An analysis of the legal aspects of the conflict in Western Sahara has led the research department of the German parliament to conclude that there are substantiated violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention by Morocco, that is to be considered an occupying power.
On 18 March 2019, the research service of the Bundestag issued a Status Report on the legal aspects of the conflict in Western Sahara. The report came about at the request of parliamentarian Katja Keul (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen).
The Status Report delves deep into two main issues: the legal status of Western Sahara under international law, and the application of International Criminal Law and International Humanitarian Law.
On the first issue - the legal status of the territory - the report concludes that Morocco is not to be considered as the administering power of Western Sahara, and that the notion ‘de-facto administering power’ is not meaningful in context of international law. Moreover, the report deduces that Western Sahara is under occupation and that “Morocco is to be considered the occupying power”.
In the second main part, the report concludes that Morocco's settlement policy in Western Sahara - described as the transfer of its own civilians into the territory as well as indirect measures in promotion thereof - substantiates a violation of the fourth Geneva Convention and of the Additional Protocol (I) to the Geneva Convention.
Find our short summary of the Status Report here. A translation of the main part of the report, prepared by WSRW, can be found here.
“While not a legal opinion, the Status Report certainly does capture the main legal aspects to the Western Sahara conflict”, says Tim Sauer from Western Sahara Resource Watch. "We sincerely hope companies will take due note of the report's conclusions that Morocco is occupying Western Sahara and that its policy of settling its own nationals in Western Sahara substantiates a violation of international law. We cannot imagine any responsible businesses desiring an association with such practices".
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights concludes Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara to be a serious violation of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination and independence.
In the middle of Moroccan-Spanish maritime disputes offshore Western Sahara, Morocco is lobbying for a defender of the occupation of Western Sahara to sit at an important UN scientific body for maritime continental boundaries.
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 different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Italian company Enel is one of the firms that have taken the exact same approach as the EU when carrying out ‘stakeholder consultations' in Western Sahara - a procedure now found invalid by the EU Court of Justice.