Who Else Profits?

The Scope of European and Multinational Business in the Occupied Territories

This study documents the widespread role of some of the world's largest companies in supporting settlement enterprises in the occupied territories. it is an essential companion to the un human rights council's efforts to seek accountability for such activities
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Information about how inclusive this report is and a quick three liner about the report

4

in the occupied territories

26

Countries invested

983$

Billion Dollars in Revenue

41

Companies involved

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in the occupied territories

northern cyprus

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has historically been home to a majority Greek and minority Turkish population. In 1974, Turkish troops invaded the island and over the course of three weeks, took control of approximately 36.4 percent of the island’s territory, leading the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots in the south to flee north and any Greek Cypriots in the occupied northern area to flee south.[1] Seven months after the invasion, in February 1975, the Turkish administration unilaterally deemed the northern portion of the island a “Federated Turkish State,”[2] and eight years later it purported to recognize the independence of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has not received international recognition.[3] De facto, the independence is nominal only, as Turkey is in effective control of North Cyprus territory and has definitive control of most of its affairs. Turkish military bases and a 20,000–40,000 strong Turkish Armed Forces presence, including tank brigades, air defenses, and immediate availability of air force intervention, reinforce this situation. Multiple rounds of United Nations-led negotiations have failed to bring about a resolution, and even the diplomatic process collapsed this year.[4]

Shortly after the invasion, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution “demand[ing] an immediate end to foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus.”[5] The UN Security Council likewise asked all parties involved in the dispute to “refrain from any action which might prejudice [Cypriot] sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment, as well as from any attempt at partition of the island or its unification with any other country.”[6] The UN also declared the TRNC’s subsequent declaration of independence to be invalid, and called upon other states to similarly refrain from recognizing any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.[7] Only Ankara has recognized the TRNC.[8] The European Court of Human Rights, in numerous cases, has found Turkish policy in Northern Cyprus violates the human rights of Greek Cypriots, particularly in matters of dispossession of property.[9]

Turkey has maintained a vigorous settlement enterprise in the occupied territory. Today, the majority of the territory’s population consists of settlers from the mainland. The flow continues, with the population growing by more than 10 percent a year recently, far more than the rate of natural increase. Many housing projects are being built to accommodate the new arrivals in the occupied territory. The settler population is accommodated by massive Turkish infrastructure investment in the area, such as an upgraded airport and direct water supply from the mainland. These projects rely heavily on the participation of foreign firms, whose technical expertise is indispensable. Turkey has also established many universities and tourist resorts that cater specifically to foreign nationals.

The Republic of Cyprus regards direct ties with the TRNC authorities, such as entry through their ports, as illegal.[10] Yet while Cyprus is a member of the European Union—and a state party of the International Criminal Court—many European firms do business with TRNC authorities, or with Turkish firms active in the TRNC. The Human Rights Council itself has released numerous reports on conditions in the north. In none of them has it identified economic activity by Turkish or third-country businesses as an issue even worth noting.[11]

[1] Kypros Chrysostimides, The Republic of Cyprus: A Study In International Law, 2000, p. 117; Frank Hoffmeister, Legal Aspects of the Cyprus Problem, 2006, pp. 36, 37; the Turkish invasion created an estimated 200,000 refugees. Michalis Stavrou Michael, Resolving the Cyprus Conflict: Negotiating History, 2009, p. 39.

[2] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 2, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[3] Declaration of Independence by Turkish Cypriot Parliament on 15 November 1983, appended to Letter from the Permanent Turkish Representative to the UN addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Doc A/38/586 (November 16, 1983).

[4] Helena Smith, “Once-in-a-Generation Hopes of Cyprus Reunification Appear to be Dashed,” Guardian, May 27, 2017,

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/once-in-a-generation-hopes-of-cyprus-reunification-appear-to-be-dashed.

[5] UN Security Council Resolution 353 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/353 (1974) (July 20, 1974); see also UN Security Council Resolution 360 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/360 (1974) (August 16, 1974) (recording “its formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus”).

[6] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 1, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[7] UN Security Council Resolution 541 (1983), UN Doc. S/RES/541 (1983) (November 18, 1983); see also UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984), UN Doc. S/RES/550 (1984) (May 11, 1984).

[8] See Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 816 (1984).

[9] See e.g. Loizidou v. Turkey, 310 Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 13–14, 57 (Dec. 18, 1996). http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=001-58007&filename=001-58007.pdf. See also Case of Cyprus v. Turkey, Application no. 25781/94, pars. 28, 522, 299 (Judgment) (2001). The Court did not consider the legality of the implantation of settlers, but did find their presence connected with a violation of property rights, intimidation and abuse of Greek Cypriots.

[10] Republic of Cyprus MFA, “Visa Policy, http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2016.nsf/All/0E03E0EE9B9833EAC2258022003F023B?OpenDocument.

[11] See, e.g., Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, A/HRC/31/21, February 1, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/015/26/PDF/G1601526.pdf?OpenElement.

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nagorno karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in modern Azerbaijan that has historically had a substantial Armenian majority and used to be home to ancient Armenian kingdoms. Under the Soviet Union, the mountainous region had the status of an “autonomous province” or oblast within the borders and was formally a part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Amidst the ethnic tensions that broke out in the late 1980s with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, the oblast declared its intent to secede from Azerbaijan, with Armenia’s military assistance. This led to a protracted war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in a ceasefire in 1994 and the Armenian army securing Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia also seized control of the Lachin Corridor, a mountainous region that serves as a corridor to the discontiguous Karabakh enclave, as well as a ring of territory around the administrative borders of the erstwhile oblast.

While the Armenian army remains in control of the territory, it is notionally under the authority of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), an entity not recognized by any UN member state except Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh styles itself an independent state, but lacks international recognition and is entirely dependent on Armenian military and financial support. The United Nations, as stated in GA Resolution 62/243, regards Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding region (amounting to approximately 16 percent of Azerbaijan) as Armenian-occupied territory.[1] This view is shared by the United States,[2] the OSCE Minsk Group, which reports on the “Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh,”[3] and the European Court of Human Rights.[4]               

The war displaced nearly one million Azeris from Armenian-controlled territory, and these refugees have not been allowed to return to their homes. Moreover, in recent years the Armenian authorities have implemented a highly organized program to encourage ethnic Armenians to settle in the occupied territories, which Azerbaijan has denounced as a war crime.[5]

Baku prohibits foreigners from entering the occupied territory under Armenian or NKR auspices and vigorously protests foreign business ties with the territory. Nonetheless, a report released by Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry last year documents broad and extensive foreign investment in the territory, as well as exports of its products and exploitation of its natural resources.[6] Baku has repeatedly called on countries and United Nations agencies to take steps against foreign trade with Nagorno-Karabakh,[7] but these calls have never been heeded.

[1] See UN GA Res. 62/243, par 5 (March 14, 2008), which “reaffirms that no State shall recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, nor render aid or assistance in maintaining this situation.”

[2] See CIA World Fact Book: Azerbaijan.

[3] Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. http://www.osce.org/mg/76209?download=true

[4] Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan, E.C.J. (Grand Chamber), Judgment (Merits), par. 23–25 (1995).

[5] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

[6] See Republic of Azerbaijan MFA, Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan, 2016,

http://mfa.gov.az/files/file/MFA_Report_on_the_occupied_territories_March_2016_1.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

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crimea

In early 2014, pro-Russian protests began in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In February, the regional parliament announced plans for a regional referendum on union with Russia. Only a few days later, Russian military forces, supported by local militias, rapidly invaded Crimea, taking over cities and key strategic locations. In March 2014, President Putin signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea into the Russian Federation.          

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, as well as military presence in other parts of Ukraine, have provoked widespread international outrage and condemnation. The annexation has been overwhelmingly denounced as illegal.[1] Ukraine passed a law that declared the territory under Russian occupation and restricted business and movement into the area.[2] The existence of a belligerent occupation does not seem to be in doubt. In many ways, the international response was unusually robust. In particular, the United States and EU responded to Russia’s annexation and ongoing aggression with a series of sanctions, implemented in several stages.[3] These included freezing the assets of key allies of President Putin, an arms embargo, restrictions on access to capital markets, and several other measures targeted at certain Russian individuals and industries.[4] 

Nonetheless, approximately 100,000 Russian settlers have moved into the area since the invasion.[5]  A wide variety of human rights abuses have been documented.[6] Despite the sanctions occasioned by Russia’s annexation, international businesses remain active in the occupied territory.

 

[1] See, e.g., UN GA Res. 68/262 (2014).

[2] “On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” Law of Ukraine, http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/mediafiles/sites/usa/files/2014.05.26_Law_on_occupied_Crimea.pdf.

[3] “EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[4] EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[5] Kontorovich, Eugene, Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories (September 7, 2016). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 16-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2835908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2835908

[6] Sergiy Zayets, Olexandra Matviychuk, et al., "The Peninsula of Fear: Occupation and Violation of Human Rights in Crimea," Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, 2016. 

https://helsinki.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PeninsulaFear_Book_ENG-1.pdf

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine, 16 November 2016 to 15 February 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/UAReport17th_EN.pdf.

International Court of Justice, Pending Cases: "Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation)," (2017).

 http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&p2=1&case=166

 

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Western Sahara

Western Sahara (or the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic–SADR) is located in northwest Africa, with Morocco to its north and Mauritania to the south and east. From the late nineteenth century, Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. As Spain was preparing to decolonize the territory in the early 1970s, Morocco laid claim to it. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded in an advisory opinion that Rabat had no sovereign rights in Western Sahara, and that instead, the indigenous Saharawi people had a right to self-determination.[1]

In response to the ICJ opinion, Moroccan king Hassan II organized a Green March—a massive civilian and military invasion of the territory on November 6, 1974.[2] The Moroccan government took administrative control of the territory and annexed most of it as the “Southern Provinces” of Morocco in 1976.[3] King Hassan, claiming the consent of the Saharawi people, decided to partition and annex Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania. The POLISARIO, a Saharawi national movement, declared Western Sahara’s independence later that same day[4] and began staging attacks against the occupying force. Since then, dozens of countries have recognized the POLISARIO’s proclaimed state, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, as an independent sovereign nation.                                               

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 34/37, declaring Morocco an occupying power and reaffirming the Saharawi’s right to self-determination.[5] The GA continued to pass similarly worded resolutions once a year for ten years thereafter. In addition, the UN Secretary General issued a report calling for a settlement plan that allowed the people of Western Sahara to exercise “their right to self-determination.”[6] More recently, the European Court of Justice affirmed Morocco’s status as an occupier of the territory and dismissed Morocco's claim to legal rights over it.[7]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Morocco began to construct a massive wall berm around the areas of Western Sahara it controlled, stranding tens of thousands of Saharawi in refugee camps in the desert, on the Algerian border. It also commenced one of the world’s most extensive settlement projects. Since its invasion in 1976, “Moroccanization” of the Western Saharan population has been official Moroccan public policy.[8] Over the past forty years, the Moroccan government has spent many billions of dollars on Western Sahara’s basic infrastructure, building airports, harbors, roads, and electricity plants.[9] The government has also offered higher salaries in order to incentivize settlers to move to Western Sahara,[10] and salaries in the occupied territory are double salaries in Rabat.[11] Jobs in the lucrative state-controlled extractive industries go primarily to Moroccans settlers. A combination of subsidies, generous incentives, and intensive government spending has resulted in an influx, according to various past indications, of at least 200,000–300,000 Moroccan settlers into the territory.[12] The results have been dramatic: Moroccan settlers now clearly outnumber indigenous Saharawi, with fatal effects for the latter’s self-determination. Indeed, recent reports suggests that Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara outnumber the Saharawi by two to one.[13]

The Moroccan presence in Western Sahara is widely described as one of the world’s most repressive. The situation of the over 100,000 Saharawi living in desert refugee camps is bleak.[14] As one recent account put it:

For those of us who have actually been to Western Sahara, there is no question that it is an occupation. Any verbal or visual expression of support for self-determination is savagely suppressed. Even calls for social and economic justice can be dangerous. The young sociologist Brahim Saika, a leader of a movement of unemployed Sahrawi professionals demanding greater economic justice, was tortured to death while in Moroccan detention in April 2016. Freedom House has ranked Western Sahara as among the dozen least free nations in the world. Indeed, of the more than 70 countries I have visited — including Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Indonesia under Suharto — Western Sahara is the most repressive police state I have ever seen.[15] 

While the territory is quite impoverished, it is rich in various natural resources, with phosphate mining and fishing constituting its principal industries. There are also significant oil exploration projects underway. Morocco has in recent decades begun to aggressively capitalize on the natural resources of its occupied territory. It has also developed an ambitious plan for investing in various energy projects in the territory, especially solar and wind power.[16] It has frequently done so in partnership with foreign firms, in particular those from the European Union, Morocco’s largest trading partner. Indeed, the EU has entered into controversial treaties with Rabat allowing the EU preferential access to trade, and natural resources in particular, in the occupied territory.

In the coming decade, Morocco says it will invest $7 billion developing its control over the territory through new rail, highway, and air transport facilities, as well as a new seaport, stadium, government buildings, and more.[17] Indeed, international law firms have advised their clients that doing business with Morocco in the territory is not illegal. They have instead lauded its economic opportunities, with one noting that “the territory's greenfield potential and Morocco’s support backed by a positive track record for infrastructure and economic development are factors leading more foreign companies to consider investment or operation in the Western Sahara and within the wider region.”[18]                     

                                               

The POLISARIO and other Saharawi representatives have consistently opposed the involvement of international firms as a violation of international law and as a form of plunder. A coalition of NGOs, Western Sahara Resource Watch, actively documents what it calls the “plunder” of Saharawi resources by Moroccan and foreign firms. Nonetheless, while a few northern European governments have signaled disapproval of such trade, it has never been blocked, sanctioned, or otherwise penalized.

[1] Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975 ICJ Reports 12, October 1975.

[2] Akbarali Thobhani, Western Sahara since 1975 under Moroccan Administration, 2002.

[3] Ibid., p. 58.

[4] Proclamation of the First Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (February 27, 1976), reprinted in African Group of the International League for the Rights & Liberation of Peoples, Western Sahara: The Struggle of the Saharawi People for Self-Determination, 2nd ed., 1979, pp. 194–95 (note the typo in the date); see also Thomas M. Franck, “The Stealing of Sahara,” American Journal of International Law 70 (October 1976): 694, 715, and nn. 135, 136; Deon Geldenhuys, Contested States in World Politics, 2009, p. 190.

[5] GA Resolution 34/37, 5, 7, UN Doc. A/RES/34/37 (November 21, 1979).

[6] UN Secretary-General, The Situation concerning Western Sahara: Report of the Secretary-General, ¶ 16, UN Doc. S/21360 (June 18, 1990).            

[7] See Fronte Polisario v. European Commission, ECJ (General Court) case T-512/12, par. 13, 76 (December 10, 2015).                              

[8] Anne Lippert, “The Human Costs of War in Western Sahara,” Africa Today 34 (1987): 47, 53; Geldenhuys, Contested States, p. 199 (citing Neil Ford, “Oil Potential Could Provide Catalyst for Change,” Middle East 330 [January 2003]: 54).

[9] Geldenhuys, Contested States.

[10] William J. Durch, “Building on Sand: UN Peacekeeping in the Western Sahara,” International Security 17, no. 4 (1993): 151, 164

[11] Jacob Mundy, “Autonomy & Intifadah: New Horizons in Western Saharan Nationalism,” Review of African Political Economy 33 (2006): 255, 262.

[12] Michael Bhatia, “Western Sahara under Polisario Control: Summary Report of Field Mission to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps (near Tindouf, Algeria),” Review of African Political Economy 28, no. 88 (2001), http://www.arso.org/bhatia2001.htm; Jacob Mundy, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Column?” Arab World Geographer 15, no. 2 (January 2012): 95–126.

[13] “Deadlock in the Desert,” Economist, March 10, 2007. The CIA World Factbook puts the SADR’s population today at just over 405,000. Western Sahara, CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wi.html (last visited December 18, 2009).

[14] David Conrad and Micah Albert, “Nowhere Land,” Foreign Policy, June 25, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/25/nowhere-land/.

[15] Nizar Visram, “The World’s Last Colony: Morocco Continues Occupation of Western Sahara, in Defiance of UN,” Modern Diplomacy, March 25, 2017, http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2388:the-world-s-last-colony-morocco-continues-occupation-of-western-sahara-in-defiance-of-un&Itemid=141.

[16] Climate Action, “Masen, Africa-based Climate Bonds Pioneer, Issues Morocco’s First Ever Green Bond,” November 7, 2016, http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/press-releases/masen_africa_based_climate_bonds_pioneer_issues_moroccos_first_ever_green_b.

[17] Dentons, “Investment in Morocco and Opportunities for Companies in the Western Sahara,” February 4, 2016, https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/alerts/2016/february/3/investment-in-morocco-and-opportunities-for-companies-in-the-western-sahara.

[18] Ibid.

