Total request renewed

Western Sahara Resource Watch today again asked Total, for the third time, for explanations of their operations in the waters of occupied Western Sahara.
Published: 15.03 - 2013 15:11Printer version    
Letter below was today sent to Total's CEO, Mr. Christophe de Margerie.

Mr. Christophe de Margerie,
CEO of Total S.A.

15 Mar 2013

Regarding Total’s new licence offshore occupied Western Sahara

Dear Mr. de Margerie,

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) refers to our letter to you of 7 December 2012 in which we requested Total not to renew its licence issued by the Moroccan government in occupied Western Sahara, and also raised a handful questions regarding your company’s exploration licence offshore the territory.

These were the questions we asked you;
a) Does Total agree that the Sahrawi people, as the sole and original inhabitants of Western Sahara until the occupation in 1975, have the permanent right of sovereignty to their natural resources?
b) Does Total agree that the 2002 UN legal opinion, which your company refers to, establishes that the Saharawi people need to consent prior to the signing of further oil related exploration agreements in Western Sahara?
c) Has Total ever tried to seek the consent of the Saharawi people? If yes, how and when? If no, why not?
d) Does Total agree with concerned investors that signing such oil agreements risks undermining the UN efforts to solve the conflict in the territory?

Please find our letter to you here

As outlined in our letter, we believe that Total’s ongoing exploration on the coast of occupied Western Sahara clearly violates the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. We also mentioned that investors have divested from companies with similar engagements in Western Sahara, stating that such operation directly undermines the UN peace efforts in the territory. As described by the UN’s 2002 legal opinion, such operation in Western Sahara can only be consistent with international law if it is in accordance with the wishes and interests of the Saharawis.

Since our inquiry, there has been an update on the human rights activist Sidahmed Lemjiyed, secretary-general of the Saharawi Committee to Protect Natural Resources (CSPRON) whom we mentioned in our letter. After 2 years and 3 months in custody, he was finally presented before a military tribunal in February. During the trial, Mr. Lemjiyed denounced the Moroccan plunder of Western Sahara, citing the UN legal opinion, which was done, in part, in response to Total’s former reconnaissance agreement for the waters off Western Sahara a decade ago.

Mr. Lemjiyed was sentenced to life imprisonment. Altogether 9 Saharawis were sentenced to life imprisonment for protesting the marginalisation of the Saharawis in the territory that Morocco has illegally occupied.

The questions we asked you could have helped us to understand to what extent your company has taken into account the wishes of the Saharawis, including the group of human rights activists that has now been sentenced by military court. An appeal to your company dated 7 February 2013 from practically all existing Saharawi civil society organisations strengthens our belief that Total is conducting its exploratory work without taking their wishes into account.

As we did not hear back from you with answer to our questions, a reminder was sent to you on 21 January. Over three months have passed since our first request; we still await your answer.

In addition to the mentioned questions that we asked in our letter of 7 December 2012, we kindly ask you to clarify also the following question:

e) does the current reconnaissance licence include an option for future oil contracts?

A copy of this mail has been published on our website, and has been sent to the recipients below.

We take note of the fact that your company cooperates with institutions for the promotion of Corporate Social Responsibility in general and of improvement and monitoring of your company’s CSR performance in particular. If we do not hear anything by 7 April, four months after our initial request, we will call on the institutions with which your company has CSR related partnership, requesting them to halt further cooperation. A first step for any company claiming to adhere to CSR principles would be to relate to the rights of local communities and requests from civil society.

We thank you for your consideration of this matter, and look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,

Erik Hagen
Western Sahara Resource Watch  

Total Communication Department, CSR department and Ethics Committee
UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Western Sahara, Mr. Christopher Ross  
UN Secretary-General Special Representative to Western Sahara, Mr. Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber
UN Special Representative on business and human rights, Professor John Ruggie
UN Global Compact
OHCHR, Business and Human Rights
President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mr. Mohamed Abdelaziz
Ambassador of France to Morocco, Mr. Charles Fries
OCED National Contact Point for Multinational Companies in France, Mr. Paul Hunsinger, Ministère de l’Économie, des Finances et de l’Emploi
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
GoodCooperation, CEO, Mr. Michael Littlechild
Institute of Business Ethics, Director, Mrs. Philippa Foster Back
Danish Institute For Human Rights
Global Business Initiative on Human Rights, Executive Director, Mr.Mark Hodge
ONHYM, General Director, Mrs. Amina Benkhadra
CNPC, Press Center



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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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