domingo, 26 de abril de 2009

Senia vs. phosphate exploitation lawyers: Part I

Saharawi student and activist Senia Bachir Abderhman is demanding answers from the US law firm Covington & Burling, which has been accused of assisting the Kingdom of Morocco in the illegal plundering of phosphates from the occupied areas of the Western Sahara.

The Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) has decried the Washington-based law firm for drafting a legal opinion for its Moroccan government client, OCP, stating that the exploitation of Western Saharan phosphate resources by the Kingdom of Morocco is legal because it benefits the people of the territory.

Senia, a Saharawi refugee from the Western Saharan territories currently occupied by Morocco, would beg to differ. The Saharawi student claims that none of her fellow countrymen benefit from the industry. Senia has demanded that the US law firm to explain how said plunder is assisting the Saharawis.

After Morocco occupied the Western Sahara in 1975, they fired most of the Saharawis working in the phosphate industry, replacing them with Moroccan settlers.

The Kingdom of Morocco currently earns approximately 2 billion dollars a year from the Bou Craa mine in the Western Sahara. At the same time, more than 150,000 Saharawis are forced to suffer in the refugee camps outside of Tindouf, Algeria, where they live on humanitarian aid that is equal to approximately 2.5 percent of those 2 billion dollars.

Covington & Burlington’s analysis of the industry is used by international phosphate importers to legitimize their imports, claiming them to be legal. The confidential analysis is said to prove the local people benefit from the phosphate extraction. Nonetheless, the Saharawi people do not have access to the law firm’s report.

WSRW also sent a letter Covington & Burlington on November 4, 2008, demanding an explanation, but the law firm has yet to respond.

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