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northern cyprus

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has historically been home to a majority Greek and minority Turkish population. In 1974, Turkish troops invaded the island and over the course of three weeks, took control of approximately 36.4 percent of the island’s territory, leading the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots in the south to flee north and any Greek Cypriots in the occupied northern area to flee south.[1] Seven months after the invasion, in February 1975, the Turkish administration unilaterally deemed the northern portion of the island a “Federated Turkish State,”[2] and eight years later it purported to recognize the independence of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has not received international recognition.[3] De facto, the independence is nominal only, as Turkey is in effective control of North Cyprus territory and has definitive control of most of its affairs. Turkish military bases and a 20,000–40,000 strong Turkish Armed Forces presence, including tank brigades, air defenses, and immediate availability of air force intervention, reinforce this situation. Multiple rounds of United Nations-led negotiations have failed to bring about a resolution, and even the diplomatic process collapsed this year.[4]

Shortly after the invasion, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution “demand[ing] an immediate end to foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus.”[5] The UN Security Council likewise asked all parties involved in the dispute to “refrain from any action which might prejudice [Cypriot] sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment, as well as from any attempt at partition of the island or its unification with any other country.”[6] The UN also declared the TRNC’s subsequent declaration of independence to be invalid, and called upon other states to similarly refrain from recognizing any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.[7] Only Ankara has recognized the TRNC.[8] The European Court of Human Rights, in numerous cases, has found Turkish policy in Northern Cyprus violates the human rights of Greek Cypriots, particularly in matters of dispossession of property.[9]

Turkey has maintained a vigorous settlement enterprise in the occupied territory. Today, the majority of the territory’s population consists of settlers from the mainland. The flow continues, with the population growing by more than 10 percent a year recently, far more than the rate of natural increase. Many housing projects are being built to accommodate the new arrivals in the occupied territory. The settler population is accommodated by massive Turkish infrastructure investment in the area, such as an upgraded airport and direct water supply from the mainland. These projects rely heavily on the participation of foreign firms, whose technical expertise is indispensable. Turkey has also established many universities and tourist resorts that cater specifically to foreign nationals.

The Republic of Cyprus regards direct ties with the TRNC authorities, such as entry through their ports, as illegal.[10] Yet while Cyprus is a member of the European Union—and a state party of the International Criminal Court—many European firms do business with TRNC authorities, or with Turkish firms active in the TRNC. The Human Rights Council itself has released numerous reports on conditions in the north. In none of them has it identified economic activity by Turkish or third-country businesses as an issue even worth noting.[11]

[1] Kypros Chrysostimides, The Republic of Cyprus: A Study In International Law, 2000, p. 117; Frank Hoffmeister, Legal Aspects of the Cyprus Problem, 2006, pp. 36, 37; the Turkish invasion created an estimated 200,000 refugees. Michalis Stavrou Michael, Resolving the Cyprus Conflict: Negotiating History, 2009, p. 39.

[2] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 2, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[3] Declaration of Independence by Turkish Cypriot Parliament on 15 November 1983, appended to Letter from the Permanent Turkish Representative to the UN addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Doc A/38/586 (November 16, 1983).

[4] Helena Smith, “Once-in-a-Generation Hopes of Cyprus Reunification Appear to be Dashed,” Guardian, May 27, 2017,

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/once-in-a-generation-hopes-of-cyprus-reunification-appear-to-be-dashed.

[5] UN Security Council Resolution 353 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/353 (1974) (July 20, 1974); see also UN Security Council Resolution 360 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/360 (1974) (August 16, 1974) (recording “its formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus”).

[6] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 1, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[7] UN Security Council Resolution 541 (1983), UN Doc. S/RES/541 (1983) (November 18, 1983); see also UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984), UN Doc. S/RES/550 (1984) (May 11, 1984).

[8] See Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 816 (1984).

[9] See e.g. Loizidou v. Turkey, 310 Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 13–14, 57 (Dec. 18, 1996). http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=001-58007&filename=001-58007.pdf. See also Case of Cyprus v. Turkey, Application no. 25781/94, pars. 28, 522, 299 (Judgment) (2001). The Court did not consider the legality of the implantation of settlers, but did find their presence connected with a violation of property rights, intimidation and abuse of Greek Cypriots.

[10] Republic of Cyprus MFA, “Visa Policy, http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2016.nsf/All/0E03E0EE9B9833EAC2258022003F023B?OpenDocument.

[11] See, e.g., Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, A/HRC/31/21, February 1, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/015/26/PDF/G1601526.pdf?OpenElement.

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nagorno karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in modern Azerbaijan that has historically had a substantial Armenian majority and used to be home to ancient Armenian kingdoms. Under the Soviet Union, the mountainous region had the status of an “autonomous province” or oblast within the borders and was formally a part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Amidst the ethnic tensions that broke out in the late 1980s with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, the oblast declared its intent to secede from Azerbaijan, with Armenia’s military assistance. This led to a protracted war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in a ceasefire in 1994 and the Armenian army securing Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia also seized control of the Lachin Corridor, a mountainous region that serves as a corridor to the discontiguous Karabakh enclave, as well as a ring of territory around the administrative borders of the erstwhile oblast.

While the Armenian army remains in control of the territory, it is notionally under the authority of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), an entity not recognized by any UN member state except Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh styles itself an independent state, but lacks international recognition and is entirely dependent on Armenian military and financial support. The United Nations, as stated in GA Resolution 62/243, regards Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding region (amounting to approximately 16 percent of Azerbaijan) as Armenian-occupied territory.[1] This view is shared by the United States,[2] the OSCE Minsk Group, which reports on the “Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh,”[3] and the European Court of Human Rights.[4]               

The war displaced nearly one million Azeris from Armenian-controlled territory, and these refugees have not been allowed to return to their homes. Moreover, in recent years the Armenian authorities have implemented a highly organized program to encourage ethnic Armenians to settle in the occupied territories, which Azerbaijan has denounced as a war crime.[5]

Baku prohibits foreigners from entering the occupied territory under Armenian or NKR auspices and vigorously protests foreign business ties with the territory. Nonetheless, a report released by Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry last year documents broad and extensive foreign investment in the territory, as well as exports of its products and exploitation of its natural resources.[6] Baku has repeatedly called on countries and United Nations agencies to take steps against foreign trade with Nagorno-Karabakh,[7] but these calls have never been heeded.

[1] See UN GA Res. 62/243, par 5 (March 14, 2008), which “reaffirms that no State shall recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, nor render aid or assistance in maintaining this situation.”

[2] See CIA World Fact Book: Azerbaijan.

[3] Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. http://www.osce.org/mg/76209?download=true

[4] Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan, E.C.J. (Grand Chamber), Judgment (Merits), par. 23–25 (1995).

[5] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

[6] See Republic of Azerbaijan MFA, Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan, 2016,

http://mfa.gov.az/files/file/MFA_Report_on_the_occupied_territories_March_2016_1.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

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crimea

In early 2014, pro-Russian protests began in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In February, the regional parliament announced plans for a regional referendum on union with Russia. Only a few days later, Russian military forces, supported by local militias, rapidly invaded Crimea, taking over cities and key strategic locations. In March 2014, President Putin signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea into the Russian Federation.          

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, as well as military presence in other parts of Ukraine, have provoked widespread international outrage and condemnation. The annexation has been overwhelmingly denounced as illegal.[1] Ukraine passed a law that declared the territory under Russian occupation and restricted business and movement into the area.[2] The existence of a belligerent occupation does not seem to be in doubt. In many ways, the international response was unusually robust. In particular, the United States and EU responded to Russia’s annexation and ongoing aggression with a series of sanctions, implemented in several stages.[3] These included freezing the assets of key allies of President Putin, an arms embargo, restrictions on access to capital markets, and several other measures targeted at certain Russian individuals and industries.[4] 

Nonetheless, approximately 100,000 Russian settlers have moved into the area since the invasion.[5]  A wide variety of human rights abuses have been documented.[6] Despite the sanctions occasioned by Russia’s annexation, international businesses remain active in the occupied territory.

 

[1] See, e.g., UN GA Res. 68/262 (2014).

[2] “On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” Law of Ukraine, http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/mediafiles/sites/usa/files/2014.05.26_Law_on_occupied_Crimea.pdf.

[3] “EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[4] EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[5] Kontorovich, Eugene, Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories (September 7, 2016). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 16-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2835908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2835908

[6] Sergiy Zayets, Olexandra Matviychuk, et al., "The Peninsula of Fear: Occupation and Violation of Human Rights in Crimea," Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, 2016. 

https://helsinki.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PeninsulaFear_Book_ENG-1.pdf

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine, 16 November 2016 to 15 February 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/UAReport17th_EN.pdf.

