Open letter to Island Oil & Gas

24th of December 2008, the oil reconnaissance contract held by the Irish oil company Island Oil & Gas for oil exploration in occupied Western Sahara expired. Today WSRW sent the company a letter demanding them to not renew their engagement.
Published: 24.12 - 2008 23:15Printer version    
Paul Griffiths
CEO Island Oil & Gas

Melbourne, 24 December 2008

Open letter to Island Oil & Gas

Dear Paul Griffiths,

We urge your company to please reconsider your unethical business in occupied Western Sahara.

The day after Island Oil and Gas announced that an agreement for oil reconnaissance in occupied Western Sahara had been signed with Morocco, 13 December 2006, WSRW sent you a letter urging your company to immediately terminate the agreement, and asked for a meeting in Dublin.

We would like to remind you that we have still not received an answer to that letter.

We also notice that now, two years later, it still seems that your company have not done anything to seek permission or acceptance from the Sahrawi people. Your activities seem only to be in coordination with the Moroccan state oil company ONHYM, or with the Moroccan government.

We would thus like to remind you that Western Sahara is not a part of Morocco, and that Morocco has no right to extend such licences to foreign companies. The right of a people to self-determination includes, inter alia, the right of permanent sovereignty over its natural resources. Permanent sovereignty over natural resources is a customary principle of international law

Regarding the legality of your agreement, we would like to urge you to read the presentation by the former UN Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Hans Corell, at the Conference on Multilateralism and International Law with Western Sahara as a Case Study, hosted by the University of Pretoria and the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, on December 5th 2008:

His conclusion is crystal clear. Oil exploration or exploitation in Western Sahara is in violation of international law, if the Sahrawi people has not been consulted.

This position is also shared by the Irish Government. See statement from Irish Minister of Foreign affairs on 1st May 2008 here:

On this basis, WSRW promises that if Island Oil & Gas decides ever to proceed with advanced stages of oil exploration or exploitation in Western Sahara, we will do our utmost to make sure that your activities be tried by an appropriate legal body.

But, as we have pointed out before, your agreement in Western Sahara is most of all a matter of ethics. Working for a brutal occupying power inside an occupied country, in the disregard of the wishes of the oppressed people, is highly unethical.

For information of the human rights violations committed in the town of Smara, which is located on the Island Oil and Gas block, please see the 216 page report published by Human Rights Watch on December 19th 2008.

The report contains testimonies of Sahrawi youths from Smara town that are detained by police, “driving them to an isolated location, and then beating them as a form of ‘summary punishment’ for their suspected participation in street protests in favor of Sahrawi self-determination”.

Only last week, on Wednesday 17th December, a nine year old girl called Lalou Cheikh Bel Limam, also living on the Island Oil and Gas block, was taken from her home by the police and interrogated for 10 hours. When released, she had traces of beatings on her body.

These incidents are common in Smara, on that very land where you plan to look for oil.

But these are not any kind of violations as found in many other countries. They are committed by an illegal occupying power on an occupied land. Above all, we would believe that the Irish people would understand what occupation and self-determination means. Your company is working with a foreign government that oppresses a people in their neighbouring country. It is contrary to any kind of elementary corporate social responsibility.

Today, December 24th, your one-year extension of your contract terminates.

In respect of the Sahrawi people, and of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, and of the families of the 512 Saharawis who have disappeared from the surface of the earth since the occupation began: please reconsider what you are doing.

Please do not renew your engagement in occupied Western Sahara.

May you have a peaceful Christmas.

Yours sincerely,

Cate Lewis
International Coordinator
Western Sahara Resource Watch



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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.
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