show intended as an open, democratic platform for serene, dispassionate analysis on the issue of the Moroccan Sahara.