States criticize Morocco over human rights in Western Sahara

Ten states today took the opportunity to comment on Morocco's human rights track record in Western Sahara, the territory that it holds under illegal occupation. 

08 November 2022

Morocco today went through its fourth Universal Periodic Review; a peer review by other UN Member States of the country's human rights slate. 

Ten intervening States took the opportunity to ask questions about or put forward recommendations on Western Sahara; a Non-Self-Governing Territory the size of the UK that has been largely occupied by Morocco since 1975. Read their full statements below.

This is the third time that Morocco is confronted on Western Sahara during its UPR session. During its first review in 2008, not a single state mentioned Western Sahara. In its second review in 2012 - when for the first time ever, shadow reports on Western Sahara had been submitted by WSRW and the Robert F Kennedy Center - 11 out of the 48 intervening States raised concerns over the human rights situation in the territory. During its third UPR round in 2017, several states explicitly called on Morocco to respect the right to self-determination in Western Sahara.

A video of Morocco's fourth UPR session is available through the United Nations website.

WSRW earlier this year submitted a stakeholder report for this particular UPR cycle, focusing on Morocco's failure to respect, protect and fulfill the right to self-determination and the right to resources in Western Sahara. 

Please note that the transcripts included below are non-official transcriptions, made by Western Sahara Resource Watch, based on the English translation of the oral presentations during Morocco's fourth UPR.



The Uganda delegation congratulates the kingdom of Morocco upon the presentation of her fourth UPR report. We also commend the government of Morocco on the positive developments in the human rights, especially the adoption of the legal framework towards elimination of all forms of discrimination, including racism.

In the spirit of constructive dialogue, Uganda delegation makes two recommendations:

  1. 1. Strengthen the legal and policy framework to fully implement racial equality of all persons.
  2. 2. Put in place an accountability mechanism to closely monitor and address the rights and freedoms of the people of Western Sahara.



Vanuatu welcomes the delegation of Morocco to this review and thank them for the presentation. Vanuatu welcomes Morocco’s support for the promotion of the UN Resolutions recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and for seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, on human rights and climate change, as a member of the core group together with Vanuatu.

Vanuatu recommends to Morocco:

  1. 1. Consider accepting the visit of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights and allow it to freely visit the Western Sahara region;
  2. 2. Continue to strengthen mechanisms and policies to eliminate violence against women and girls, and to promote gender equality in order to promote women’s access to economic opportunities and other key roles in society.

Vanuatu wishes Morocco a successful review.



I’d like to welcome the distinguished the delegation of Morocco, I know the importance that the country gives to human rights, and we see the government presented a report to treaty bodies and ratified international instruments to protect the populace.

We are concerned about the restrictions on the freedom of expression in Western Sahara and also the actions of security forces, and also certain evictions.

We’d like to recommend the government to put an end to its denial of the right to auto-determination, in line with international law organising a referendum that will ensure the free expression of the population of that territory, and continue strengthening its framework on human rights, and strengthen the role of the national council on human rights and strengthen efforts to ensure gender equality and the protection of women against all forms of violence and discrimination. I thank you.



We take note of the report, and we express our serious concern regarding reports by local and international NGOs, as well as UN human rights mechanisms, regarding serious and systematic violations of human rights in the Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation. We recommend the following:

  1. 1. Allowing all international organisations and observers to visit Western Sahara.
  2. 2. Avoid any economic activities or the exploitation of resources in Western Sahara without the formal approval of the people of the Western Sahara, in line with international law.
  3. 3. Ending the Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara in line with UN documents.



Ireland thanks Morocco for its presentation today. Ireland welcomes Morocco’s efforts to advance human rights domestically, including the designation of the national mechanism for the protection of rights of persons with disabilities, and the introduction of mechanisms to improve women’s political representation. We also note the introduction of law 103.13, criminalising all forms of gender-based discrimination. We encourage Morocco to continue efforts to promote women’s rights and prevent gender-based violence.

