Siemens have been accused by Western Saharan liberation front Polisario and several organisations – including Western Sahara Resource Watch, Danwatch and Africa Contact – of breaking international law by securing a deal with a Moroccan company, Nareva Holding, to build 22 windmills in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. According to international law, it is illegal to trade with or use resources from non-self-governing states such as Western Sahara without the indigenous population benefiting from and agreeing to the deal.
In an answer to an article in Newstime Africa about the deal, Siemens, a German multinational electrical engineering company, claims to be acting in good faith. “The project contributes to the social and economic development of the region. It also provides indirect benefits for the local population,” Siemens claims in a statement sent to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. “The participation of Siemens in this project is permissible under the applicable laws and regulations and does not infringe the right of self-determination or any other human rights in public international law.”
Abba Malainin, who is Polisario’s representative in Denmark, begs to differ. “We, the Saharawis, who are the rightful owners of this territory, were not consulted by Siemens in relation to this windmill deal in our country,” says Abba Malainin. “Morocco does not own sovereignty over Western Sahara, it is an occupying force. Siemens should not be complicit in legitimising the illegal occupation of Western Sahara – the last colony in Africa – by Morocco.”
Article 1, paragraph 2, of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that “all peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources … based upon the principle of … international law.” Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs, Hans Correll’s UN Opinion from 2002 concluded that trading of Western Sahara’s resources was only legal if the Saharawis agree to and benefit from it, something a European Parliament Legal Opinion from 2009 and numerous statements from Western Sahara’s government in exile, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, conclude they do not.
By Peter Kenworthy, Africa Contact
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