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.
Picture above: The judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a meeting with the president of Tanzania on 10 September this year.
On 22 September 2022, the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights delivered a judgment concluding that Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara is a violation of the right to self-determination and independence, and that all States have an obligation to assist the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination.
Focusing specifically on the violation of the Saharawi people's right to self-determination, the Court noted that several other autonomous human rights were violated by Morocco in Western Sahara, including the right to dispose of natural resources, but “observed that their violation basically flows from the alleged denial of the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”
The case was directed against eight African States that recognize the jurisdiction of the Court over individual complaints : Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Tunisia. According to the applicant, these countries had failed to uphold their duties vis-à-vis an occupied people under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU). Specifically, by allowing Morocco to join the AU without requesting it to end its occupation of another AU Member - Western Sahara - these States would have failed in their obligation to support and protect the Saharawi people against violations resulting from Morocco's occupation.
The Court stressed that "both the UN and the AU recognise the situation of SADR as one of occupation and consider its territory as one of those territories whose decolonisation process is not yet fully complete » (para. 302). Referring to the 1975 ICJ advisory opinion on Western Sahara, the Court recalled that Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara have "never been accepted by the international community ». Accordingly, the SADR’s sovereignty over the occupied territory is a « settled fact » (para. 303).
Against that background, it concluded that « the continued occupation of the SADR by Morocco is incompatible with the right to self-determination of the people of SADR », and that all while the eight charged States did not themselves directly violate the rights of the Saharawi people, they do have an obligation to assist the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination.
The ruling by the African Court echoes the International Court of Justice and the Court of Justice of the European Union, while emphasizing that “the notion of self-determination has strong resonance with Africa and carries a special and deep meaning to its people" that is viewed as "right to survival as people".
“The Respondent States, and indeed, all State parties to the Charter and the Protocol, as well as all Member States of the AU, have the responsibility under international law, to find a permanent solution to the occupation and to ensure the enjoyment of the inalienable right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people and not to do anything that would give recognition to such occupation as lawful or impede their enjoyment of this right", the ruling reads (para 323).
The African Union in 2015 issued a legal opinion on the plunder of the natural resources the territory.
Since you're here....
WSRW’s work is being read and used more than ever. We work totally independently and to a large extent voluntarily. Our work takes time, dedication and diligence. But we do it because we believe it matters – and we hope you do too. We look for more monthly donors to support our work. If you'd like to contribute to our work – 3€, 5€, 8€ monthly… what you can spare – the future of WSRW would be much more secure. You can set up a monthly donation to WSRW quickly here.
The Peace and Security Council of the African Union this week asked its new member, Morocco, to not carry out further exploration and exploitation of the natural resources in Western Sahara.
... and finds the ongoing exploration and exploitation of the territory's resources in violation of international law.
The African Union summit in July formally adopted a policy document calling for the halt of mineral plunder on the continent.
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.