Issues Home About Contact Us Issue 29 - September 2023 عربى
Regional Developments

Habitat Rights in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara

As in the case of other illegal occupations and colonization, Morocco’s invasion and effective control of Western Sahara has accompanied gross violations of human rights, in particular the human right to adequate housing amid the occupier’s practice of dispossession of land, forced eviction, house demolition and plunder of natural resources.

The new publication by The Sahrawi Association in the United States of America (SAUSA) and HIC-HLRN presents the first study of its kind, detailing this typical colonial pattern in the composite of human rights violations constituting the serious  crime of population transfer, which the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals already had prosecuted in the wake of World War II. The report concludes with recommendations, including full reparation of the individual and collective Sahrawi victims, as is their right and entitlement.

The report covers the devices that Moroccan occupation authorities use to dispossess Sahrawis of their lands and homes, including breaching The Hague Regulations’ Article 43-prohibited alteration of the legal system of the occupied territory. For example, by imposing Moroccan law and institutions in Western Sahara, the occupier denies traditional tenure on tribal grarat lands with their palm groves or desert trees such as acacia, which also act as natural storage of scarce water for agriculture and drinking.

The report also chronicles cases of Sahrawi homes demolished by occupying forces. This pattern also illustrates the continuum of losses, costs and damages that the Sahrawi people have incurred under Morocco’s policy of violating the Sahrawi people’s individual and collective human right to adequate housing. The report also recounts is detail the demolition and dispossession of Sahrawi homes and lands throughout the period from 1976 to the present.

These acts parallel Morocco’s forced, coerced and incentivized population-transfer policy with its purpose and effect of demographic manipulation (population transfer in the cross-border context) ahead of any UN-mandated referendum among indigenous Sahrawis to determine the country’s future political status. Meanwhile Morocco’s extractivism continues to deplete natural resources ranging from water and agriculture to the Sahrawi people’s fisheries and mineral wealth, as well as illegally exploiting Western Sahara’s renewable energy potential for its own benefit.

The report concludes with recommendations that states call on Morocco to:

  • Implement its extraterritorial human rights and IHL obligations in Western Sahara;
  • Discharge its duty as occupying Power to protect the Indigenous Sahrawi People’s lives, livelihoods, lands and means of subsistence;
  • Withdraw both its military forces and civil population from all occupied territory;
  • Cease its opposition to the Security Council expanding the mandate of MINURSO to include human rights monitoring;
  • Protect and restore all Sahrawi personal and collective properties under Moroccan occupation;
  • Provide full reparations for all individual and collective losses, costs and damages Sahrawis have endured at Moroccan hands since 1975.

They further demand that all states:

  • “Ensure respect for” the Fourth Geneva Convention and other IHL norms applicable to Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara;
  • Fulfill the erga omnes duty not to recognize, cooperate or transact with the illegal situation by scrupulously avoiding recognition of Moroccan sovereignty claims of the occupied territory, and by preventing all natural and legal persons operating in their jurisdiction and territories of effective control from cooperating with the occupation economy in Western Sahara;
  • Implement peremptory norms erga omnes and their extraterritorial human rights obligations with respect to the Sahrawi people by explicitly recognizing the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination and taking effective measures toward that realization.

To UN bodies, specialized organizations and multilateral institutions, the authors call on:

  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to promptly dispatch a fact-finding mission to investigate the human rights situation in occupied Western Sahara;
  • The Human Rights Council to mandate a Special Rapporteur to report annually under an agenda item dedicated to Western Sahara until the Sahrawi People exercise their self-determination;
  • All international financing institutions, multinational development bodies and climate-finance institutions to scrupulously refrain from supporting activities in Western Sahara without the consent and cooperation of the Sahrawi People’s bona fide representatives.


Download Habitat Rights in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara.


All rights reserved to HIC-HLRN