sábado, 15 de novembro de 2008

Press release from Australia Western Sahara Association

Shareholders question Wesfarmers over divestment by ethical fund-holders. Phosphate importations from Western Sahara to blame. Press release, 14 November 2008

Australia Western Sahara Association


14 November 2008

A group of Western Sahara friends including Wesfarmers shareholders asked many questions to the management of Wesfarmers during its Annual General Meeting held in Perth on 13 November 2008: http://www.wesfarmers.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=60. The questions concerned the involvement of Wesfarmers subsidiary CSBP in the illegal exploitation of phosphate rock from Western Sahara.

In the course of the past year Wesfarmers' importation of phosphate rock from Morocco, sourced in Western Sahara has troubled ethical investment advisors and fund holders internationally to the point of recommending the divestment of shareholdings in Wesfarmers. The latest is a major Swedish insurance company, Folksam.

There is growing awareness too amongst Australian investors and indeed the current Prime Minister has expressed deep misgivings about this trade.

Wesfarmers' fertiliser subsidiary, CSBP is the second biggest Australian importer of phosphate from Western Sahara. Phosphate rock is sold by Morocco although it comes from Bou Craa mine in the part of Western Sahara under military occupation by Morocco.

"This is the crux of the problem", says Cate Lewis, secretary of the Australia Western Sahara Association (Victoria), "CSBP is buying phosphate from Morocco, which is not Morocco 's to sell. It belongs to the people of Western Sahara."

Believing that shareholders should be made aware of this growing movement of divestment from Wesfarmers, members of the Australia Western Sahara Association asked questions at Wesfarmers' AGM on Thursday in Perth. The Association believes imports should be placed on hold until the referendum of self-determination is held to allow the Saharawi people to decide whether to be an independent country or part of Morocco.

In international law, Western Sahara is a 'non-self-governing territory', whose natural resources can only be traded with the consent and for the benefit of the indigenous people of that territory, in this case the Saharawi people (see Hans Corell's legal opinion: www.arso.org/UNlegaladv.htm). Morocco argues that the revenue is used for infrastructure projects that ultimately benefit the Saharawis however there is little evidence for this and Saharawis have certainly not been consulted about the extraction of their resources nor the distribution of the revenue derived from it.

The ethical argument against this trade is even stronger. It supports a brutal regime which commits human rights abuses on a daily basis against the Saharawi people under occupation. Morocco 's claim to Western Sahara is resisted by the Saharawis and has never been recognised by any country in the world, including Australia. Unfortunately your trade with Morocco effectively legitimises that regime and props up its intransigence in the 33 year-long UN process towards resolving sovereignty.

Around 160,000 Saharawi refugees have lived in exile across the border in south-west Algeria in extremely harsh conditions for this period. It is worth noting that with the price of phosphate rock having risen to 490 USD per tonne, the value of just two shiploads to Fremantle exceeds that of the entire annual humanitarian aid going to the Saharawi refugees.

The President of the Australia Western Sahara Association, former senator, Lyn Allison, wrote to Wesfarmers this week saying: "we urge you to raise the matter at the forthcoming AGM and announce to shareholders that you will cease as soon as possible the importation of phosphate rock sourced from this occupied country." She added: "we will be encouraging investors and shareholders to hold the board of Wesfarmers to account on this unethical and arguably risky trade."

The trend towards ethically sound investment may well grow as a result of recent events in global financial markets.

For Further Information:
Contact Cate Lewis 0407 288 358 or Ron Guy 0428 173 970

You can watch the questions and answers here:

You need to choose the sections:
Formal business at 00:08.00
Formal Business at 00.43.00
Q&A Session at 00.10.00
Q&A Session at 35.00.00

The ABC's 7.30 Report ran a program about phosphate importations from Western Sahara on 9 June 2008. You can watch the 8 min program on:

Saharawi militant Aminetou Haidar receives Robert F. Kennedy Foundation Award

The Saharawi human rights defender and ex-prisoner of conscience, Mrs. Aminetou Haidar, received Thursday in New York, the price of the US Foundation of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.

The legal director of the American organisation, Mrs. Marselha Goncalves Margerin, underlied that the price was awarded to Aminetou Haidar amonst a choice of 120 candidates around the world, "to raise awareness about the Saharawi cause in the US".

The Saharawi activist also won the "Special price of Castellfelds" 2008 (Barcelona), the "Juan Maria Banderas" price in May 2006, as well as the price of the "Club of the 25".

The same year, the Saharawi militant received the American "Freedom awards 2006", by the American "Defense forum foundation".

She also received many other awards such as the "Silver Rose 2007", by the international organisation "Solidar", and was nominated to the EU price « Sakharov » among others.

