The German multinational, Siemens, has landed an order for the construction and maintenance of 22 windmills to be built in a wind farm in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. The order is part of a larger deal with Moroccan company Nareva Holding. “The wind farm is expected to be commercially operational in the summer of 2013” and the order includes “supplying, installing and commissioning the windmills, as well as 5 years service,” according to a press release from Siemens.
The problem is that, according to international law, it is illegal to trade or dispose of resources in occupied Western Sahara without the consent of Western Sahara’s indigenous population, the Saharawis, who also have to benefit from any such dealings.
And this is not the case with the deal between Siemens and Nareva Holding, or any other dealings with resources from occupied Western Sahara, says Abba Malainin from the Western Saharan liberation front, Polisario. “The Saharawis were not consulted in this economical dealing between Morocco’s Nareva Holding and Siemens Denmark. Nareva has no right to strike economical deals in our illegally occupied land because it is dealing in something that it does not own.”
Siemens has solemnly promised that the company’s business dealings will not violate international law by joining the UN’s Global Compact – an initiative that compels participating companies to “support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights” and “make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.”
“Siemens is expressly committed to upholding the Compact’s ten principles,” Siemens insists in a 2010 sustainability report. “We have committed ourselves to observing human rights … and ensure that these basic rights and principles are also observed in our supply chain.”
But by working in occupied Western Sahara, Siemens has broken these promises. Human Rights Watch speaks of Moroccan authorities acting with “impunity” and the ”evidence of torture and serious mistreatment” against the indigenous population of Westerns Sahara, the Saharawis and International Crisis Group speaks of the Moroccan regime’s “disproportionate use of force” and it “frequently resorting to torture and arbitrary arrests.”
And apart from being accomplices to these human rights violations, those who deal with Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara are destabilising not only Western Sahara but also the entire region. “All trade with Western Sahara legitimises Morocco’s illegal occupation of Western Sahara,” says Morten Nielsen from Danish NGO Africa Contact, who sent a letter to Siemens last Friday to try to persuade the company to cancel the deal.
“Such deals undermine the peace process between the Saharawis and Morocco and helps to maintain and amplify the hostility in a region divided on the question of the colonisation of Western Sahara. This issue is a destabilising factor in a region that borders on the European Union.”
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
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