Ireland is concerned that human rights defenders and journalists continue to be targeted for their work, and face intimidation, harassment, death threats, criminalisation, and physical and sexual assault, including in and in relation to Western Sahara. 

Ireland recommends that Morocco:

  1. Abolish the death penalty in law and in practice, including by formalizing the current moratorium, ratifying the second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and commuting its existing death sentences.
  2. Take all necessary measures to ensure respect for the human rights of all people in Western Sahara, including human rights defenders, through enhanced cooperation with OHCHR and via facilitating monitoring measures.



Luxembourg thanks the delegation of Morocco for the presentation of their national report. My delegation wishes to make the following recommendations.

  1. To repeal laws curtailing the right to the freedom of expression and to allow human rights defenders and journalists to work without fear of reprisals.
  2. To respect the human rights of the Saharawis, including their right to self-determination, and allow the High Commissioner access to Western Sahara.
  3. To repeal all laws which directly or indirectly discriminate against women, and adopt a comprehensive legal framework to combat gender-based violence.
  4. To prohibit child marriage, and take measures against school dropouts, especially for girls in rural areas.
  5. To repeal the provisions of the penal code penalising same sex consensual relations.

We wish the kingdom of Morocco the best of success in implementing these recommendations. I thank you.



The right to self-determination is formally established in international law. Notwithstanding this fact, the kingdom of Morocco continues to illegally occupy Western Sahara. To add insult to injury, some States in breach of their erga omnes obligations continue to recognise the illegal occupation.

Given this injustice, Namibia makes the following recommendations for implementation by Morocco:

  1. Enable the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination through a free, fair and transparent referendum administered by the UN.
  2. Respect the right of the people of Western Sahara to enjoy and utilize fully and freely their natural resources.

In conclusion, we call on all states to refrain from recognising the illegal occupation. It is a sad reality that some states have chosen economic expediency over well-established principles of international law.



Norway welcomes Morocco as a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025. Norway commends Morocco for initiating steps to reform the family code and for the de facto moratorium on the death penalty since 1993.

Norway recommends that Morocco:

1. Implements legislation that unequivocally prohibits child marriages and guarantees equality between men and women.

2. Fully safeguards the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and freedom of association, including for human rights defenders, journalists, and media workers.

3. Reforms the penal code to decriminalize all consensual sexual relations outside marriage, explicitly criminalizes rape, and guarantee women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

4. Ensures full access to the OHCHR in Western Sahara.

5. Ratifies the second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on the abolition of the death penalty.


South Africa

South Africa welcomes the distinguished delegation of Morocco to its fourth review under the UPR mechanism. South Africa wishes to respectfully recommend that Morocco:

  1. 1. Enhances cooperation with the OHCHR, including through urgently facilitating access by the OHCHR to visit Western Sahara region and allowing access to Saharawi political prisoners.
  2. 2. Respect all norms of IHL, in particular the provisions of the fourth Geneva convention of 1949 and ensure that the [inaudible] are treated under human conditions.
  3. 3. Accept a visit of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights and allow it to freely visit Western Sahara.
  4. 4. Allow an independent assessment of the human rights situation in Western Sahara and lift all measures limiting movement of Saharawi Human Rights Defenders and journalists.

My delegation welcomes the establishment of the national preventative mechanism on torture and trusts that it will be adequately funded to execute its mandate.


Timor Leste

Timor Leste welcomes the distinguished delegation of the kingdom of Morocco and thanks them for their participation in the fourth cycle of the UPR mechanism. We note with appreciation the measures undertaken by Morocco to combat racism and welcome the adoption last year of act number 9.21 on social protection.

Timor Leste recommends that Morocco facilitates the access by the OHCHR to Western Sahara; cooperates with the Personal Envoy of the Secretary General for Western Sahara; respects, protects and promotes the human rights of all people in Western Sahara; and enables the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination through a democratic referendum.

Timor Leste wishes the kingdom of Morocco a successful UPR.

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