International Court of Justice, Pending Cases: "Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation)," (2017).

 http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&p2=1&case=166

 

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Western Sahara

Western Sahara (or the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic–SADR) is located in northwest Africa, with Morocco to its north and Mauritania to the south and east. From the late nineteenth century, Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. As Spain was preparing to decolonize the territory in the early 1970s, Morocco laid claim to it. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded in an advisory opinion that Rabat had no sovereign rights in Western Sahara, and that instead, the indigenous Saharawi people had a right to self-determination.[1]

In response to the ICJ opinion, Moroccan king Hassan II organized a Green March—a massive civilian and military invasion of the territory on November 6, 1974.[2] The Moroccan government took administrative control of the territory and annexed most of it as the “Southern Provinces” of Morocco in 1976.[3] King Hassan, claiming the consent of the Saharawi people, decided to partition and annex Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania. The POLISARIO, a Saharawi national movement, declared Western Sahara’s independence later that same day[4] and began staging attacks against the occupying force. Since then, dozens of countries have recognized the POLISARIO’s proclaimed state, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, as an independent sovereign nation.                                               

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 34/37, declaring Morocco an occupying power and reaffirming the Saharawi’s right to self-determination.[5] The GA continued to pass similarly worded resolutions once a year for ten years thereafter. In addition, the UN Secretary General issued a report calling for a settlement plan that allowed the people of Western Sahara to exercise “their right to self-determination.”[6] More recently, the European Court of Justice affirmed Morocco’s status as an occupier of the territory and dismissed Morocco's claim to legal rights over it.[7]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Morocco began to construct a massive wall berm around the areas of Western Sahara it controlled, stranding tens of thousands of Saharawi in refugee camps in the desert, on the Algerian border. It also commenced one of the world’s most extensive settlement projects. Since its invasion in 1976, “Moroccanization” of the Western Saharan population has been official Moroccan public policy.[8] Over the past forty years, the Moroccan government has spent many billions of dollars on Western Sahara’s basic infrastructure, building airports, harbors, roads, and electricity plants.[9] The government has also offered higher salaries in order to incentivize settlers to move to Western Sahara,[10] and salaries in the occupied territory are double salaries in Rabat.[11] Jobs in the lucrative state-controlled extractive industries go primarily to Moroccans settlers. A combination of subsidies, generous incentives, and intensive government spending has resulted in an influx, according to various past indications, of at least 200,000–300,000 Moroccan settlers into the territory.[12] The results have been dramatic: Moroccan settlers now clearly outnumber indigenous Saharawi, with fatal effects for the latter’s self-determination. Indeed, recent reports suggests that Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara outnumber the Saharawi by two to one.[13]

The Moroccan presence in Western Sahara is widely described as one of the world’s most repressive. The situation of the over 100,000 Saharawi living in desert refugee camps is bleak.[14] As one recent account put it:

For those of us who have actually been to Western Sahara, there is no question that it is an occupation. Any verbal or visual expression of support for self-determination is savagely suppressed. Even calls for social and economic justice can be dangerous. The young sociologist Brahim Saika, a leader of a movement of unemployed Sahrawi professionals demanding greater economic justice, was tortured to death while in Moroccan detention in April 2016. Freedom House has ranked Western Sahara as among the dozen least free nations in the world. Indeed, of the more than 70 countries I have visited — including Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Indonesia under Suharto — Western Sahara is the most repressive police state I have ever seen.[15] 

While the territory is quite impoverished, it is rich in various natural resources, with phosphate mining and fishing constituting its principal industries. There are also significant oil exploration projects underway. Morocco has in recent decades begun to aggressively capitalize on the natural resources of its occupied territory. It has also developed an ambitious plan for investing in various energy projects in the territory, especially solar and wind power.[16] It has frequently done so in partnership with foreign firms, in particular those from the European Union, Morocco’s largest trading partner. Indeed, the EU has entered into controversial treaties with Rabat allowing the EU preferential access to trade, and natural resources in particular, in the occupied territory.

In the coming decade, Morocco says it will invest $7 billion developing its control over the territory through new rail, highway, and air transport facilities, as well as a new seaport, stadium, government buildings, and more.[17] Indeed, international law firms have advised their clients that doing business with Morocco in the territory is not illegal. They have instead lauded its economic opportunities, with one noting that “the territory's greenfield potential and Morocco’s support backed by a positive track record for infrastructure and economic development are factors leading more foreign companies to consider investment or operation in the Western Sahara and within the wider region.”[18]                     

                                               

The POLISARIO and other Saharawi representatives have consistently opposed the involvement of international firms as a violation of international law and as a form of plunder. A coalition of NGOs, Western Sahara Resource Watch, actively documents what it calls the “plunder” of Saharawi resources by Moroccan and foreign firms. Nonetheless, while a few northern European governments have signaled disapproval of such trade, it has never been blocked, sanctioned, or otherwise penalized.

[1] Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975 ICJ Reports 12, October 1975.

[2] Akbarali Thobhani, Western Sahara since 1975 under Moroccan Administration, 2002.

[3] Ibid., p. 58.

[4] Proclamation of the First Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (February 27, 1976), reprinted in African Group of the International League for the Rights & Liberation of Peoples, Western Sahara: The Struggle of the Saharawi People for Self-Determination, 2nd ed., 1979, pp. 194–95 (note the typo in the date); see also Thomas M. Franck, “The Stealing of Sahara,” American Journal of International Law 70 (October 1976): 694, 715, and nn. 135, 136; Deon Geldenhuys, Contested States in World Politics, 2009, p. 190.

[5] GA Resolution 34/37, 5, 7, UN Doc. A/RES/34/37 (November 21, 1979).

[6] UN Secretary-General, The Situation concerning Western Sahara: Report of the Secretary-General, ¶ 16, UN Doc. S/21360 (June 18, 1990).            

[7] See Fronte Polisario v. European Commission, ECJ (General Court) case T-512/12, par. 13, 76 (December 10, 2015).                              

[8] Anne Lippert, “The Human Costs of War in Western Sahara,” Africa Today 34 (1987): 47, 53; Geldenhuys, Contested States, p. 199 (citing Neil Ford, “Oil Potential Could Provide Catalyst for Change,” Middle East 330 [January 2003]: 54).

[9] Geldenhuys, Contested States.

[10] William J. Durch, “Building on Sand: UN Peacekeeping in the Western Sahara,” International Security 17, no. 4 (1993): 151, 164

[11] Jacob Mundy, “Autonomy & Intifadah: New Horizons in Western Saharan Nationalism,” Review of African Political Economy 33 (2006): 255, 262.

[12] Michael Bhatia, “Western Sahara under Polisario Control: Summary Report of Field Mission to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps (near Tindouf, Algeria),” Review of African Political Economy 28, no. 88 (2001), http://www.arso.org/bhatia2001.htm; Jacob Mundy, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Column?” Arab World Geographer 15, no. 2 (January 2012): 95–126.

[13] “Deadlock in the Desert,” Economist, March 10, 2007. The CIA World Factbook puts the SADR’s population today at just over 405,000. Western Sahara, CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wi.html (last visited December 18, 2009).

[14] David Conrad and Micah Albert, “Nowhere Land,” Foreign Policy, June 25, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/25/nowhere-land/.

[15] Nizar Visram, “The World’s Last Colony: Morocco Continues Occupation of Western Sahara, in Defiance of UN,” Modern Diplomacy, March 25, 2017, http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2388:the-world-s-last-colony-morocco-continues-occupation-of-western-sahara-in-defiance-of-un&Itemid=141.

[16] Climate Action, “Masen, Africa-based Climate Bonds Pioneer, Issues Morocco’s First Ever Green Bond,” November 7, 2016, http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/press-releases/masen_africa_based_climate_bonds_pioneer_issues_moroccos_first_ever_green_b.

[17] Dentons, “Investment in Morocco and Opportunities for Companies in the Western Sahara,” February 4, 2016, https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/alerts/2016/february/3/investment-in-morocco-and-opportunities-for-companies-in-the-western-sahara.

[18] Ibid.

