Law conference urges companies to stay out of Western Sahara

Communiqué on the Conference on Multilateralism and International Law with Western Sahara as case study Hosted by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and the University of Pretoria, 4 and 5 December 2008.

See more details about the conference itself here.
Published: 07.12 - 2008 18:06Printer version    

5 Dec 2008,
South African Department of Foreign Affairs,
University of Pretoria

1.    The South African Department of Foreign Affairs and the University of Pretoria successfully hosted the Conference on Multilateralism and International Law with Western Sahara as a Case Study in Pretoria on 4 and 5 December 2008. This conference was the final official event of the University of Pretoria centenary celebrations.

2.    The purpose of the conference was to reflect on the foreign policy precept that promotion of the rules based international order through multilateralism remains the essential prerequisite for the resolution of conflict between nations. As a case study, the conference analysed Africa’s longest-running dispute – the Western Sahara conflict.

3.    The following eminent government representatives, scholars and experts reflected on the status of the territory under international law, the principle of self-determination, the respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, obligations on third states and the lawfulness and/or legitimacy of natural resource exploitation in Western Sahara:

Ms Sue van der Merwe, South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dr Sidi Mohamed, Member of Polisario Front Negotiating team, Western Sahara

Prof Abdelhamid El Ouali, Professor of Law, University of Casablanca, Morocco

Prof. Macharia Munene, Professor History and International Relations, United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya

Mr Toby Shelley, Journalist and writer, Hitchin, UK

Prof. Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics, University of San Francisco, USA

Mr Jacob Mundy, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK

Amb Frank Ruddy, US Ambassador (ret) and Former Deputy Chairman, Un peacekeeping Mission for Western Sahara (MINURSO), Washington, USA

Prof. Haroub Othman, Professor of Development Studies, University of Dar es Salam, Tanzania

Mr Pedro Pinto Leite, Secretary International Platform of Jurists of East Timor, Leiden, The Netherlands

Prof. Christina Chinkin, Professor of International Law, London School of Economics, UK

Prof. Carlos Ruiz Miguel, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Senator Pierre Galand, President of the European Coordination committee in Solidarity with the Saharawi People, Brussels, Belgium.    

Amb Hans Corell, Swedish Ambassador (ret) Former Under Secretary-General of Legal Affairs and Legal Council of the United Nations, Sweden

Mr Eric Hagen, Journalist from Norwegian news service Norwatch, Oslo, Norway

Mr Francesco Bastagli, Former Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Western Sahara, Italy

Adv Madasa, Member of the South African Parliament (ANC).

Mr Mhamed Khadad, Polisario Coordinator with United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).          

4. The Conference also took note of petitions made to the conference from:

Prof. Juan Carlos Velazquez Elizarraras, Professor of International Law and cooperative  Politics, University of Mexico.

Prof. Juan Soroeta Liceras, Profesor of International Law, University of Basque Pais, Spain

Prof. Marco Balboni, Professor of International Law, University of Bologna, Italy

Prof. Ismael Debesche, Professor of Political Sciences and Information, University of Algiers, Algeria.

5.    The Conference recognised that Western Sahara is the last colonial challenge facing the African  continent and participants called upon the International Community to:

Respect the principles of multilateralism and international legality in seeking a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara;

Reaffirm the fundamental and inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination;

Recognise that the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion of 16 October 1975 found that no links of sovereignty existed between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Western Sahara;

Recognise the centrality and responsibility of the African Union and United Nations in the resolution of the conflict;

Respect the constitutive Act of the African Union, in particular the principle of the sanctity of inherited colonial borders in Africa and the right of peoples of former colonial territories to self-determination and independence;

Support Western Sahara legal status at the Special Political and Decolonization committee (Forth Committee) of the United Nations General Assembly as non-self-governing territory awaiting decolonisation;

Support the direct negotiations between the two parties, the Polisario Front and the Kingdom of Morocco, under the auspices of the United Nations with a view to achieving self-determination of the people of Western Sahara;

Continue the presence of MINURSO as indispensable for the maintenance of the ceasefire in Western Sahara and the holding of a free and fair referendum under United Nations auspices;

Call for expansion the MINURSO mandate to include the monitoring of, and reporting on, the human rights situation in the MINURSO area of operations;

Recognize that citizens living under military occupation suffer serious, wide-spread and prolonged abuses of their human rights and that this is the case in Western Sahara;

Call upon the occupying power in the Western Sahara to respect the obligations under international law towards inhabitants of the occupied territory;

Recognize that sovereignty does not pass to the occupying power, even under prolonged occupation, as in the case of the Western Sahara;

Support full respect international human rights law in the occupied territories, notably the right of freedom of association, assembly, movement and expression;

Call upon the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights to assume a larger role in monitoring, reporting and making recommendations on the issue of human rights abuses in Western Sahara;

Respect of international humanitarian law and support the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Saharawi refugees in a way that is predictable, sustained and timely;

Support the confidence building measures proposed by the Personal Envoy to the United Nations Secretary-General to create conductive climate for the resolution of the conflict;

End the illegal exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara and discourage the involvement of foreign companies in such activities;

Support the integration of the Maghreb Union as a building block of the African Union and a vital element of African integration.        




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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