Born in Western Sahara in 1967, this Saharawi human rights activist who played a key role in the defence of human rights and campaigned for the release of the Saharawi prisoners of conscience and for the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination. She was arrested, tortured and imprisoned many times by the Moroccan forces.

In 1987, she was arrested without judgement and imprisoned in many centres of detention before she was released in 1991.

Touring many countries she alerted the international public opinion as well as the Medias, the serious situation of her country due to the Moroccan colonial occupation.

She also evoked the Saharawi peaceful uprising, qualifying the "expression of the determination of a people who do no more bare the colonial yoke".

Despite "the repressive stringinstaled by the Moroccan authorities since the illegal occupation of Western Sahara in 1975, the "action of the Saharawi human rights defenders succeeded in breaking the wall of silence, unveiling to the world the serious violations of the human rights", she underlined during a tour in France describing "the winds of revolution" when "the popular uprising started in El Aaiun in May 21 2005 because of the abusive transfer of a Saharawi prisoner of conscience from El Aaiun to Agadir".

This prisoner "has rejected the Moroccan nationality that is imposed to us, and rejected his Moroccan identity card", she added.

"The speech, which was confiscated for thirty years, was finally liberated, Mrs. Aminetou Haidar, who "keeps a lot of hope that the struggle of the Saharawi people will continue for the organisation of a un referendum that puts an end to this suffering".

Hundreds demonstrators in Cadiz support Saharawi people’s exercise to self-determination

A demonstration was organised Wednesday in the region of Cadiz following the initiative of the political party of Progress and Democracy (UPD), a source close to the Saharawi representative in Spain.

Hundreds demonstrators and personalities lifted the flags of the Saharawi Republic and chanted slogans in favour of the Saharawi people’s right to self-determination, the same source added.

Demonstrators also called to the stopping of repression in the occupied territories of Western Sahara by Morocco, exhorting Spain "to assume its historical and moral responsibilities towards Western Sahara".

A delegation of Saharawi human rights activists start a visit to the UN

A delegation composed of Saharawi human rights defenders recently arrived to Washington, within the framework of a work visit and to participate to the ceremony of delivery of the Robert F. Kennedy Award to the Saharawi human rights activist and ex-prisoner of conscience.

The delegation is composed of the laureate of the RFK Price, Mrs. Aminetou Haidar, recently elected president of the Collective of the Saharawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA), accompanied by lawyers, Mohamed Lehbib Khalili and Mohamed Fadel Lili, the deputy-president of the ASVDH, Mrs. Jimi Elghalia, and members of the CODESA, Mrs. Fatma Ayach along with Misters Ali salem Tamek, Mohamed El Moutawakil and Mohamed Salem Lakhal.

During the visit Mrs. Aminetou Haidar was received at the centre of Justice and Human Rights. The meeting tackled the ways of action for the defence of human rights in Western Sahara and then latest developments of the question of the last colony in Africa.

The Saharawi human rights activist was also received at the seat of the US Congress, while the other members of the American Foundation RFK Memorial to discuss the deteriorated situation of the human rights in the occupied territories of Western Sahara, in the south of Morocco and in the Moroccan universities.

The American foundation will award Mrs. Aminetou Haidar the Robert F. Kennedy Price during a ceremony that will be organsie in Washington and sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy in recognition to her "struggle in favour of the self-determination in Western Sahara and against the violations committed by the Moroccan government of occupation", it should be recalled.

President of the UN General Assembly: Western Sahara full independence is the only solution

The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Mr. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, asserted that solving the question of Western Sahara will be only by recognizing the right of the Saharawis to self-determination and their full independence, denying that Western Sahara was Moroccan.

In an interview with Al Arabiya television, Mr. d’Escoto said that his efforts are focused on finding a final solution to the question of Western Sahara, emphasizing that Western Sahara was a Spanish colony and has never been a part of Morocco, contrary to what is being circulated by Moroccan diplomacy.

The UN official stated in the same interview that recognizing the rights of the Saharawis will only enable them to gain their full independence, and he added that he is eager to enable them to achieve self-determination.

The UN official returned to talk about the commitments agreed upon between Morocco and the POLISARIO Front but had not been respected, the same official added, in a clear reference to the Baker plan and the UN-OAU settlement plan, as well as United Nations resolutions which affirm the right of the Saharawis to self-determination in a free and fair referendum.

In his response to a question concerning the issue of organizing the referendum on self-determination of the Saharawi people, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann said "I do not know what the future holds after 08 months if you ask me the same question I may not have the answer”.

He continued, "we must not leave this issue in the shadows forever without finding a solution and the way it existed if we would recognize the rights of the Saharawis to self-determination, which is to allow them full independence, because 50 or 60 percent of Western Sahara is under occupation”, adding that recognizing The rights of the Saharawis is essential.