Dec 11, 2020

UNPO Statement on Western Sahara

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) strongly objects to the recent announcement that the United States of America (USA) may recognize Morocco’s unlawful assertion sovereignty over Western Sahara. Such an action, if it comes to pass, would be a denial of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people in direct contravention of United Nations resolutions and threatens to undermine ongoing peace processes, inflame an already tense situation, and could have broader implications for international peace and security and the rights to self-determination of unrepresented nations and peoples everywhere. 

The right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people has been explicitly guaranteed under international law, including by  the International Court of Justice, UN Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly. The UN General Assembly, in particular,  has reaffirmed the right of the people of Western Sahara to Self-Determination and independence, deplored the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco and urged Morocco to terminate its occupation. 

In June of this year, the UNPO was invited by the African Court of Human Rights to file an expert submission to it on the question of the responsibility of the third countries to protect the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. Our submission made clear that the right to self-determination is not merely a concern of the country seeking to exercise dominion over an occupied peoples, but imposes an obligation on the entire international community.

Last year, in a case concerning the Chagos Archipelago, the International Court of Justice stated that "[t]he paramount importance of the principle of self-determination is ... that it not only confers a right on the peoples of all non-self-governing territories to self-determination, but also imposes an obligation on all States to see to it that this right is fully respected.” UN law governing Western Sahara makes clear that a referendum of the people of Western Sahara is needed to resolve its status. Any action by the USA to unilaterally recognize Moroccan’s unsupported claim to Western Sahara would be in clear violation of the USA’s international obligations.

Beyond the Western Sahara, such as decision could serve to destabilize other similar situations around the world. It would embolden the likes of China and Russia with their continuing illegal occupations of Tibet and Crimea. And it could encourage more situations like the recent war in Ngorono-Karabakh, destabilizing the delicate balance of peace that exists today. 

UNPO urges the USA not to enact recognition of Morocco’s claims over Western Sahara. If such a recognition is indeed given effect during this period of Presidential transition within the USA, to UNPO urges the incoming administration to urgently reverse this decision.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons