Western Sahara

News in Brief

In September, activists from Environmental Justice Ōtepoti blockaded a New Zealand fertiliser plant on the outskirts of the city of Dunedin.

They were protesting against the use of ‘blood phosphate’ from Western Sahara by Ravensdown, a farmers’ fertiliser co-operative.

Western Sahara has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975. As the phosphate is extracted by a Moroccan state company, OCP, without the consent of the Sahrawi people, it cannot be legally traded.

Protesters from ‘Ravensdown Take Em Down Otautahi’ had greeted the arrival of the Sahrawi phosphate (50,000 tonnes of it) on
1 September on the Amoy Dream at the Port of Lyttelton in Christchurch.

On 5 September, about 20 activists from Environmental Justice Ōtepoti blocked the road out of the Ravensdown fertiliser plant for around an hour, holding a banner saying ‘Free Western Sahara’ across the road.

No European country is currently importing Sahrawi phosphate, but European companies are involved in its transportation (details of UK shipping companies taking part are in PN 2630–2631).

The European Union signed a fisheries agreement with Morocco in March that allows EU boats to fish in the rich Sahrawi waters. This was despite a ruling by the EU court of justice in February 2018 that no fisheries agreement with Morocco could legally include Sahrawi waters.

On 27 July, the Western Sahara Campaign (which brought the fisheries agreement case) published a human rights briefing.

This included the case of Nazha Al Khalidi, a Sahrawi journalist who was arrested last December for live-streaming a demonstration in the Sahrawi capital, Laayoune. Her video showed police beating peaceful protesters.

The demonstration was in support of new talks in Geneva between the Sahrawi liberation movement, the Polisario Front, and Morocco.

Nazha was chased, beaten and arrested and her mobile phone was confiscated.

She was then put on trial for practising journalism without a journalism degree, and she faced up to two years in prison.

Five Spanish lawyers and two Norwegian observers were prevented from attending her trial.

On 8 July, the court drew back from imposing a prison sentence and instead fined Nazha 4,000 dirhams (about £340).

Western Sahara Campaign commented: ‘Nazha’s case is illustrative of Morocco’s systematic repression of press and refusal of entry to international observers and journalists in order to quell coverage of their occupation.’

Topics: Western Sahara