quinta-feira, 5 de março de 2009

Unethical Norwegian Fish Freight Caught Red-Handed

Norwegian Council for Africa: When The Norwegian Council for Africa visited occupied Western Sahara between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we photographed a freighter that later turned out to be Norwegian. The shipping company Atlantic RTI confirmed the fish transport and said they dislike that their ship has been utilised in the occupied area.

By Magnus Bjørnsen
Norwegian Council for Africa
03 March 2009

Trade with occupied Western Sahara is in conflict with the advice of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is also in conflict with the wishes of the occupied Sahrawi population and in violation of international law. The fishing industry in Western Sahara employs Moroccan settlers and contributes to the income of the Moroccan national treasury. The area has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

A ship owned by the Norwegian shipping company Atlantic RTI AS has nevertheless been utilised to transport frozen fish from the occupied country.

The ship Remora 1, to the left in the photograph, is owned by a Norwegian shipping company that so far is not known among the controversial commercial activities in Western Sahara. The photo was taken by Magnus Bjørnsen, Executive Director of The Norwegian Council for Africa, on Christmas Eve of 2008 in the harbour of Dakhla, in the occupied area of Western Sahara. Bjørnsen went to Western Sahara during Christmas to learn more about the conflict.

Chairman of Atlantic RTI, Johann Lønnmark Werner, has confirmed to The Norwegian Council for Africa that their vessel visited Dakhla harbour in December. He dislikes that the ship has been utilised for this purpose. He explained that it is a Dutch bank that now is responsible for operating the ship.

“How do you feel about a ship you own being involved in trade that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among others, advices strongly against?

“I do not like it and would never have been involved in it myself. But in this context we have not played a part that enabled us to participate in the decision. If we had had the right of disposal over the ship and found out about this, then we would not have approved it,” Werner told The Norwegian Council for Africa.

“For a while we rented out the ship to a Greek charterer, but they stopped paying us this autumn – with the result that the Dutch bank HBU took over the operation. Since December 2008 the vessel has been operated by HBU,” Werner said.

“It is good to know that the shipping company acknowledges the ethical dilemmas of this and say that they would not have approved the operation if they had had the possibility,” Ronny Hansen, chairman of the Norwegian Support Committee for Western Sahara, said.

The Support Committee is one of the member organisations of The Norwegian Council for Africa.

“It is also noteworthy that other Norwegian shipping companies in such situations have contacted the charterer and asked them to stop the unethical operations,” Hansen told the Council.

He says that the Support Committee will send a letter to Atlantic RTI, demanding that the shipping company clearly requests their charterers to stay away from the occupied country.

“The Sahrawis are unambiguously against this form of international support for the occupation. Hardly any Sahrawis are employed in the fishing industry, and it is totally controlled by Moroccan authorities and commercial interests. It contributes only to strengthen a brutal and unlawful occupation. The Norwegian shipping companies have a moral obligation to prevent their ships from being utilised to finance the occupation and to support Morocco’s claim for Western Sahara,” Hansen said.

Norwegian Fishing in Occupied Country
One hypothesis is that Remora 1 transported fish that has been fished by the Norwegian fishing company Sjøvik.

The Sjøvik group has been established in the occupied areas for several years, and their fishing for the Moroccans has been covered by the Norwegian media on several occasions. Sjøvik’s involvement has been criticised by a series of Norwegian politicians and organisations and the president of the Western Sahara republic. To the right of Remora 1 on the photograph lies Sjøvik’s fishing boat Midøy Dakhla, which sails under the Moroccan flag in the occupied area.

Sjøvik says that Western Sahara is a part of Morocco. In strong contrast to Atlantic RTI, Sjøvik denies the ethical dilemmas of the activity. The Norwegian Council for Africa tried on several occasions to contact the Sjøvik group in order to visit their fish processing plant in Dakhla, without the request being answered.

It is not known where Remora 1 sailed with its cargo. Most of the fishing export from Dakhla has so far gone to the Middle East or Eastern or Western Europe. The ship carries a Panama flag, IMO number (registration number) 8028321, and has a so-called deadweight tonne of 3987. That means it can carry a cargo of perhaps about 3500 tonnes. It is a refrigerated cargo ship and thus has the capacity to transport frozen fish.

BASF's Global Compact adherence questioned

BASF is member of UN's corporate social responsibility initiative Global Compact. But to Inner City Press, the company still refuses to disclose their "expert opinion" as to why they believe their imports of phosphates from occupied Western Sahara is legal. See video from the UN.

At UN, BASF Dodges W. Sahara Phosphorus Fall-Out, Global Compact's PetroChina Denial

Inner City Press
2 March 2009
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
See more about the question to BASF on the pages of Inner City Press.

