British Lords question an ilegal agreement between UK and Morocco

London, 15 March 2020 (SPS) - Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, leader of the Labor Lords in the House, led the debate, supported by Lord Shipley of the Liberal Democrats Group, before the Government of the United Kingdom.

"Western Sahara is classified as a self governing territory in chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations. A ruling of the International Court of Justice in 1975 recognized the right to self-determination of Western Sahara and, in 1991, the UN launched a mission to hold a referendum for the Sahrawi people to decide whether they should be an independent country or become part of Morocco. That referendum has not yet been held. The EU signed a trade treaty with Morocco in 2012 covering Western Sahara. The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled twice, in 2016 and 2018, that Western Sahara is a territory "separate and distinct" from Morocco under international law, and that no agreement with Morocco can apply to the territory of Western Sahara without the consent of the Saharawi people " stated Lord Stevenson.

Lord Stevenson further affirmed: "The internationally recognized legitimate representative of the Saharawi people has rejected all proposals that the EU trade agreement with Morocco should apply to them. A coalition of 93 Saharawi civil society groups also declared that the people of Western Sahara reject the inclusion of its territory in any agreement concluded by Morocco".

For his part, Lord Shipley, from the Liberal Democrats formation, affirmed that the current year marks the 45th anniversary of the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco, paying tribute to the Earl of Winchelsea and Nottingham for his great work in defense of the interests of Saharawi people. He also recalled the ruling of the International Court in The Hague and the UN's unfulfilled promise to date on a referendum for the people of Western Sahara to decide to be an independent country or to be part of Morocco. In this regard, he mentioned the latest report by Human Rights Watch, which evidences the human rights violations in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

"I hope that the Minister agrees that the UK Government must now enforce the judgment of the British High Court so that goods are not imported into the UK from Western Sahara on the presumption that they are from Morocco. Only once the people of Western Sahara have expressed their right to self-determination, the UK will be able to legally trade in goods produced in Western Sahara. The UK Government should now use that High Court ruling as a basis to support the supervised self-determination process by the UN "the Lords affirmed.

Lord Ahmad on behalf of the United Kingdom Foreign Affairs Ministry affirmed, "We have always supported the efforts of the United Nations to achieve a pragmatic and lasting political solution that allows the self-determination of its people.

The United Kingdom, as I said before, will constantly support the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in this regard. UN Resolution 2494 is clear about the need for realistic, practicable and durable political solution based on compromise. A solution must be fair, lasting and mutually acceptable, and provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. I assure the noble lords that the United Kingdom supports the efforts led by the United Nations to reach a lasting solution in this regard.

We support the efforts of the United Nations towards a peaceful solution to this dispute. I assure the Noble Gentlemen that we will continue to encourage the parties to participate in the political process of the United Nations, and we support the general objective of a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution, which, I emphasize this point, will allow the self-determination of the people of the Occidental Sahara," he added. (SPS)