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Western Sahara: African court gives Benin, Ghana, others 60 days to defend Falana’s suit

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha Tanzania
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha Tanzania

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha Tanzania has given Benin, Ghana, and six others 60 days to respond to the suit filed by human rights lawyer Femi Falana (SAN).

In the letter with reference number AfCHPR/Reg./APPL./028/2018/004 and signed by the court registrar Dr Robert Eno, the court stated that the application was filed against the Respondents who were requested to submit names and addresses of their representatives within 30 days.

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“The Respondents are further requested to submit their Response to the Application within 60 days of receipt of same.”

Falana last year sued eight African Union member states to the court over “the failure of the countries to discharge their legal duty to defend the sovereignty, territorial, integrity and independence of Western Sahara.”

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The case brought on behalf of Bernard Anbataayela Mornah, a Ghanaian citizen and the National Chairman of the Convention People’s Party, a political party in Ghana against Burkina Faso, Cote D’ivore, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, and Tanzania relates “to the legal duty on the defendants to defend the sovereignty, territorial, integrity and independence of Western Sahara.”

The suit with application number 028/2018, read in part: “The territory known as Western Sahara in North Africa was forcefully and illegally colonized by Spain for several years until it pulled out and relinquished its claim as a colonial power over the territory in February 1976 as a result of the violent resistance of the Saharawi people.

“The defendants are members of the African Union which have accepted the competence of the Protocol of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“Despite the illegal occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco not less than 84 countries have accorded diplomatic recognition to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, a member state of the African Union. In Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened militarily to restore democratic governments with the support of the African Union.”

“In line with the provisions of its Constitutive Act, the African Union suspended Niger, Burkina Faso and other member states of the African following unconstitutional change of governments.”

From the facts in support of this application it is indisputable that the defendants are members of the African Union which are bound to comply with its Constitutive Act as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (African Charter) the Protocol on Democracy, Good Governance and Elections of the African Union as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Applicant claimed that the Defendants took part in the decision of African Union to admit Morocco to the African Union when it has not ceased to occupy parts of the territory of Western Sahara, a member state of the African Union.

The Applicant said that by supporting the admission of Morocco to the African Union the defendants deliberately violated articles 3(b), (g), (f) and (g) of the African Union which require them to defend the sovereignty, territory, integrity and independence of the members states of the African Union including Western Sahara.

The defendants, according to them, have colluded with Morocco in the subversion of the basic principles of the African Union to respect the borders existing on achievement of independence.

“To the knowledge of the defendants, Morocco has refused to recognize the border existing between it and Western Sahara when Spain and much later Mauritania pulled out of the colonial territory of Western Sahara in 1976 and 1979 respectively. By occupying parts of the territory of Western Sahara abandoned by Spain, Morocco deliberately refused to respect the borders existing on achievement of her independence.”

“The defendants are aware that the illegal occupation of the parts of the territory of Western Sahara by Morocco has deprived the Saharawi people the opportunity to live in peace, participate in their own government, exploit their wealth and national resources and development in contravention of the provisions of the Article 4 of the Constitutive Act and Articles 13, 20, 21 and 23 of the African Charter and Articles 1 and 2 of the ICCPR which are binding on the defendants.”

According to the Applicant, Morocco has begun to threaten the unity and solidarity of member states of the Defendants by promoting divisive politics. It has disrupted some meetings of the organs of the Defendants by demanding for the expulsion of the accredited representatives of Western Sahara.”

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