In view of the incredibly harsh verdicts in the Gdeim Izik trial, which failed to meet the international standards for a fair trial, Western Sahara Resource Watch has appealed to the European Commission to put ongoing discussions for increased trade with Morocco on hold.
Western Sahara Resource Watch has sent letters to the European Commissioner for Trade, Mr Karel De Gucht, and the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Mrs Maria Damanaki.
“Many of the convicted men are known human rights activists and have always been outspoken on their pro-independence stance. Some of them denounced the ongoing economic activities in the occupied Western Sahara in the court room. These men belong to organisations that wrote to you in a joint letter on 26 June 2012, asking for the clear and explicit exclusion of the territory of Western Sahara from all future trade deals between the EU and Morocco, including the envisioned Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement”, WSRW wrote in its letter to the European Commissioner for Trade.
“It is sad to note that Saharawi that have always demanded the EU to respect international law should be sentenced to a lifetime in jail by a Moroccan military court”, the letter continued.
Talks between the European Commission and the Moroccan government on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement are expected to take-off next week.
At the same time, negotiations on a new fisheries agreement are also scheduled to take place before the end of February. WSRW underlined to the Commissioner for Maritime affairs and Fisheries that the group of convicted Saharawis have repeatedly asked the EU not to fish in their territory.
"We understand that provisions for human rights are to be included in the impending fisheries protocol with Morocco. In the current situation, where the European Parliament denounces the human rights violations in Western Sahara and where representatives expressing the wishes of the Saharawi people are being sentenced to jail, it makes little sense to sign an agreement with Morocco even with measures for human rights protection, regardless of the exclusion of the territory", the letter to Commissioner Damanaki stated.
Some of the men that were sentenced to a life in jail underlined in the Moroccan military court this week-end that the UN Legal Opinion from 2002 clearly states that Morocco's deals in Western Sahara can only be legal if the Saharawis want them to take place. The author of the UN Legal Opinion himself has stated that EU violates international law by fishing in the territory.
Both Morocco and the EU have chosen to look away from the conclusion of the opinion of the UN as the two parties are now negotiating a new fisheries agreement for the waters offshore the occupied territory, without taking the Saharawi wishes into account. The letters were sent 19 February 2013.
Are you casting your vote for the EU elections? Find here a complete overview of MEP candidates who have supported the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara in previous controversial votes. Choose wisely.
The UK Court has concluded that the UK government has acted unlawfully in granting preferential tariff treatment to products from Western Sahara through a deal with Morocco, and in granting fisheries quota's for fishing in Western Sahara under a fish deal with Morocco.
Polisario has a case, but it should be pursued when the time is right, Court implies.
No less than 93 Saharawi groups have called on the EU institutions to respect the will of the people of Western Sahara when negotiating trade or fisheries agreements that will affect their occupied land.