miércoles 29 de mayo de 2024
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Morocco’s Illegal Occupation of Western Sahara: A Breach of International Law

Kingstown (St. Vincent Times): Since October 30, 1975, Morocco has been militarily and illegally occupying part of the sovereign territory of the Saharawi Republic.

By Ambassador Mohamed Zrug

In doing so, Morocco has acted in defiance of the UN Charter and international law, including the 1975 ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which states that “there are no ties of territorial sovereignty between Morocco and the territory of Western Sahara”, as well as resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly urging it to “withdraw its troops” and “end its illegal occupation of the territory”.

As a result, the Saharawis have been denied the right to live in peace in their own country while being subjected to systematic violations of international humanitarian law and the systematic plundering of their natural resources.

Today, Morocco generously uses the phosphates of the occupied territory of Western Sahara in a kind of fertilizer lobby and buying of wills, with the sole purpose of neutralizing political positions of certain governments, when these resources belong only to the Saharawi people in accordance with the principle of permanent sovereignty of peoples over their natural resources.

There are already countless court rulings (Court of Justice of the European Union in its judgments of 2016, 2018 and 2021 and the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights) that prohibit the occupying power, the exploitation and marketing of products from Western Sahara and their inclusion in any bilateral agreement, for constituting “Western Sahara, a territory distinct and separate from Morocco” and for resulting in the “denial of the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and their permanent sovereignty over their natural resources”.

It is not justifiable then, the alleged “freezing”, “suspension” or “withdrawal” of recognition of the Saharawi Republic -which the Moroccan government attributes, often falsely to certain governments- with the argument of an alleged negotiation process, because during the last thirty years the obstructionist actions of Morocco have prevented precisely the development of a political and negotiation process that could lead to the free self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Morocco has demonstrated, beyond any reasonable doubt, that it is unwilling to choose the peaceful, democratic and viable path to a lasting solution to the question of decolonization in Western Sahara.

It has systematically flouted agreements, including those approved by the UN Security Council, and has obstructed all efforts by the international community to bring about the decolonization of Western Sahara and the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people.

Morocco also persists in its attempts to undermine the credibility and raison d’être of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), namely the holding of a free and fair referendum for self-determination, and prefers to limit MINURSO’s role exclusively to the observation of the ceasefire, imposing the colonial status quo and the fait accompli in a territory over which it does not exercise sovereignty.

Morocco’s demonstrated opposition to both the referendum and meaningful direct negotiations has been publicly affirmed by King Mohammed VI in his successive speeches since November 6, 2014, “Morocco will remain in its Sahara and the Sahara in its Morocco, until the end of existence”, ignoring that no country in the world recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

But also previously, in a letter from the monarch himself to the former UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan whose terms he includes in his report on the territory presented to the Security Council in April 2004.

The most visible and direct result of this obstruction to the political process is that the cease-fire agreement, which came into force in September 1991 thanks to the agreement of the two parties before the holding of the referendum, had been broken by Morocco after 30 years, on November 13, 2020, by extending by force its occupation to new Saharawi territories in clear violation of the military agreement number 1 signed between the parties in 1991 under the aegis of the United Nations.

The cease-fire cannot be maintained indefinitely in the absence of a meaningful political process. Morocco, aware of its failure to gain international legitimacy for its occupation of Western Sahara, chose this situation as its best trump card to try to impose the policy of fait accompli. In other words, Morocco is simply maneuvering, trying to “buy time”, in the hope that it will be able to gain international legitimacy for its occupation of Western Sahara.

The group of sister Caribbean states, fruit of processes of decolonization and struggle for sovereignty and self-determination, as is the case of the Saharawi Republic, should maintain their support for SADR, not only in coherence with their own historical postulates and congruence with international legality, but also as a tangible contribution to peace with justice in the region.

This is regardless of the cooperation relations that may be maintained with the Kingdom of Morocco. The positions should not be used or instrumentalized, as is the case, by Morocco, to abort the process of decolonization in Western Sahara or serve as a ruse to perpetuate the colonial fait accompli in that territory.

On February 27, 1976, the Saharawi people proclaimed the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a sovereign state in the territory of Western Sahara. The proclamation of SADR was made not only to fill the vacuum left by the precipitous withdrawal of Spain as a colonial power, but also to embody the sovereign will and independence of the Saharawi people.

This fact was clearly confirmed by the ICJ ruling in 1975, which states that, prior to Spanish colonization, Western Sahara was inhabited by autonomous and independent peoples, socially and politically organized under leaders competent to represent them and that the territory “has no ties of sovereignty with the Kingdom of Morocco” and therefore “resolution 1514 on the granting of independence to peoples and territories under colonial rule” applies to it.

Since 1984, the Saharawi Republic was admitted as a member state of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and subsequently, on June 9, 2002, it became a founding member state of its successor organization, the African Union (AU). Today, more than 80 states maintain diplomatic relations with SADR. Morocco’s fallacious argument about the alleged “withdrawal” of recognition by certain governments of SADR is not only politically damaging to the political process, but also inappropriate and legally invalid.

