African Union publishes Legal Opinion on Western Sahara plunder

... and finds the ongoing exploration and exploitation of the territory's resources in violation of international law.
Published: 19.10 - 2015 16:10Printer version    
A legal opinion that has been circulating the last weeks has been published on the AU website on 14 October 2015 [download]. The Opinion contains strong language and unambiguous conclusions with regard to the legality of Morocco's exploration and exploitation of Western Sahara's natural resources.

"Morocco has no legal right under the UN charter and international law to occupy or govern the Territory of Western Sahara', says the Opinion. It grants Morocco the status of "occupying power", as it is not an administering power in accordance with the UN Charter. The Opinion goes on to state that "Only the people of Western Sahara have the right to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources."

"Accordingly, the people of Western Sahara and their legitimate representatives must not only be consulted but they must consent and effectively participate in reaching any agreement that involves the exploitation of natural resources in the Territory of Western Sahara", the Opinion concludes.

Thus, the Opinion concludes that "any exploration and exploitation of renewable or non-renewable natural resources by Morocco, any other State, group of States or foreign companies in Western Sahara is contrary to the UN Charter, customary international law and therefore illegal as it violations international law."

The Opinion calls upon UN Member States and their companies to adhere to their international obligations and refrain from investing or exploring and/or exploiting Western Sahara's resources through deals with Morocco as "the occupying power", which only helps to "perpetuation or legitimization of the colonial situation in Western Sahara".

"Morocco and any other entity should be held accountable for agreements/contracts entered into for exploration and/or exploitation of renewable or non-renewable natural resources in the Territory of Western Sahara and to ensure that all benefits accrue to the people of Western Sahara, in accordance with international law."

The African Union's Legal Opinion contains a strong appeal to the UN: "The UN should assume its political and legal responsibilities and protect the Sahrawi's renewable and non-renewable natural resources as it did in East Timor and Namibia till the people of the territory express their will and chose their destiny through a free and fair referendum", the Opinion states.

"The UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council should exercise their responsibilities and put pressure on Morocco to ensure that the illegal exploration and exploitation of Western Sahara natural resources should cease until a just, lasting solution is achieved by the parties through a referendum for self-determination."

Just last week, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued a set of strong recommendations to Morocco, calling for respect of the Saharawi people's right to be consulted, consent to and benefit from the resource activities in their land. Morocco rejected these recommendations.


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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the three different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
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At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents. News Archive 2018 News Archive 2017 News Archive 2016 News Archive 2015 News Archive 2014 News Archive 2013 News Archive 2012 News Archive 2011 News Archive 2010 News Archive 2009 News Archive 2008 News Archive 2007 News Archive 2004-2006

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