Polisario threatens compensation from EU and companies, warns Nutrien

The national liberation movement of Western Sahara threatens to claim 240 million Euro in compensation of the EU's illegal fisheries in occupied Western Sahara and sends a warning to importers of goods from the territory to halt their imports.
Published: 31.01 - 2018 21:28Printer version    
Following the rapid legal developments in international and national courts regarding commercial activity in Western Sahara since 2015, the Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario is now upping the ante.

Polisario, the African Union and even several EU Member States have for a number of years warned about the illegality of companies and governments entering into trade agreements with Morocco covering the occupied territory of Western Sahara. The former UN Legal Counsel has also stressed this a number of times.

Yet, only since 2015 have the general principles of international law entered into national laws and EU law through court decisions. As the courts are concluding on the need for consent from the Western Sahara people, Polisario is now starting to claim compensation for the illegal plunder. Pillaging an occupied territory is contrary to international humanitarian law, and the people of Western Sahara has not allowed Morocco to export goods from the land.

In an interview with the Spanish news agency EuropaPress on 30 January 2018, the lawyer of Western Sahara's liberation movement Polisario, Gilles Devers, told that the movement is to seek compensation from the EU for the pillage that has taken place after 21 December 2016, the date when the EU Court of Justice found that EU-Morocco trade agreements cannot take place in Western Sahara.

The preliminary claim is around 240 million Euros. Polisario also warned about specific legal steps that will be taken in national courts. On the one hand, it mentioned a case in the Spanish courts against the companies importing sand, and in the French courts against a named importer of agricultural products. Polisario already initiated a case regarding the flights of Transavia from France in a French court, and successfully detained two phosphate vessels in Panama and South Africa.

The lawyers also underlined the breach of law of personnel of the European Commission in carrying out financial transactions without a legal basis.

The first EU fisheries started shortly after Spain accessed the EU in 1986. Several fisheries agreements between the EU and Morocco have been functioning in Western Sahara since then, despite protest from the Saharawi people. The mentioned compensation claim does not address the EU participation in the plunder up until December 2016.

The Court of Justice of the EU is to judge twice on matter of EU fisheries in the territory. The first case, initiated by an NGO in the UK, is to be concluded on 27 February 2018. The second, initiated by Polisario, is to be concluded thereafter.

At the same time, Polisario today sent yet another warning to the Canadian importer Nutrien. Its legacy companies Agrium and PotashCorp have imported for several hundreds of millions of dollars from Western Sahara without taking into account the right to self-determination of the Saharawis, including the Saharawi people's legitimate right to decide over its own minerals. Nutrien is the biggest importer of phosphate from the territory.

WSRW has obtained a copy of a letter sent from Polisario to Nutrien on 31 January 2018. Download here. In the letter, it requests Nutrien to immediately stop imports. Nutrien told in an investor conference earlier this month that it will make a decision later this year on what to do with the multi-million dollar imports into the US of phosphate rock from Western Sahara.

"We wish to underline that the Saharawi people emphatically do not consent the development and export of their natural resources from the occupied part of Western Sahara. [....] Mr. Magro confirmed that notice has been given to end imports to Canada, by stopping the contract previously in place with Agrium 'at the end of this year'. In our respectful view, however, this is not enough. The buying of Western Sahara's illegally exported phosphate rock must stop without delay."

The Saharawi government also invited Nutrien for talks about future relations between the government and the company. A similar invitation was made vis-à-vis the fisheries industry. The Polisario representative to the EU underlined to EuropaPress yesterday that "the Saharawis do not represent any threat to the interests of the [EU] fishermen", but that consent first needs to be obtained from Polisario.

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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.
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