UNITED NATIONS, March 2 -- When the UN Global Compact held a meeting on "current anti-corruption efforts by its corporate participants" last week, there were more than a few ironies. Chosen by the Compact as its corporate participant and thus poster-child was the chemical firm BASF. But when Inner City Press asked BASF's chief compliance officer Eckart Suenner about alleged irregularities in his firm's export of phosphate from the contested territory of Western Sahara, and the firm's refusal to make public an expert opinion it claims legitimates the transfer, Suenner dodged the question.

Not only at the press conference on February 26, when he said while he hadn't heard about, BASF has policies on "dual use and stuff," but in the three days since Inner City Press sent him evidence of the refusal of Anne Forst of BASF's "Sustainability Center" to provide the expert opinion, no response from BASF has been received. The inquiry focused on a shipment of 25,000 tons of phosphates from the Bu Craa mines in Western Sahara, carried by the ship Novigrad to the harbor of Ghent.

While the Global Compact claims to be moving toward increased transparency and credibility, its board recently dismissed a detailed complaint against PetroChina and subsidiaries for their activities in Sudan. Faced with widespread protest of the dismissal, the Compact's Sir Mark Moody-Stuart has written that the issue will be re-visited at an upcoming meeting of the Compact's board.

Inner City Press on February 26 asked when this will take place, and for the views on the matter of another participant, Jermyn Brooks, head of Global Private Sector Programs of Transparency International. Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell argued that PetroChina is not a member of the Compact, only its subsidiary CNPC is. Video here, from Minute 17:20.

In fact, the opposite appears to be true. In any event, should Compact participants be hiding behind a shell game of subsidiaries, in which all members of a conglomerate can cite an affiliate's membership in the UN Global Compact, but the most controversial parts of the company can say it was not them who joined?

TI's Jermyn Brooks, who gave a detailed answer to Inner City Press' question about gray money being used to bolster the reeling banking sector, at least admitted he was "ducking" the PetroChina question, saying he doesn't have enough information. When he does, and when the Compact board revisits the question -- Kell would not give a date -- we will have more on these matters.

Heavy criticism in Norway against Fugro-Geoteam

Former chairman of the Nobel Committee, and yesterday’s laureate of Student Peace Prize 2009 criticise the Norwegian-Dutch involvement in oil search in occupied Western Sahara.

The Sahrawi student Rabab Amidane received in Norway the Student Peace Prize 2009. Amidane was selected among 291 nominees from around the world, to receive the prestigious award.

The prize was given to her at a ceremony at the Olavshallen Concert Hall in Trondheim last night. 1200 people attended the two hour ceremony. The ceremony was opened by Trondheim symphony orchestra, which was followed by leading Norwegian artists.

Amidane was awarded for her work to document and spread information about human rights violations in occupied Western Sahara, particularly against Sahrawi students.

Fugro-Geoteam can “completely destroy our hopes for a free homeland in he future”, she said at the acceptance speech. From Rabab Amidane's acceptance speech:
“Western Sahara is a country rich in natural resources. We have a lot of phosphates, fish and possibly oil. The United Nations has stated that no natural resource activity can take place in Western Sahara if the Sahrawis are against it.

In spite of this, international companies work in Western Sahara together with the Moroccan authorities. The industries give income for the Moroccan regime, it provides jobs for Moroccan settlers, and it gives a sign of political legitimacy of the illegal occupation. None of these riches benefit the Sahrawi people. Only Morocco benefits from this. Sadly, companies from Norway have played an important role in this plundering.

The most serious Norwegian involvement is now in the oil industry. If Morocco finds oil in our land, I think that my people’s right to self-determination will be very difficult for us to achieve. But still, a company from Norway, called Fugro-Geoteam, is right now, at this very moment, looking for oil offshore our land. This can completely destroy our hopes for a free homeland in the future.

The Norwegian company Yara, which is sponsor of this festival, last year paid the Moroccan state 40 million kroners for phosphates that are stolen from us. Yara insists their imports have been legal, despite the fact that the UN say it is not. Yara have still not apologised for the trade and not compensated the Sahrawis.

It would of course be impossible to see Fugro-Geoteam or Yara cooperate with Israel on occupied Palestinian land. So one can wonder why they keep doing it in Western Sahara.”

The Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Betty Williams was a key speaker at the ceremony, talking about peace work, and pointing to the human rights violations in Western Sahara. Rabab also met with Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and Shirin Ebadi.

One of the members of the board that selected Amidane for the prize is Mr. Ole Danbolt Mjøs, who from 2003 until 1 January 2009 was the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. In an op-ed in leading Norwegian daily newspaper Dagbladet, Mr. Danbolt, together with Student Peace Prize president, Mr. Thor Richard Isaksen, the same day strongly critisised Fugro-Geoteam.

“Norwegian authorities have, together with most other Western countries, remained silent”, the former Nobel chairman wrote about the occupation of Western Sahara.

“This makes it possible for Norwegian businesses to drain occupied Western Sahara of resources through agreements with Moroccan authorities. One example is the seismic company Fugro-Geoteam, which, according to Norwatch, as late as January this year was involved in oil exploration off the coast of Western Sahara, on assignment from Moroccan authorities. Despite the fact that this is in conflict with advice from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the reactions against such activity are all too weak.”.

