Saharawi government condemns Incitec Pivot illegal import of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara

Media Release ~ Communiqué
17 October 2022 – Bir Lehlu, Western Sahara & Sydney, Australia.

The Government of the Saharawi Republic (Western Sahara) today condemned the renewal of the illegal import in plundered phosphate mineral rock to Australia.

On 17 October, a cargo with an estimated market value of more than $15 million AUD arrived aboard a bulk carrier, the m.v. Clipper Isadora, at Geelong. The purchasing company is Incitec Pivot Limited, which has not traded in the Western Sahara commodity in more than five years, at the time the last Australian company to do so. Incitec Pivot Limited has made no public statement about the resumption of purchases and has not responded to inquiries and expressions of concern from Saharawi officials.

Western Sahara is Africa’s last colony. It has been under a United Nations Security Council mandate since 1991 which includes a continuing mission in the territory for a self-determination referendum of the Saharawi people identical to that for the people of East Timor in 1999. In addition, Western Sahara is accepted as occupied under international law, being designated by the UN General Assembly to have such status and most recently confirmed in a September 22 decision of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights. The African Union has also declared Western Sahara to be occupied. As a matter of international criminal law, the export and sale of Western Sahara’s phosphate rock – a non-renewable resource – is a war crime.

In 2017 the Saharawi government pursued civil legal proceedings against separate cargos of phosphate rock, successfully detaining cargo ships in Panama and South Africa. That in South Africa – aboard a ship stopping to refuel – was first thought to be for import by Incitec Pivot Limited. However, such cargo was revealed as bound for New Zealand. In determining the cargo to be the sovereign resource of the Saharawi government and people, the South African High Court observed that Western Sahara is occupied under international law and that Morocco and its state-owned companies could not lawfully purport to sell the commodity.

“It’s illegal as a matter of Australian law, of course, this purchase and import of a stolen resource”, said Kamal Fadel, the Saharawi representative in Australia and the South Pacific. “But it’s morally wrong, too. We live in a time of great concern for people under occupation and who face a daily threat of military action. The tide of human history is struggling to go the other way.” Mr Fadel added, “the illegal import of blood phosphates from the occupied Western Sahara emboldens and encourages the Moroccan regime which is waging a brutal war against our people. This is a war crime.”

Saharawi authorities are considering several possible actions including pursuit of Incitec Pivot Limited in domestic civil and criminal action, and continuing legal proceedings against the Clipper Isadora in countries where the ship may appear, as well as complaints to various United Nations agencies, while also engaging the investor community concerned with Incitec Pivot Limited.

Media inquiries:

Kamal Fadel
[email protected]