Rabat - On Friday, the High Court in Port Elizabeth, South Africa returned a verdict in favor of the separatist group Polisario, concerning a Moroccan phosphate shipment detained on May 1, 2017, after a Polisario complaint that the cargo was transported illegally from Western Sahara.
Rabat – On Friday, the High Court in Port Elizabeth, South Africa returned a verdict in favor of the separatist group Polisario, concerning a Moroccan phosphate shipment detained on May 1, 2017, after a Polisario complaint that the cargo was transported illegally from Western Sahara.
The judgment, however, was announced in the absence of the Moroccan party involved.
The court decided that the Polisario Front’s Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is the “owner of all the phosphate cargo currently loaded on the NM Cherry Blossom,” noting that “phosphate ownership has never been legally held by the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) and/or Phosphates de Boucraa SA.”
According to the court, the institutions are not authorized to sell phosphate to Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited of New Zealand.
Additional orders issued by the court denied OCP the power to auction cargo and the right to recover the capital costs of the shipment.
Biased Against Morocco?
OCP was certain that the South African court was planning to politicize the case, adding that the decision does not bring any new developments, according to Le360.
OCP does not seem to be outraged over the decision taken by the court. A source within the OCP told Le360 that the decision is positive in many ways. Referring to Polisario, the source said that “the opposing side attempted to sell the 55,0000 tons of phosphate using all possible means and made contacts with all potential actors.” However, according to OCP, “We managed to block these attempts every time,” they were trying to do so. Therefore, “the decision is favorable to us insofar as it stipulates a judicial sale made at the request of the shipowner.”
According to an unidentified source, “Maintaining the amount seized of phosphate has become a source of embarrassment for South Africa, and the decision was taken by default.”
Decision Contradicts UN’s Process
In July 2017, OCP Group refused to participate in South Africa trial “that undermines UN resolution process and international law.”
“This judicial overreach threatens the freedom and security of international trade, while it contradicts core legal concepts and undermines the United Nations (UN) resolution process. Thus, participating in any trial before this forum would give further credit to a process without legal legitimacy,” said OCP group.
The court’s decision contradicts basic principles of international law. The decision also constitutes a “serious and dangerous interference “ that might undermine the negotiation process which has been carried out under the auspices of the United Nations.