European youth umbrella demands fish agreement renegotiation

The Nordic Committee of Co-operating Social Democratic Youth Organisations (FNSU), consisting of organisations from all the Nordic and Baltic countries, demands renegotiation of EU-Morocco fisheries agreement to exclude occupied Western Sahara.

FNSU consists of member organizations from Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. www.fnsu.org

Adopted by the FNSU board meeting 13 February 2009

End the occupation of Western Sahara

Western Sahara, Africa’s last colony, is located south of Morocco. It has been on the UN decolonization list since 1966, when it was a Spanish colony. Since 1975 Morocco has been an illegal occupying power in Western Sahara, in violation of over 100 UN resolutions, which call for the Saharawi's people’s right to self-determination and independence.

A big part of the Saharawi population has been living as refugees in the Algerian desert for over thirty years. Since 1991, when the cease-fire between Morocco and Polisario was signed, the Saharawi struggle for self-determination has been a peaceful one. A referendum, where the Sahrawis would decide on the future status of their country, was scheduled to take place in 1992 but has not yet been held due to the Moroccan intransigence. Despite the Sahrawi question being on the international agenda for over forty years little progress has been shown towards the realization of the Saharawi people’s inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

The situation for the Sahrawis still living in the occupied territories or in Morocco is terrifying. Their human rights are being violated on a daily basis; they are being discriminated against at work or in school, arbitrarily imprisoned, tortured and killed. Over 500 Sahrawis have until this day “disappeared” and are still missing. To deny that Western Sahara belongs to Morocco is considered an attack on the kingdom’s “territorial integrity”. Peaceful Saharawi demonstrations for independence are therefore violently attacked by Moroccan authorities. In a recent report called “Human Rights in Western Sahara and in the Tindouf Refugee Camps “ Human Rights Watch recommends that MINURSO (UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) in its mandate get included human rights monitoring and reporting in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

Not only is Morocco oppressing the Sahrawi people it is also stealing their natural resources despite UN resolutions against prospecting and export of natural resources in occupied areas. The European Union is currently contributing to the plundering of natural resources by having a fishery agreement with Morocco where the occupied territories of Western Sahara is not excluded.
The European Union will provide Morocco with an “advanced status” which will further improve the economic situation for Morocco and integrate it even more with the EU. This decision has been made despite the fact that Morocco is occupying Western Sahara and systematically violating human rights. The territory of Western Sahara must be excluded from all agreements between the European Union and Morocco.

On the basis of the facts presented above FNSU requests:

that all Governments recognize the Saharawi peoples right to self-determination and in the long term SADR (Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic) as a independent state in accordance with international law.
that the mandate of MINURSO (UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara) will include human rights monitoring and reporting in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.
that the present fishery agreement between the EU and Morocco, be suspended and renegotiated in order to exclude the waters off Western Sahara.
that the EU excludes Western Sahara from the current EU-Moroccan advanced status arrangement and that the EU puts pressure on Morocco to guarantee human rights in general and the human rights in Western Sahara in particular.
that the Nordic and Baltic governments put pressure on national and international corporations not to invest in the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

Un navire norvégien transporte illégalement le poisson congelé du Sahara occidental

Chahid Al Hafed, Un nouveau scandale de pillage illicite du poisson congelé du Sahara occidental occupée par le Maroc a été détecté par le Conseil norvégien pour l'Afrique durant sa visite au Sahara occidental occupé entre décembre 2008 et janvier 2009, a indiqué un éditorial publié sur son site internet www.africa.no

La délégation du conseil a photographié un cargo qui plus tard s'est avéré être norvégien. La compagnie maritime Atlantique a confirmé le transport de poissons, déclarant "qu'elle n'aime pas que son navire soit utilisé dans les eaux territoriales du Sahara occidental".

Toute activité commerciale au Sahara occidental occupé est illégale, selon le conseil du ministère norvégien des Affaires étrangères, estimant que cela est en contradiction avec la volonté de la population sahraouie et une violation du droit international.

L'industrie maritime au Sahara occidental emploie uniquement les colons marocains et contribue à renforcer l’occupation brutale et illégale des territoires sahraouis par le Maroc.

"Il est à noter que la compagnie maritime reconnaît les dilemmes éthiques de la question sahraouie a précisé Ronny Hansen, président du Comité norvégien de soutien au Sahara occidental, ajoutant qu’elle n'aurait pas approuvé l'action si elle avait été consulté".

M. Hansen a affirmé" avoir envoyé une lettre à la compagnie Atlantique, exigeant clairement de suspendre ses activités illégales au Sahara occidental», soulignant que d'autres compagnies maritimes norvégiennes avaient contacté l'affréteur et lui ont demandé d'arrêter les opérations contraires à l'éthique " dans ces territoires sous occupation étrangère.