US report on Western Sahara confirms WAR CRIME

PUSL.-In the recently published Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 – Western Sahara[1], the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the US Department of State confirms that Morocco is committing and ongoing of the Practice Relating to Rule 130 of International Humanitarian Law: Transfer of Own Civilian Population into Occupied Territory, which constitutes a War Crime.

The report states:

As an inducement to relocate to the territory, workers in the formal sector earned up to 85 percent more than their counterparts in internationally recognized Morocco. The government also provided fuel subsidies and exempted workers from income and value-added taxes.”

The transfer of Moroccan population into Western Sahara, the territory it occupies, is prohibited by international humanitarian law. The transfer of an occupying power’s population to a territory it occupies amounts to a war crime that may engage the individual criminal responsibility of those responsible.[2]

The number of Moroccan settlers is expected to rise further given the advancement of new construction in the occupied territories but also due to the economic incentives offered by the Moroccan government, as confirmed in the report of the US State Department.

A central feature of the Moroccan settlement policy in Western Sahara has been the gradual takeover and designation of land undertaken through various measures, including the declaration of “state land”, impunity of takeover of Saharawi housing and land by the settlers, and encouragement of economic activities in the occupied territories. According to the report: “There were anecdotal reports that Sahrawi faced discrimination in hiring and promotion.” The social, economic and political apartheid the Saharawi population suffers has been vastly documented by PUSL over the years, as well the continues protests of young Saharawi demanding employment.

International LAW:

Practice Relating to Rule 130. Transfer of Own Civilian Population into Occupied Territory

Related Rule

I. Treaties

Geneva Convention IV

Article 49, sixth paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Additional Protocol I

Article 85(4)(a) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I provides that “the transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a grave breach of the Protocol.

ICC Statute

Under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 1998 ICC Statute, “[t]he transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.

II. Other Instruments

ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1991)

Article 22(2)(b) of the 1991 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind considers “the establishment of settlers in an occupied territory and changes to the demographic composition of an occupied territory” as an “exceptionally serious war crime”.

ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1996)

Under Article 20(c)(i) of the 1996 ILC Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind, “[t]he transfer by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” is a war crime.

UNTAET Regulation No. 2000/15

The UNTAET Regulation No. 2000/15 establishes panels with exclusive jurisdiction over serious criminal offences, including war crimes. According to Section 6(1)(b)(viii), “[t]he transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.

[1] https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2018&dlid=289236#wrapper

[2] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Art. 8(2)(b)(viii).

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