States urge Spain to respect Saharawi rights in Human Rights Council

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WSRW.- Namibia and East-Timor have today recommended Spain to respect the Saharawi people’s right to free, prior and informed consent with regard to the exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources.

This article is under construction and will be updated throughout the course of the day.

Spain today went through its third Universal Periodic Review; a peer review by other UN Member States of the country’s human rights slate.

Namibia and East Timor took the opportunity to raise their concerns on Spain’s involvement in the taking of Western Sahara’s natural resources, and recommended Spain to respect the international framework on Business and Human Rights, and as such, to respect the right to free, prior and informed consent of the Saharawi people to the taking of their homeland’s resources.

During Spain’s two previous UPR reviews in 2010 and 2015, not a single State addressed Spain’s continued responsibility vis-à-vis Western Sahara.

Spain has a duty to decolonize the territory of Western Sahara and continues to bear responsibilities for the indigenous Saharawi people. This was confirmed in two decisions by Spain’s own National Court in 2014 and 2015 which state that Spain remains the administering power over Western Sahara, echoing the UN Charter and the 2002 UN Legal Opinion on Western Sahara’s mineral resources.

Yet, throughout Spain’s UPR reviews of the past decade, no progress has been made to advance the right to self-determination in Western Sahara, nor has Spain reported on its obligations to decolonize and to ensure the well-being of the people of the territory.

Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) in collaboration with Spanish NGO Novact had submitted a stakeholder report for this particular UPR cycle, stressing that Spain should be held accountable for its human rights track-record inside of the territory it has never lawfully and responsibly decolonized: Western Sahara. The report recommended Spain to respect, protect and fulfill their human rights obligations vis-à-vis the people of Western Sahara, in particular the right to self-determination and the right to their natural resources. Find our submission here.

Instead of working for the exercise of self-determination, Spain manifestly fails its duties under the UN Charter in order to satisfy its own hard-nosed economic interests, rather than the interests of the Saharawi people. While blatantly ignoring the Saharawis, Spain works with Morocco to have access to Western Sahara’s resources, or engages in projects that cement Morocco’s occupation.

States can either reject or accept recommendations issued during its UPR session. WSRW will publish Spain’s response to the recommendations issued by Namibia and East Timor later this month.