Article 6 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States states that “recognition is unconditional and irrevocable”. Consequently, once recognition of the Saharawi Republic as a sovereign State has been granted, other States cannot revoke their recognition, except when the Saharawi Republic has ceased to exist and/or when the recognizing State has ceased to exist. Moreover, the argument that the recognition of SADR should be “suspended” pending negotiations on a final solution which must necessarily provide for the consultation of the Saharawi people on their political future, i.e. the exercise of self-determination of the people of Western Sahara -and which are being postponed precisely because there is no doubt about their outcome- is clearly untenable.

Morocco is blocking and preventing the process from reaching its ultimate goal, namely the exercise by the Saharawi people of their right to self-determination.

The Saharawi Republic is a fully-fledged State exercising full sovereignty over the liberated Saharawi territories and has the administrative and political capacity to administer its own affairs and manage its international relations. Moreover, the fact that some governments, due to extraordinary circumstances, had to have part of their institutions operating from outside their territories has never been considered as an impediment to their recognition as sovereign states.

The Saharawi Republic has established a modern society that values and promotes the values of social justice, democracy, gender equality, tolerance and the rule of law. The Sahrawi people can rightly take pride in having built an egalitarian society in which every citizen can participate fully in all aspects of political, social and economic life.

From the point of view of the legal doctrine relating to the recognition of states, the Saharawi Republic therefore meets all the essential requirements, although a significant part of its territory is under foreign occupation. However, this presence is military, illegal and condemned by the international community.

The position adopted by the African Union (AU) and its predecessor (the OAU) in the cases of Western Sahara, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia or Angola, shows that the exercise of full sovereignty over the entire territory is not an impediment to the recognition of States that were proclaimed by the legitimate representatives of their peoples in the remaining part of a territory that was under illegal occupation.

In fact, the current military deployment and massive transfer of Moroccan settlers in the occupied territory of Western Sahara is illegal as indicated in UNGA resolutions 34/37 (1979) and 35/19 (1980), as well as by the fact that the international community does not recognize Morocco’s territorial claims over the territory in line with the ICJ advisory opinion of 1975.

Along with the recognition of the Saharawi Republic by the African Union, it should also be noted that the Moroccan presence in Western Sahara has been “deplored” by the Security Council (Res. 380 of 1975) and explicitly qualified as an “occupation” by the General Assembly (Res. 34/37 of 1979 and Res. 35/19 of 1980).

By doing so, the UN has implicitly left in the hands of its member states the decision to officially recognize the Saharawi Republic whose effective exercise of sovereignty over its liberated territories of Western Sahara has never been questioned or declared illegitimate by the UN or by any international body.

The POLISARIO Front and the Saharawi Republic continue to believe that the resources in the hands of the international community to carry out a just and definitive decolonization of Western Sahara have not yet been exhausted. For the same reason, diplomatic progress is essential to maintain faith in the peaceful path towards resolving the last colonial case in Africa.

In this context, the pioneering recognition of the Saharawi Republic by the Caribbean countries was and remains a historic contribution to peace and international legality. We continue to share a common history of struggle for independence, consistency in the defense of the right to self-determination of peoples under colonial occupation, and a strong and constant commitment to the prevalence of international law, human rights and international humanitarian law.

As long as the process and commitment to the decolonization of Western Sahara is not concluded, the non-recognition of SADR is a direct denial of the right of its people to self-determination and independence enshrined in international law and sustained for more than a century and a half through the unrestricted attachment of its people to the defense of their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The recognition of SADR is also a contribution to a balanced foreign policy. The Moroccan approach, excluding SADR, cannot be the only option to maintain relations with Morocco and discard the historical and traditional position defended for many years by all the Caribbean countries in defense of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination.

This is the congruent and balanced position held not only by African countries, where SADR has embassies in Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Ghana and others, but also Latin American countries such as Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Ecuador, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Belize and others, -regardless of the political color of the government of the day-, whose capitals have been hosting for decades at the same time, embassies of both the Kingdom of Morocco and the Saharawi Republic.

That Morocco feels entitled to demand from some governments the “suspension” or “freezing” of relations with the Saharawi Republic, using the excuse first of the referendum which it refuses, secondly of the negotiating process, which it sabotages, even going so far as to ask for the recognition of its non-existent sovereignty over the territory and the opening of consulates.

It is the second of the negotiation process, which it sabotages, even going so far as to ask for recognition of its non-existent sovereignty over the territory and the opening of fictitious and illegal consulates in the territory, as the culmination of supposed economic promises of a country that is ranked 121st in the Human Development Index and that heads all rigorous world reports as the country with the greatest violations of human rights; and yet, to coexist with embassies of the Saharawi Republic in the aforementioned countries and in the organs of the AU itself, is very revealing, not only and at the very least, of a proven arrogance and attributed moral superiority, depending on which country, but also of its blatant interference in matters of national sovereignty of governments.

The government of the Saharawi Republic considers that being precisely the Caribbean, together with Africa, the regions of greatest historical anti-colonial attachment and at the same time, the one with the greatest presence of vestiges of colonialism -some of which continue to be inscribed since 1963 together with Western Sahara, as the last 17 cases of colonialism- must continue to be a fundamental support to the legitimate claims of the Saharawi Republic and of solidarity with the inalienable aspirations of its people for self-determination and independence.

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St. Vincent Times

St. Vincent Times

St Vincent Times (formerly News784) was founded in 2015 and is one of the main national papers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines that provides local as well as world news.
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