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northern cyprus

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has historically been home to a majority Greek and minority Turkish population. In 1974, Turkish troops invaded the island and over the course of three weeks, took control of approximately 36.4 percent of the island’s territory, leading the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots in the south to flee north and any Greek Cypriots in the occupied northern area to flee south.[1] Seven months after the invasion, in February 1975, the Turkish administration unilaterally deemed the northern portion of the island a “Federated Turkish State,”[2] and eight years later it purported to recognize the independence of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has not received international recognition.[3] De facto, the independence is nominal only, as Turkey is in effective control of North Cyprus territory and has definitive control of most of its affairs. Turkish military bases and a 20,000–40,000 strong Turkish Armed Forces presence, including tank brigades, air defenses, and immediate availability of air force intervention, reinforce this situation. Multiple rounds of United Nations-led negotiations have failed to bring about a resolution, and even the diplomatic process collapsed this year.[4]

Shortly after the invasion, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution “demand[ing] an immediate end to foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus.”[5] The UN Security Council likewise asked all parties involved in the dispute to “refrain from any action which might prejudice [Cypriot] sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment, as well as from any attempt at partition of the island or its unification with any other country.”[6] The UN also declared the TRNC’s subsequent declaration of independence to be invalid, and called upon other states to similarly refrain from recognizing any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.[7] Only Ankara has recognized the TRNC.[8] The European Court of Human Rights, in numerous cases, has found Turkish policy in Northern Cyprus violates the human rights of Greek Cypriots, particularly in matters of dispossession of property.[9]

Turkey has maintained a vigorous settlement enterprise in the occupied territory. Today, the majority of the territory’s population consists of settlers from the mainland. The flow continues, with the population growing by more than 10 percent a year recently, far more than the rate of natural increase. Many housing projects are being built to accommodate the new arrivals in the occupied territory. The settler population is accommodated by massive Turkish infrastructure investment in the area, such as an upgraded airport and direct water supply from the mainland. These projects rely heavily on the participation of foreign firms, whose technical expertise is indispensable. Turkey has also established many universities and tourist resorts that cater specifically to foreign nationals.

The Republic of Cyprus regards direct ties with the TRNC authorities, such as entry through their ports, as illegal.[10] Yet while Cyprus is a member of the European Union—and a state party of the International Criminal Court—many European firms do business with TRNC authorities, or with Turkish firms active in the TRNC. The Human Rights Council itself has released numerous reports on conditions in the north. In none of them has it identified economic activity by Turkish or third-country businesses as an issue even worth noting.[11]

[1] Kypros Chrysostimides, The Republic of Cyprus: A Study In International Law, 2000, p. 117; Frank Hoffmeister, Legal Aspects of the Cyprus Problem, 2006, pp. 36, 37; the Turkish invasion created an estimated 200,000 refugees. Michalis Stavrou Michael, Resolving the Cyprus Conflict: Negotiating History, 2009, p. 39.

[2] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 2, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[3] Declaration of Independence by Turkish Cypriot Parliament on 15 November 1983, appended to Letter from the Permanent Turkish Representative to the UN addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Doc A/38/586 (November 16, 1983).

[4] Helena Smith, “Once-in-a-Generation Hopes of Cyprus Reunification Appear to be Dashed,” Guardian, May 27, 2017,

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/once-in-a-generation-hopes-of-cyprus-reunification-appear-to-be-dashed.

[5] UN Security Council Resolution 353 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/353 (1974) (July 20, 1974); see also UN Security Council Resolution 360 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/360 (1974) (August 16, 1974) (recording “its formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus”).

[6] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 1, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[7] UN Security Council Resolution 541 (1983), UN Doc. S/RES/541 (1983) (November 18, 1983); see also UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984), UN Doc. S/RES/550 (1984) (May 11, 1984).

[8] See Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 816 (1984).

[9] See e.g. Loizidou v. Turkey, 310 Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 13–14, 57 (Dec. 18, 1996). http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=001-58007&filename=001-58007.pdf. See also Case of Cyprus v. Turkey, Application no. 25781/94, pars. 28, 522, 299 (Judgment) (2001). The Court did not consider the legality of the implantation of settlers, but did find their presence connected with a violation of property rights, intimidation and abuse of Greek Cypriots.

[10] Republic of Cyprus MFA, “Visa Policy, http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2016.nsf/All/0E03E0EE9B9833EAC2258022003F023B?OpenDocument.

[11] See, e.g., Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, A/HRC/31/21, February 1, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/015/26/PDF/G1601526.pdf?OpenElement.

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nagorno karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in modern Azerbaijan that has historically had a substantial Armenian majority and used to be home to ancient Armenian kingdoms. Under the Soviet Union, the mountainous region had the status of an “autonomous province” or oblast within the borders and was formally a part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Amidst the ethnic tensions that broke out in the late 1980s with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, the oblast declared its intent to secede from Azerbaijan, with Armenia’s military assistance. This led to a protracted war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in a ceasefire in 1994 and the Armenian army securing Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia also seized control of the Lachin Corridor, a mountainous region that serves as a corridor to the discontiguous Karabakh enclave, as well as a ring of territory around the administrative borders of the erstwhile oblast.

While the Armenian army remains in control of the territory, it is notionally under the authority of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), an entity not recognized by any UN member state except Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh styles itself an independent state, but lacks international recognition and is entirely dependent on Armenian military and financial support. The United Nations, as stated in GA Resolution 62/243, regards Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding region (amounting to approximately 16 percent of Azerbaijan) as Armenian-occupied territory.[1] This view is shared by the United States,[2] the OSCE Minsk Group, which reports on the “Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh,”[3] and the European Court of Human Rights.[4]               

The war displaced nearly one million Azeris from Armenian-controlled territory, and these refugees have not been allowed to return to their homes. Moreover, in recent years the Armenian authorities have implemented a highly organized program to encourage ethnic Armenians to settle in the occupied territories, which Azerbaijan has denounced as a war crime.[5]

Baku prohibits foreigners from entering the occupied territory under Armenian or NKR auspices and vigorously protests foreign business ties with the territory. Nonetheless, a report released by Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry last year documents broad and extensive foreign investment in the territory, as well as exports of its products and exploitation of its natural resources.[6] Baku has repeatedly called on countries and United Nations agencies to take steps against foreign trade with Nagorno-Karabakh,[7] but these calls have never been heeded.

[1] See UN GA Res. 62/243, par 5 (March 14, 2008), which “reaffirms that no State shall recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, nor render aid or assistance in maintaining this situation.”

[2] See CIA World Fact Book: Azerbaijan.

[3] Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. http://www.osce.org/mg/76209?download=true

[4] Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan, E.C.J. (Grand Chamber), Judgment (Merits), par. 23–25 (1995).

[5] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

[6] See Republic of Azerbaijan MFA, Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan, 2016,

http://mfa.gov.az/files/file/MFA_Report_on_the_occupied_territories_March_2016_1.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

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crimea

In early 2014, pro-Russian protests began in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In February, the regional parliament announced plans for a regional referendum on union with Russia. Only a few days later, Russian military forces, supported by local militias, rapidly invaded Crimea, taking over cities and key strategic locations. In March 2014, President Putin signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea into the Russian Federation.          

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, as well as military presence in other parts of Ukraine, have provoked widespread international outrage and condemnation. The annexation has been overwhelmingly denounced as illegal.[1] Ukraine passed a law that declared the territory under Russian occupation and restricted business and movement into the area.[2] The existence of a belligerent occupation does not seem to be in doubt. In many ways, the international response was unusually robust. In particular, the United States and EU responded to Russia’s annexation and ongoing aggression with a series of sanctions, implemented in several stages.[3] These included freezing the assets of key allies of President Putin, an arms embargo, restrictions on access to capital markets, and several other measures targeted at certain Russian individuals and industries.[4] 

Nonetheless, approximately 100,000 Russian settlers have moved into the area since the invasion.[5]  A wide variety of human rights abuses have been documented.[6] Despite the sanctions occasioned by Russia’s annexation, international businesses remain active in the occupied territory.

 

[1] See, e.g., UN GA Res. 68/262 (2014).

[2] “On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” Law of Ukraine, http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/mediafiles/sites/usa/files/2014.05.26_Law_on_occupied_Crimea.pdf.

[3] “EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[4] EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[5] Kontorovich, Eugene, Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories (September 7, 2016). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 16-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2835908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2835908

[6] Sergiy Zayets, Olexandra Matviychuk, et al., "The Peninsula of Fear: Occupation and Violation of Human Rights in Crimea," Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, 2016. 

https://helsinki.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PeninsulaFear_Book_ENG-1.pdf

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine, 16 November 2016 to 15 February 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/UAReport17th_EN.pdf.

