Morocco proposes jurist for non-jurist UN body

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. 

05 May 2022

The Moroccan government is currently pushing the candidature of Prof. Miloud Loukili for a seat at the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Rabat is requesting UN Member states to support his candidature, in letters sent to different governments, from what Western Sahara Resource Watch understands. 

The scientific UN body decides on delimitations of continental boundaries, meaning it is defining the exact area where different countries' offshore continental shelf plundge into the deep sea. This is relevant in all contexts where the shelf prolongs outside of the 200 nautical mile Economic Exclusive Zone.

According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 2 each of the 21 members of the commission must be "experts in the field of geology, geophysics or hydrography”.

Mr. Loukili is a Moroccan jurist with a long career in law, but with no formal background in the fields required to sit on the Commission. WSRW has seen the CV of the jurist, as it is forwarded to governments.

The elections to the UN body will take place in mid June 2022. The current members of the Commission - who were elected for a five-year period in 2017 - will end their term at the same session. The individuals taking the seat in the New York-based commission are serving in their personal capacity. 

Morocco wants to expand its continental shelf claim. This presentation is from the Moroccan government body ONHYM in 2019.

Loukili is referred to in the letters from the Moroccan government as “an eminent specialist” in maritime law who is “highly involved in the multilateral process linked to the implementation of UNCLOS” (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).

What the Moroccan government fails to mention, is that professor Loukili's CV does not include the formal qualifications required to sit in the Commission. What is also withheld, is that Loukili is a staunch defender of the Moroccan government's position of what he refers to as “Moroccan Sahara” or “our Sahara”. He has openly called for raising awareness about the Moroccan position “on all fronts" internationally. 

In an event organised by the Moroccan government's information service MAP in Rabat in 2018, he stated that it is "absolutely necessary – and in the clearest way – and I speak as a jurist […] to raise awareness among the international public opinion, on all fronts, regarding the legality of the Moroccan position”. 

His participation at the MAP event was natural, he said, because “All that is related to the national cause cannot leave me indifferent.” See his entire intervention here.  

The article continues below the video. 

“I am a jurist specializing in international law, more particularly in the Law of the Sea. […] And I must today, modestly, give my contribution to enlighten the national public opinion and especially the international public opinion, regarding what is happening in our Sahara", Loukili stated.

“Morocco considers the territory of the Sahara to be lying within its authentic borders, totally and integrally part of its territory.” He quoted the Moroccan king stating that "The essential is not to question what the fatherland does for us, but what we do for the fatherland”.

The highly political statements - suggesting that Western Sahara is part of Morocco - are contrary to all UN resolutions and international courts that have addressed the matter. 

The ICJ, the CJEU and UN are crystal clear that Morocco has no legal mandate to be present in Western Sahara. The latest ruling from CJEU on 29 September 2021 again established that Morocco and Western Sahara are “separate and distinct” territories under international law, and that trade treaties cannot be covering Western Sahara without the explicit consent from the people of the territory, through its legal representative body, the national liberation movement Polisario. 

The waters offshore Western Sahara have been subject to numerous disputes, most of all between Morocco and the Saharawi people, but also between Morocco and Spain. 

Loukili has noted in a recent article in the magazine Marine et Oceans that the commission which he now wants to sit in had received “more than 100 claims for continental shelf extensions, among which those of Spain, Portugal, and Mauritania, all of which are in Morocco's direct vicinity. In the same way, in order to protect the legal security of its interests on the continental shelf, in 2015, Morocco submitted its report to the Commission providing preliminary and indicative information on the proposed extension of its continental shelf. In June 2017, the kingdom reiterated its request for an extension of the continental shelf to this UN body, pending the subsequent submission of a detailed technical report, as stipulated in the Montego Bay Convention."

The scientific UN body is known to be very careful in protecting its integrity, and does not carry out work in areas where sovereignty has not been settled. Referencing the convention's rules, Rule 46, the commission has several times stayed away from such work.  

The procedure of elections is described in the convention's Annex 2, article 3. To be elected to the commission one needs a two-third majority vote of the member states to the convention. Nearly all UN member states are members of the UNCLOS.

Morocco both claims to adhere to the UNCLOS and the UN Charter - while continuing its illegal occupation of Western Sahara and controlling its waters. 

“Morocco, which is a maritime nation par excellence given its geostrategic position and its 3500 (sic) km long coasts on both its Atlantic and Mediterranean facades, attaches great importance to the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea”, the Moroccan government writes paradoxically to the UN member states. In reality, Morocco has an approximate 2500 km coast line.

The MAP event is not the only time that Loukili is seen participating in events hosted by Morocco's same propaganda agency. In 2013, at an event with the launch of a book of Moroccan prisoners of war captured by Polisario on the occupied territory after the Moroccan invasion, Mr. Loukili is interviewed by MAP, stating that Polisario are "terrorists" and underlining his defence of what he calls "la marocanité du Sahara".

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