Rejected salt imports from Western Sahara due to human rights

A Norwegian state owned engineering company earlier this year chose to reject a deal for salt from Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara because they found that it would be in violation of their human rights standards.
Published: 18.12 - 2014 12:14Printer version    
Story was published by Danish organisation Africa Contact on 18 December 2014.
By Peter Kenworthy.

After having consulted both the Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, engineering company Mesta chose not to conclude a deal with the American salt producer Crystal Mountain.

Human rights over trade
“Based on the information we were given we chose not to pursue the deal with Crystal Mountain, because of the violations of human rights in the territory”, Director of Procurement at Mesta Paul Robert Rotevatn told Africa Contact, who has tracked and publicised the trade between a Danish company and Crystal Mountain for two years.

A letter to the editor of local newspaper Avisa Nordland earlier in December had implied that Mesta dealt with the Moroccan occupiers in Western Sahara. But Mesta has never purchased salt from Western Sahara, and will not be doing so in the future, says Paul Robert Rotevatn. “Our priority is to have serious suppliers that base their work on ethics and human rights”.

90.000 kilometres of road connects Norway’s towns and cities, most of which needs salting during the winter period, and Norway therefore imports millions of Euros worth of road salt every year (over 20 million Euros from Tunisia alone). The abandoned deal between Crystal Mountain and Mesta was therefore potentially worth millions.

Denmark lags behind
Another Scandinavian company, Danish salt importer Dansk Vejsalt, has chosen a wholly different approach to Mesta in continuing to import salt from Crystal Mountain in Western Sahara, despite having been informed by Africa Contact on several occasions that they are violating international law by doing so, and against the admittedly less than persistent recommendations of the Danish government.

And although four Danish municipalities choose not to buy salt from Western Sahara through Dansk Vejsalt, due to pressure from Africa Contact, several others continue to do so in violation of international law and the recommendations of the United Nations.

Plundering Africa’s last colony
According to international law, selling of goods from non-self-governing territories such as Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara, has to be approved by and benefit the indigenous population.

But Western Sahara’s indigenous population, the saharawis, and their UN-recognised representative, the Polisario Front, have never accepted, agreed to or benefitted from Moroccan trading with their natural resources, however.

On the contrary, both Polisario and scores of Saharawi citizens in the occupied territories of Western Sahara have protested vigorously and continuously against what they refer to as the plundering of their resources.



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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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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 five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
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