International Court of Justice, Pending Cases: "Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation)," (2017).

 http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&p2=1&case=166

 

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Western Sahara

Western Sahara (or the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic–SADR) is located in northwest Africa, with Morocco to its north and Mauritania to the south and east. From the late nineteenth century, Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. As Spain was preparing to decolonize the territory in the early 1970s, Morocco laid claim to it. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded in an advisory opinion that Rabat had no sovereign rights in Western Sahara, and that instead, the indigenous Saharawi people had a right to self-determination.[1]

In response to the ICJ opinion, Moroccan king Hassan II organized a Green March—a massive civilian and military invasion of the territory on November 6, 1974.[2] The Moroccan government took administrative control of the territory and annexed most of it as the “Southern Provinces” of Morocco in 1976.[3] King Hassan, claiming the consent of the Saharawi people, decided to partition and annex Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania. The POLISARIO, a Saharawi national movement, declared Western Sahara’s independence later that same day[4] and began staging attacks against the occupying force. Since then, dozens of countries have recognized the POLISARIO’s proclaimed state, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, as an independent sovereign nation.                                               

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 34/37, declaring Morocco an occupying power and reaffirming the Saharawi’s right to self-determination.[5] The GA continued to pass similarly worded resolutions once a year for ten years thereafter. In addition, the UN Secretary General issued a report calling for a settlement plan that allowed the people of Western Sahara to exercise “their right to self-determination.”[6] More recently, the European Court of Justice affirmed Morocco’s status as an occupier of the territory and dismissed Morocco's claim to legal rights over it.[7]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Morocco began to construct a massive wall berm around the areas of Western Sahara it controlled, stranding tens of thousands of Saharawi in refugee camps in the desert, on the Algerian border. It also commenced one of the world’s most extensive settlement projects. Since its invasion in 1976, “Moroccanization” of the Western Saharan population has been official Moroccan public policy.[8] Over the past forty years, the Moroccan government has spent many billions of dollars on Western Sahara’s basic infrastructure, building airports, harbors, roads, and electricity plants.[9] The government has also offered higher salaries in order to incentivize settlers to move to Western Sahara,[10] and salaries in the occupied territory are double salaries in Rabat.[11] Jobs in the lucrative state-controlled extractive industries go primarily to Moroccans settlers. A combination of subsidies, generous incentives, and intensive government spending has resulted in an influx, according to various past indications, of at least 200,000–300,000 Moroccan settlers into the territory.[12] The results have been dramatic: Moroccan settlers now clearly outnumber indigenous Saharawi, with fatal effects for the latter’s self-determination. Indeed, recent reports suggests that Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara outnumber the Saharawi by two to one.[13]

The Moroccan presence in Western Sahara is widely described as one of the world’s most repressive. The situation of the over 100,000 Saharawi living in desert refugee camps is bleak.[14] As one recent account put it:

For those of us who have actually been to Western Sahara, there is no question that it is an occupation. Any verbal or visual expression of support for self-determination is savagely suppressed. Even calls for social and economic justice can be dangerous. The young sociologist Brahim Saika, a leader of a movement of unemployed Sahrawi professionals demanding greater economic justice, was tortured to death while in Moroccan detention in April 2016. Freedom House has ranked Western Sahara as among the dozen least free nations in the world. Indeed, of the more than 70 countries I have visited — including Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Indonesia under Suharto — Western Sahara is the most repressive police state I have ever seen.[15] 

While the territory is quite impoverished, it is rich in various natural resources, with phosphate mining and fishing constituting its principal industries. There are also significant oil exploration projects underway. Morocco has in recent decades begun to aggressively capitalize on the natural resources of its occupied territory. It has also developed an ambitious plan for investing in various energy projects in the territory, especially solar and wind power.[16] It has frequently done so in partnership with foreign firms, in particular those from the European Union, Morocco’s largest trading partner. Indeed, the EU has entered into controversial treaties with Rabat allowing the EU preferential access to trade, and natural resources in particular, in the occupied territory.

In the coming decade, Morocco says it will invest $7 billion developing its control over the territory through new rail, highway, and air transport facilities, as well as a new seaport, stadium, government buildings, and more.[17] Indeed, international law firms have advised their clients that doing business with Morocco in the territory is not illegal. They have instead lauded its economic opportunities, with one noting that “the territory's greenfield potential and Morocco’s support backed by a positive track record for infrastructure and economic development are factors leading more foreign companies to consider investment or operation in the Western Sahara and within the wider region.”[18]                     

                                               

The POLISARIO and other Saharawi representatives have consistently opposed the involvement of international firms as a violation of international law and as a form of plunder. A coalition of NGOs, Western Sahara Resource Watch, actively documents what it calls the “plunder” of Saharawi resources by Moroccan and foreign firms. Nonetheless, while a few northern European governments have signaled disapproval of such trade, it has never been blocked, sanctioned, or otherwise penalized.

[1] Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975 ICJ Reports 12, October 1975.

[2] Akbarali Thobhani, Western Sahara since 1975 under Moroccan Administration, 2002.

[3] Ibid., p. 58.

[4] Proclamation of the First Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (February 27, 1976), reprinted in African Group of the International League for the Rights & Liberation of Peoples, Western Sahara: The Struggle of the Saharawi People for Self-Determination, 2nd ed., 1979, pp. 194–95 (note the typo in the date); see also Thomas M. Franck, “The Stealing of Sahara,” American Journal of International Law 70 (October 1976): 694, 715, and nn. 135, 136; Deon Geldenhuys, Contested States in World Politics, 2009, p. 190.

[5] GA Resolution 34/37, 5, 7, UN Doc. A/RES/34/37 (November 21, 1979).

[6] UN Secretary-General, The Situation concerning Western Sahara: Report of the Secretary-General, ¶ 16, UN Doc. S/21360 (June 18, 1990).            

[7] See Fronte Polisario v. European Commission, ECJ (General Court) case T-512/12, par. 13, 76 (December 10, 2015).                              

[8] Anne Lippert, “The Human Costs of War in Western Sahara,” Africa Today 34 (1987): 47, 53; Geldenhuys, Contested States, p. 199 (citing Neil Ford, “Oil Potential Could Provide Catalyst for Change,” Middle East 330 [January 2003]: 54).

[9] Geldenhuys, Contested States.

[10] William J. Durch, “Building on Sand: UN Peacekeeping in the Western Sahara,” International Security 17, no. 4 (1993): 151, 164

[11] Jacob Mundy, “Autonomy & Intifadah: New Horizons in Western Saharan Nationalism,” Review of African Political Economy 33 (2006): 255, 262.

[12] Michael Bhatia, “Western Sahara under Polisario Control: Summary Report of Field Mission to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps (near Tindouf, Algeria),” Review of African Political Economy 28, no. 88 (2001), http://www.arso.org/bhatia2001.htm; Jacob Mundy, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Column?” Arab World Geographer 15, no. 2 (January 2012): 95–126.

[13] “Deadlock in the Desert,” Economist, March 10, 2007. The CIA World Factbook puts the SADR’s population today at just over 405,000. Western Sahara, CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wi.html (last visited December 18, 2009).

[14] David Conrad and Micah Albert, “Nowhere Land,” Foreign Policy, June 25, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/25/nowhere-land/.

[15] Nizar Visram, “The World’s Last Colony: Morocco Continues Occupation of Western Sahara, in Defiance of UN,” Modern Diplomacy, March 25, 2017, http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2388:the-world-s-last-colony-morocco-continues-occupation-of-western-sahara-in-defiance-of-un&Itemid=141.

[16] Climate Action, “Masen, Africa-based Climate Bonds Pioneer, Issues Morocco’s First Ever Green Bond,” November 7, 2016, http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/press-releases/masen_africa_based_climate_bonds_pioneer_issues_moroccos_first_ever_green_b.

[17] Dentons, “Investment in Morocco and Opportunities for Companies in the Western Sahara,” February 4, 2016, https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/alerts/2016/february/3/investment-in-morocco-and-opportunities-for-companies-in-the-western-sahara.

[18] Ibid.

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northern cyprus

The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has historically been home to a majority Greek and minority Turkish population. In 1974, Turkish troops invaded the island and over the course of three weeks, took control of approximately 36.4 percent of the island’s territory, leading the vast majority of Turkish Cypriots in the south to flee north and any Greek Cypriots in the occupied northern area to flee south.[1] Seven months after the invasion, in February 1975, the Turkish administration unilaterally deemed the northern portion of the island a “Federated Turkish State,”[2] and eight years later it purported to recognize the independence of a Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which has not received international recognition.[3] De facto, the independence is nominal only, as Turkey is in effective control of North Cyprus territory and has definitive control of most of its affairs. Turkish military bases and a 20,000–40,000 strong Turkish Armed Forces presence, including tank brigades, air defenses, and immediate availability of air force intervention, reinforce this situation. Multiple rounds of United Nations-led negotiations have failed to bring about a resolution, and even the diplomatic process collapsed this year.[4]

Shortly after the invasion, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution “demand[ing] an immediate end to foreign military intervention in the Republic of Cyprus.”[5] The UN Security Council likewise asked all parties involved in the dispute to “refrain from any action which might prejudice [Cypriot] sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment, as well as from any attempt at partition of the island or its unification with any other country.”[6] The UN also declared the TRNC’s subsequent declaration of independence to be invalid, and called upon other states to similarly refrain from recognizing any Cypriot state other than the Republic of Cyprus.[7] Only Ankara has recognized the TRNC.[8] The European Court of Human Rights, in numerous cases, has found Turkish policy in Northern Cyprus violates the human rights of Greek Cypriots, particularly in matters of dispossession of property.[9]

Turkey has maintained a vigorous settlement enterprise in the occupied territory. Today, the majority of the territory’s population consists of settlers from the mainland. The flow continues, with the population growing by more than 10 percent a year recently, far more than the rate of natural increase. Many housing projects are being built to accommodate the new arrivals in the occupied territory. The settler population is accommodated by massive Turkish infrastructure investment in the area, such as an upgraded airport and direct water supply from the mainland. These projects rely heavily on the participation of foreign firms, whose technical expertise is indispensable. Turkey has also established many universities and tourist resorts that cater specifically to foreign nationals.

