Will European Parliament back deal with world's most unfree territory?
As the European Parliament shapes up to vote on including occupied Western Sahara into the EU-Morocco fisheries agreement, the newly published Freedom in the World report by Freedom House categorises the territory as the seventh most repressive human rights place on the planet.
To compare, the Gaza strip has an aggregate score of 11, and Russian-controlled Crimea scores 8.
The territory of Western Sahara, under Moroccan occupation, thus ends up as an extreme outlier in the "not free" part of the spectrum. Only six countries and territories have worse aggregate figures: Syria (0 poins), Tibet (1), South Sudan (2), Eritrea (2), Turkmenistan (2), North Korea (3) are rated worse.
The report comes at a critical time, as the European Parliament is expected to vote on 13 February on a new EU-Morocco Fisheries Agreement - one that will explicitly be applied to occupied Western Sahara.
Arguing for the inclusion of the last colony in Africa in bilateral agreements with Morocco, the European Commission has stated that the human rights situation in Western Sahara is comparable to that in Morocco proper. Freedom House contradicts that statement completely. Morocco has a score of 39, and is categorised as "partly free" - and while thus concerning, it is not nearly as severe as the situation is in Western Sahara.
"In recent days, we've seen the EU take the most severe sanctions and foreign policy decisions on human rights grounds ever on Venezuela, which ranks 19. Also, Belarus (19), Russia (20), Iran (18) and Cuba (14) have a substantially better ranking than Western Sahara although the EU makes human rights a priority issue in its dealings with these countries. The double standard and hypocrisy is becoming unbearable, and outright indefensible", says Sara Eyckmans from Western Sahara Resource Watch.
"Freedom in the World" reports offer since 1972 an annual comparative assessment of political rights and civil liberties in the world. The aggregate scores are based on detailed evaluations of each country and territory on a 40-point scale for political rights and a 60-point scale for civil liberties.
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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.
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.
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.