Ex UN legal chief concerned by misuse of Legal Opinion
Former UN Legal Counsel Hans Corell states to Swedish media that the legal opinion made for the Security Council in 2002 has been misused by both the EU and investors in the oil sector.
Published: 06.10 - 2013 17:03Printer version    
Last week, the Swedish government pension fund announced that it had divested from companies importing phosphates from Western Sahara. However, the same fund has invested in Total, the French company with offshore licences in the same territory.

Correll, who served as Kofi Annan's under-secretary general for legal affairs underlined 6 October 2013 to the news agency TT that all business, including oil reconnaissance, would be illegal if one cannot prove that it is in accordance with the wishes of the people of the territory.

"That is a very clear message. But it has been misused by the EU and by others who have tried to interpret it in other ways", said Corell to TT.

He underlined that he has not read the details of the Total's current operations in Western Sahara, nor the investments of the Swedish government funds in the company.

He told TT that the Swedish fund managers "cannot use my statement to avoid acting upon businesses in relation to the natural resources of Western Sahara".

As Hans Corell served as Legal Counsel of the United Nations, he wrote an assessment of the legality of Total's operations for the Security Council. The report said that such oil operation would be in violation of international law if the people of the territory was not consenting.

Corell and WSRW has repeatedly noted that the EU has misused the UN legal opinion to legitimise the union's fisheries activities in Western Sahara. "I believe that one has misinterpreted my legal opinion to the Security Council in a very astonishing way", he has stated in the past. See also a piece he wrote a piece looking into the EU's misuse of the opinion in 2008. The EU is now again considering entering into a new agreement that will apply to the waters of Western Sahara.

WSRW recently wrote a report about Total's operations in Western Sahara. The Swedish government pension fund has invested around 100 million Euros in Total.




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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