The Republic of Cyprus regards direct ties with the TRNC authorities, such as entry through their ports, as illegal.[10] Yet while Cyprus is a member of the European Union—and a state party of the International Criminal Court—many European firms do business with TRNC authorities, or with Turkish firms active in the TRNC. The Human Rights Council itself has released numerous reports on conditions in the north. In none of them has it identified economic activity by Turkish or third-country businesses as an issue even worth noting.[11]

[1] Kypros Chrysostimides, The Republic of Cyprus: A Study In International Law, 2000, p. 117; Frank Hoffmeister, Legal Aspects of the Cyprus Problem, 2006, pp. 36, 37; the Turkish invasion created an estimated 200,000 refugees. Michalis Stavrou Michael, Resolving the Cyprus Conflict: Negotiating History, 2009, p. 39.

[2] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 2, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[3] Declaration of Independence by Turkish Cypriot Parliament on 15 November 1983, appended to Letter from the Permanent Turkish Representative to the UN addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Doc A/38/586 (November 16, 1983).

[4] Helena Smith, “Once-in-a-Generation Hopes of Cyprus Reunification Appear to be Dashed,” Guardian, May 27, 2017,

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/27/once-in-a-generation-hopes-of-cyprus-reunification-appear-to-be-dashed.

[5] UN Security Council Resolution 353 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/353 (1974) (July 20, 1974); see also UN Security Council Resolution 360 (XXIX), UN Doc. S/RES/360 (1974) (August 16, 1974) (recording “its formal disapproval of the unilateral military actions undertaken against the Republic of Cyprus”).

[6] UN Security Council Resolution 367 (1975) ¶ 1, UN Doc. S/RES/367 (March 12, 1975).

[7] UN Security Council Resolution 541 (1983), UN Doc. S/RES/541 (1983) (November 18, 1983); see also UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984), UN Doc. S/RES/550 (1984) (May 11, 1984).

[8] See Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 816 (1984).

[9] See e.g. Loizidou v. Turkey, 310 Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 13–14, 57 (Dec. 18, 1996). http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/app/conversion/pdf/?library=ECHR&id=001-58007&filename=001-58007.pdf. See also Case of Cyprus v. Turkey, Application no. 25781/94, pars. 28, 522, 299 (Judgment) (2001). The Court did not consider the legality of the implantation of settlers, but did find their presence connected with a violation of property rights, intimidation and abuse of Greek Cypriots.

[10] Republic of Cyprus MFA, “Visa Policy, http://www.mfa.gov.cy/mfa/mfa2016.nsf/All/0E03E0EE9B9833EAC2258022003F023B?OpenDocument.

[11] See, e.g., Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Question of Human Rights in Cyprus, A/HRC/31/21, February 1, 2016, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G16/015/26/PDF/G1601526.pdf?OpenElement.

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nagorno karabakh

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region in modern Azerbaijan that has historically had a substantial Armenian majority and used to be home to ancient Armenian kingdoms. Under the Soviet Union, the mountainous region had the status of an “autonomous province” or oblast within the borders and was formally a part of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. Amidst the ethnic tensions that broke out in the late 1980s with the impending collapse of the Soviet Union, the oblast declared its intent to secede from Azerbaijan, with Armenia’s military assistance. This led to a protracted war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that resulted in a ceasefire in 1994 and the Armenian army securing Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia also seized control of the Lachin Corridor, a mountainous region that serves as a corridor to the discontiguous Karabakh enclave, as well as a ring of territory around the administrative borders of the erstwhile oblast.

While the Armenian army remains in control of the territory, it is notionally under the authority of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), an entity not recognized by any UN member state except Armenia. Nagorno-Karabakh styles itself an independent state, but lacks international recognition and is entirely dependent on Armenian military and financial support. The United Nations, as stated in GA Resolution 62/243, regards Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding region (amounting to approximately 16 percent of Azerbaijan) as Armenian-occupied territory.[1] This view is shared by the United States,[2] the OSCE Minsk Group, which reports on the “Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh,”[3] and the European Court of Human Rights.[4]               

The war displaced nearly one million Azeris from Armenian-controlled territory, and these refugees have not been allowed to return to their homes. Moreover, in recent years the Armenian authorities have implemented a highly organized program to encourage ethnic Armenians to settle in the occupied territories, which Azerbaijan has denounced as a war crime.[5]

Baku prohibits foreigners from entering the occupied territory under Armenian or NKR auspices and vigorously protests foreign business ties with the territory. Nonetheless, a report released by Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry last year documents broad and extensive foreign investment in the territory, as well as exports of its products and exploitation of its natural resources.[6] Baku has repeatedly called on countries and United Nations agencies to take steps against foreign trade with Nagorno-Karabakh,[7] but these calls have never been heeded.

[1] See UN GA Res. 62/243, par 5 (March 14, 2008), which “reaffirms that no State shall recognize as lawful the situation resulting from the occupation of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, nor render aid or assistance in maintaining this situation.”

[2] See CIA World Fact Book: Azerbaijan.

[3] Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan Surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. http://www.osce.org/mg/76209?download=true

[4] Sargsyan v. Azerbaijan, E.C.J. (Grand Chamber), Judgment (Merits), par. 23–25 (1995).

[5] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

[6] See Republic of Azerbaijan MFA, Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan, 2016,

http://mfa.gov.az/files/file/MFA_Report_on_the_occupied_territories_March_2016_1.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands,

“Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” May 25 2017, http://hague.mfa.gov.az/en/news/4/3316,  submission to the UN institutions and official registration with the UN archive and submitted documents. See, e.g. Letter from the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, “Legal Opinion on Third Party Obligations with respect to Illegal Economic and Other Activities in the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan,” A/71/880, April 10, 2017, https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N17/113/60/PDF/N1711360.pdf?OpenElement.

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crimea

In early 2014, pro-Russian protests began in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. In February, the regional parliament announced plans for a regional referendum on union with Russia. Only a few days later, Russian military forces, supported by local militias, rapidly invaded Crimea, taking over cities and key strategic locations. In March 2014, President Putin signed a treaty formally annexing Crimea into the Russian Federation.          

Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula, as well as military presence in other parts of Ukraine, have provoked widespread international outrage and condemnation. The annexation has been overwhelmingly denounced as illegal.[1] Ukraine passed a law that declared the territory under Russian occupation and restricted business and movement into the area.[2] The existence of a belligerent occupation does not seem to be in doubt. In many ways, the international response was unusually robust. In particular, the United States and EU responded to Russia’s annexation and ongoing aggression with a series of sanctions, implemented in several stages.[3] These included freezing the assets of key allies of President Putin, an arms embargo, restrictions on access to capital markets, and several other measures targeted at certain Russian individuals and industries.[4] 

Nonetheless, approximately 100,000 Russian settlers have moved into the area since the invasion.[5]  A wide variety of human rights abuses have been documented.[6] Despite the sanctions occasioned by Russia’s annexation, international businesses remain active in the occupied territory.

 

[1] See, e.g., UN GA Res. 68/262 (2014).

[2] “On Securing the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens and the Legal Regime on the Temporarily Occupied Territory of Ukraine,” Law of Ukraine, http://usa.mfa.gov.ua/mediafiles/sites/usa/files/2014.05.26_Law_on_occupied_Crimea.pdf.

[3] “EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[4] EU Sanctions Against Russia over Ukraine Crisis,” European Union Newsroom, http://europa.eu/newsroom/highlights/special-coverage/eu_sanctions/index_en.htm.

