Possible legal action against UK government over Western Sahara

WSRW's partner organisation in the UK, Western Sahara Campaign, is threatening legal action against the UK government over unlawful imports of Western Saharan products through trade agreements with Morocco. Read their press release here.
Published: 02.12 - 2014 22:07Printer version    
Press Release

A law firm representing a UK based campaign group fighting for the rights of the Western Saharan people is threatening legal action against the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and  Customs (HMRC).

The Western Sahara Campaign United Kingdom (WSC UK) works to protect the rights and interests of the people of Western Sahara, in particular to promote respect for their human rights and the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people. WSC UK claims that products originating in Western Sahara are being imported into the United Kingdom and treated as Moroccan for the purposes of the EU – Morocco Association Agreement. WSC UK also claims British fisheries may be granted licences to fish in the territories of Western Sahara under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the European Union and Morocco. Leigh Day has advised WSC UK that both such activities are unlawful.

Western Sahara in north-west Africa is the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Saharawi people. In October 1975 the International Court of Justice rejected territorial claims over Western Sahara by Morocco and recognised the Saharawis' right to self-determination. Despite this declaration, Morocco continues to occupy
Western Sahara and it stands accused of ongoing human rights abuses against the Saharawi inhabitants.

In letters sent to both DEFRA and HMRC, lawyers for the campaign group say that Moroccan sovereignty does
not extend to the territory of Western Sahara or to the adjacent territorial sea. Therefore goods and products produced in West Sahara should not to be treated as originating in Morocco for the purposes of preferential tariffs or any other benefits conferred by the Association Agreement. British companies should also not exploit the natural resources of an occupied territory under an agreement to which the occupied peoples were not party. To do so would undermine the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and recognise as lawful a situation which is unlawful under international law.

Rosa Curling  from law firm Leigh Day who is representing the Western Sahara Campaign, said: “It appears that Morocco is currently benefitting from exporting goods from land and sea it occupies in Western Sahara, against
international law. The people of Western Sahara are being denied the right to self-determination over their land and natural resources.  The UK government, and in particular, DEFRA and HMRC must take immediate steps to ensure it is not complicit in these actions.”

John Gurr of WSCUK said: “Paying Morocco or Moroccan companies for resources from Western Sahara supports the Moroccan occupation and undermines the UN peace process”.




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.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


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.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


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.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


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.

WSRW.org News Archive 2019
WSRW.org News Archive 2018
WSRW.org News Archive 2017
WSRW.org News Archive 2016
WSRW.org News Archive 2015
WSRW.org News Archive 2014
WSRW.org News Archive 2013
WSRW.org News Archive 2012
WSRW.org News Archive 2011
WSRW.org News Archive 2010
WSRW.org News Archive 2009
WSRW.org News Archive 2008
WSRW.org News Archive 2007
WSRW.org News Archive 2004-2006

Register for our English newsletter:

These web pages have been built with the financial support of the trade union Industry Energy