Polisario Front takes New Zealand Fund to High Court for investing in illegal imports of Saharawi phosphate

Auckland (New Zealand) 05 Marsh 2020 (SPS)- Polisario Front Representation in Australia and New Zealand declared in a Press Release this Thursday that the Front has initiated a legal case before New Zealand High Court against New Zealand Superannuation Fund, for its investment in imports of illegally mined and imported phosphates from the occupied territories of Western Sahara.

The Sahrawi national liberation movement, Polisario Front, the text stressed, “has commenced legal action as part of its efforts to stop illegal imports of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara to New Zealand. The Polisario Front has applied for judicial review of certain investment decisions by the Guardians of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.”

Polisario says that “these decisions support Morocco’s ongoing illegal occupation of Western Sahara, and the illegal extraction and exportation of Western Saharan phosphate, and are inconsistent with the Guardians’ statutory obligation to manage and administer the Fund in a manner consistent with avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community.

Saharawi Representative, Mr. Kamal Fadel, stated that “the Sahrawi people are determined to protect their natural resources with all available means. This legal action is a message to all who are involved in the exploitation of Sahrawi natural resources that they face legal action, reputational risks and investor withdrawal.”

This application follows successful legal action by the Polisario Front overseas, including the seizure and sale of a cargo of Western Saharan phosphate in 2017 that was transiting through South Africa en route to New Zealand. In that case, the High Court of South Africa found the Sahrawi Government to have ownership of the cargo and observed Western Sahara to be illegally occupied by Morocco through the use of armed force..

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund is a New Zealand Government savings vehicle established to help pre-fund the cost of universal superannuation, or pension, in New Zealand. Its estimated value is over $44.5 billion. The Fund is managed and administered by the Guardians of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, a Crown Entity. The Guardians of the Fund have a statutory obligation to manage and administer the Fund in a manner consistent with avoiding prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community.

The Fund is exposed to occupied Western Sahara through its investments in farms that use Western Saharan phosphate supplied by Ballance, and interests in companies operating in the occupied territory. Since 2012, the Guardians’ international peers, including the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, National Employment Savings Trust (United Kingdom), APG (Netherlands), AP Funds (Sweden), FDC (Luxembourg), and BMO Global Asset Management, have excluded companies that extract resources from Western Sahara for ethical reasons.

The Polisario Front says that the Fund’s continuing investments prejudice New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible member of the world community and is seeking orders that the Guardians reconsider the Fund’s investments that are exposed to Western Sahara.

Western Sahara has been substantially occupied by Morocco since 1975, when Spain relinquished its colony of Spanish Sahara, and allowed Morocco to take military control of the region. The United Nations does not recognise Morocco as the sovereign or administering power of Western Sahara, and in 1975, the International Court of Justice found that Morocco did not have historical ties with Western Sahara that could support a claim to sovereignty.

Today, Morocco occupies around 75% of Western Sahara, and the Polisario Front controls the remainder of the territory. The Polisario Front has been recognised by the United Nations as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara. In 1976, Polisario proclaimed the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as the legitimate government representing the Saharawi people. In 1982 SADR became a member of the Organisation of African Unity, to become in 2001 a Founding Member of the African Union.

Western Sahara is recognised as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations listed in its Decolonisation list, and under international law the Sahrawi people have an inalienable right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources located in their territory.

Located within the Moroccan-occupied area of Western Sahara is a phosphate mine at Bou Craa. Throughout the Moroccan occupation, phosphate has been mined at Bou Craa and exported through the port at El Aaiun (also within the occupied territory) by Phosphates de Boucraa, which is owned by the Moroccan Royal Family.

The annual mining and export of phosphate incentivises Morocco to continue its illegal occupation of Western Sahara and to direct an economy in extension of its annexation of the territory. This encourages Morocco to continue delaying a referendum under the auspices of the United Nations that would allow Western Sahara to assert its independent sovereignty.

Over the past decade, a number of companies worldwide have ceased imports of Western Saharan phosphate on the basis of ethical concerns, and countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States no longer import phosphate from the territory. However, New Zealand companies Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited (Ballance) and Ravensdown Limited (Ravensdown) continue to purchase and import Western Saharan phosphate and, through them, New Zealand is the only remaining importer of Western Saharan phosphate in the western world. (SPS)

090/500/60 (SPS)