On 10th December, the International Day of Human Rights and the first anniversary of its being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the European Union (EU) renewed its fishing treaty with Morocco. The EU negotiated the treaty with Morocco, turning a blind eye to the serious and systematic human rights violations perpetrated by Morocco in Western Sahara.
The fishing treaty allows entry into waters that belong to the territory of Western Sahara, which has been under Moroccan military occupation since 1975. It is a serious blow for the Saharawi people who, according to international law, have the right to be consulted in relation to economic activity in their territory. The owners of the fishing reserves in question either live under Moroccan occupation or in refugee camps at Tindouf, Algeria.
More than 100 United Nations resolutions call for the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people and no state in the world recognises Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.
Saharawi citizens protested in the streets of the capital El Aaiun against this treaty between the EU and Morocco and against the exploitation of their natural resources, which results in poverty for the Saharawi population. Demonstrations were violently dispersed by Moroccan plain-clothes police officers, and other Moroccan state security personnel, resulting in several casualties. Local hospitals reported that at least 90 demonstrators had been injured. Amongst them was Adala UK member Salima Obaid. Many demonstrators were detained, including four Spanish activists, and the use of torture has been reported. A foreign journalist was detained by Moroccan police several times and his camera confiscated in order to prevent his covering the events.
Human rights activists have reported to Adala UK that violent confrontations between the Saharawi population and Moroccan security members continued until 10pm in the area of Maatala in El Aaiun, as well as other parts of the city. In these neighbourhoods, the Moroccan security forces imposed a curfew, forcing shops and businesses to remain closed and many houses of Saharawis were monitored by Moroccan security agents.
The situation is becoming more and more tense as a growing number of Saharawis feel ignored by the EU and frustrated by its negotiations with Morocco, ignoring Morocco’s systematic human rights violations in Western Sahara.
Meanwhile, Morocco will receive 40,000 Euros per year for permitting access to waters which do not come under their jurisdiction.
Adala UK declares:
· The illegality of the agreement between the EU and Morocco. International law does not recognise Moroccan sovereignty or jurisdiction over the waters of Western Sahara (south of the 27th parallel/40N, as has been established by the UN map, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and based on the International Court of Justice’s consultative opinion on Western Sahara from 1975 and based on the legal opinion of the UN from 2002).
· The protocol fails to respect the provisions of International Law since it fails to exclude the territorial waters of Western Sahara, a non-autonomous territory pending decolonisation. According to Article 73 of the UN Charter and the opinion of Hans Corell (Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the UN Legal Council from March 1994 to March 2004), each and every exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara has to benefit and respect the wishes of the Western Saharan population.
· The Sahrawi population has not been consulted and their legitimate representatives in the eyes of the UN, the Polisario Front, have rejected the treaty and the inclusion of the waters of Western Sahara in said treaty.
We urgently call upon the UN to compel the EU to refrain from signing any treaty with the Kingdom of Morocco which includes the territorial waters of Western Sahara.
By Sidi Ahmed Fadel (adalaUK)