The small oil company San Leon Energy, registered on the Alternative Investment Market in London is the only company to have drilled for oil onshore the territory of Western Sahara during the 40 years of occupation by neighbouring Morocco.
"San Leon’s activities in Western Sahara contribute to the maintenance of an illegal annexation and to the denial of the internationally-recognised right of the Sahrawi people to self-determination in their territory. Companies like San Leon benefit from Morocco's illicit economy in Western Sahara and contribute to the severity of ongoing human rights violations”, GLAN’s Legal Advisor Dr. Valentina Azarova explained in a press release today.
The organisation explains that the complaint is relating to the violation of human rights of the people of Western Sahara. The complaint alleges that the company failed to ensure that it has the consent of the Western Saharan people before drilling for oil on their land. San Leon has headquarters in Dublin.
GLAN's complaint is supported by Polisario Front - the international representative of the Sahrawi people - in addition to three civil society organisations from Western Sahara working on the issue of natural resources.
The complaint shows that companies like San Leon who are required to ensure that any business dealings in the Western Sahara occurs with the prior consent of the Sahrawi people, cannot do so while operating in Western Sahara under the aegis and authority of Morocco. The requirement of consent was also applied by the Court of Justice of the EU when considering the extension of EU-Morocco relations to Western Sahara in 2016 and 2018. San Leon has, by its own admission, failed to comply with this basic legal requirement and has publicly referred to the territory as Morocco’s ‘Southern Provinces’ (in line with its definition under Morocco’s domestic law).
GLAN legal advisor Dr. Ioannis Kalpouzos added, “Ireland’s OECD National Contact Point was created to ensure Irish corporations do not enable violations of fundamental rules of international law. San Leon’s unlawful exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources is exactly the sort of case that should activate its use”.
The complaint is submitted in the wake of the Irish Senate’s approval of the Economic Activity in Occupied Territories Bill 2018, which aims to prohibit business activities in occupied territories that benefit from and contribute to the unlawful creation and conveyance of property rights and use of natural resources for the benefit of an occupying state’s nationals.
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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.
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.