[5] Kontorovich, Eugene, Unsettled: A Global Study of Settlements in Occupied Territories (September 7, 2016). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 16-20. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2835908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2835908

[6] Sergiy Zayets, Olexandra Matviychuk, et al., "The Peninsula of Fear: Occupation and Violation of Human Rights in Crimea," Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, 2016. 

https://helsinki.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PeninsulaFear_Book_ENG-1.pdf

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine, 16 November 2016 to 15 February 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/UAReport17th_EN.pdf.

International Court of Justice, Pending Cases: "Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation)," (2017).

 http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&p2=1&case=166

 

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Western Sahara

Western Sahara (or the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic–SADR) is located in northwest Africa, with Morocco to its north and Mauritania to the south and east. From the late nineteenth century, Western Sahara was a Spanish colony. As Spain was preparing to decolonize the territory in the early 1970s, Morocco laid claim to it. However, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concluded in an advisory opinion that Rabat had no sovereign rights in Western Sahara, and that instead, the indigenous Saharawi people had a right to self-determination.[1]

In response to the ICJ opinion, Moroccan king Hassan II organized a Green March—a massive civilian and military invasion of the territory on November 6, 1974.[2] The Moroccan government took administrative control of the territory and annexed most of it as the “Southern Provinces” of Morocco in 1976.[3] King Hassan, claiming the consent of the Saharawi people, decided to partition and annex Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania. The POLISARIO, a Saharawi national movement, declared Western Sahara’s independence later that same day[4] and began staging attacks against the occupying force. Since then, dozens of countries have recognized the POLISARIO’s proclaimed state, the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, as an independent sovereign nation.                                               

In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 34/37, declaring Morocco an occupying power and reaffirming the Saharawi’s right to self-determination.[5] The GA continued to pass similarly worded resolutions once a year for ten years thereafter. In addition, the UN Secretary General issued a report calling for a settlement plan that allowed the people of Western Sahara to exercise “their right to self-determination.”[6] More recently, the European Court of Justice affirmed Morocco’s status as an occupier of the territory and dismissed Morocco's claim to legal rights over it.[7]

Beginning in the early 1980s, Morocco began to construct a massive wall berm around the areas of Western Sahara it controlled, stranding tens of thousands of Saharawi in refugee camps in the desert, on the Algerian border. It also commenced one of the world’s most extensive settlement projects. Since its invasion in 1976, “Moroccanization” of the Western Saharan population has been official Moroccan public policy.[8] Over the past forty years, the Moroccan government has spent many billions of dollars on Western Sahara’s basic infrastructure, building airports, harbors, roads, and electricity plants.[9] The government has also offered higher salaries in order to incentivize settlers to move to Western Sahara,[10] and salaries in the occupied territory are double salaries in Rabat.[11] Jobs in the lucrative state-controlled extractive industries go primarily to Moroccans settlers. A combination of subsidies, generous incentives, and intensive government spending has resulted in an influx, according to various past indications, of at least 200,000–300,000 Moroccan settlers into the territory.[12] The results have been dramatic: Moroccan settlers now clearly outnumber indigenous Saharawi, with fatal effects for the latter’s self-determination. Indeed, recent reports suggests that Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara outnumber the Saharawi by two to one.[13]

The Moroccan presence in Western Sahara is widely described as one of the world’s most repressive. The situation of the over 100,000 Saharawi living in desert refugee camps is bleak.[14] As one recent account put it:

For those of us who have actually been to Western Sahara, there is no question that it is an occupation. Any verbal or visual expression of support for self-determination is savagely suppressed. Even calls for social and economic justice can be dangerous. The young sociologist Brahim Saika, a leader of a movement of unemployed Sahrawi professionals demanding greater economic justice, was tortured to death while in Moroccan detention in April 2016. Freedom House has ranked Western Sahara as among the dozen least free nations in the world. Indeed, of the more than 70 countries I have visited — including Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Indonesia under Suharto — Western Sahara is the most repressive police state I have ever seen.[15] 

While the territory is quite impoverished, it is rich in various natural resources, with phosphate mining and fishing constituting its principal industries. There are also significant oil exploration projects underway. Morocco has in recent decades begun to aggressively capitalize on the natural resources of its occupied territory. It has also developed an ambitious plan for investing in various energy projects in the territory, especially solar and wind power.[16] It has frequently done so in partnership with foreign firms, in particular those from the European Union, Morocco’s largest trading partner. Indeed, the EU has entered into controversial treaties with Rabat allowing the EU preferential access to trade, and natural resources in particular, in the occupied territory.

In the coming decade, Morocco says it will invest $7 billion developing its control over the territory through new rail, highway, and air transport facilities, as well as a new seaport, stadium, government buildings, and more.[17] Indeed, international law firms have advised their clients that doing business with Morocco in the territory is not illegal. They have instead lauded its economic opportunities, with one noting that “the territory's greenfield potential and Morocco’s support backed by a positive track record for infrastructure and economic development are factors leading more foreign companies to consider investment or operation in the Western Sahara and within the wider region.”[18]                     

                                               

The POLISARIO and other Saharawi representatives have consistently opposed the involvement of international firms as a violation of international law and as a form of plunder. A coalition of NGOs, Western Sahara Resource Watch, actively documents what it calls the “plunder” of Saharawi resources by Moroccan and foreign firms. Nonetheless, while a few northern European governments have signaled disapproval of such trade, it has never been blocked, sanctioned, or otherwise penalized.

[1] Western Sahara, Advisory Opinion, 1975 ICJ Reports 12, October 1975.

[2] Akbarali Thobhani, Western Sahara since 1975 under Moroccan Administration, 2002.

[3] Ibid., p. 58.

[4] Proclamation of the First Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (February 27, 1976), reprinted in African Group of the International League for the Rights & Liberation of Peoples, Western Sahara: The Struggle of the Saharawi People for Self-Determination, 2nd ed., 1979, pp. 194–95 (note the typo in the date); see also Thomas M. Franck, “The Stealing of Sahara,” American Journal of International Law 70 (October 1976): 694, 715, and nn. 135, 136; Deon Geldenhuys, Contested States in World Politics, 2009, p. 190.

[5] GA Resolution 34/37, 5, 7, UN Doc. A/RES/34/37 (November 21, 1979).

[6] UN Secretary-General, The Situation concerning Western Sahara: Report of the Secretary-General, ¶ 16, UN Doc. S/21360 (June 18, 1990).            

[7] See Fronte Polisario v. European Commission, ECJ (General Court) case T-512/12, par. 13, 76 (December 10, 2015).                              

[8] Anne Lippert, “The Human Costs of War in Western Sahara,” Africa Today 34 (1987): 47, 53; Geldenhuys, Contested States, p. 199 (citing Neil Ford, “Oil Potential Could Provide Catalyst for Change,” Middle East 330 [January 2003]: 54).

[9] Geldenhuys, Contested States.

[10] William J. Durch, “Building on Sand: UN Peacekeeping in the Western Sahara,” International Security 17, no. 4 (1993): 151, 164

[11] Jacob Mundy, “Autonomy & Intifadah: New Horizons in Western Saharan Nationalism,” Review of African Political Economy 33 (2006): 255, 262.

[12] Michael Bhatia, “Western Sahara under Polisario Control: Summary Report of Field Mission to the Sahrawi Refugee Camps (near Tindouf, Algeria),” Review of African Political Economy 28, no. 88 (2001), http://www.arso.org/bhatia2001.htm; Jacob Mundy, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Column?” Arab World Geographer 15, no. 2 (January 2012): 95–126.

[13] “Deadlock in the Desert,” Economist, March 10, 2007. The CIA World Factbook puts the SADR’s population today at just over 405,000. Western Sahara, CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wi.html (last visited December 18, 2009).

[14] David Conrad and Micah Albert, “Nowhere Land,” Foreign Policy, June 25, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/06/25/nowhere-land/.

[15] Nizar Visram, “The World’s Last Colony: Morocco Continues Occupation of Western Sahara, in Defiance of UN,” Modern Diplomacy, March 25, 2017, http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=2388:the-world-s-last-colony-morocco-continues-occupation-of-western-sahara-in-defiance-of-un&Itemid=141.

[16] Climate Action, “Masen, Africa-based Climate Bonds Pioneer, Issues Morocco’s First Ever Green Bond,” November 7, 2016, http://www.climateactionprogramme.org/press-releases/masen_africa_based_climate_bonds_pioneer_issues_moroccos_first_ever_green_b.

[17] Dentons, “Investment in Morocco and Opportunities for Companies in the Western Sahara,” February 4, 2016, https://www.dentons.com/en/insights/alerts/2016/february/3/investment-in-morocco-and-opportunities-for-companies-in-the-western-sahara.

[18] Ibid.

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