International Responsibility for Polisario’s Diversions revealed in OLAF Report

By on February 16, 2015

By Shoji Matsumoto

  The report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) reveals the diversions of EU humanitarian aid directed to refugees in the Tindouf camps by Algerian senior officials and Polisario leaders for years. The funding is not yet suspended. The diversions pose problems from international legal perspectives.

According to the report, the diversions are made possible by the overestimation of the number of refugees at 155,000 on the basis of the allegation of Algeria, one of the main suppliers of gas and oil to EU. The WFP has assumed the population to number 90,000, and demographic experts estimated at the number from 40,000 to 50,000, based on satellite images and on the testimony of Polisario directors. Based on the number of 155,000, the donation between 1994 and 2004 amounted to 105 million euros. Besides, Polisario leaders could buy arms and real estate for personal use in the Canary Islands and Spain. A good quality of food is replaced by a lower quality equivalent and then sold. Poultry products funded by international aid are not given to refugees. Donated medical equipment was sold in Tindouf and Algeria. While the number was revised to 90,000 and measures to prevent the diversions were taken, ten million are allocated annually to the Tindouf camps.

And it is not accidental that a youth movement in Tindouf, called Youth Movement For Change, accuses Polisario leaders of taking advantage of the humanitarian aid to refugees.

It is reasonably presumed that any EU law does not legitimate such diversions. The illegitimate diversions are made possible only by the ongoing donation. Then, the witting non-suspension of donation would constitute an internationally wrongful act, putting the international responsibility on both EU itself and its Member States. If based on the Draft Articles on the Responsibility of States, any State is entitled to invoke the responsibility of another State to take measures against that State to ensure cessation of the act in the interest of such non-State beneficiaries as refugees.

The matter will not end there. A member of the European Parliament warned of the dangers represented by the proliferation of terrorist groups in Tindouf. The dangers have been noted in the reports of the UN Secretary-General on the situation of Western Sahara. As the ‘receiving country’ of the refugee camps, Algeria is under obligation to monitor and see that the civilian and humanitarian nature of the camps is not compromised by the presence or activities of armed elements, and see that the camps are not used for purposes incompatible with their civilian nature. Moreover, the Security Council Resolution on 12 February 2015, adopted in the wake of the killings of a Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, and a Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh, by the extremist organization of ISIL, gravely concerns at the role of external donations in developing and sustaining the extremist organizations.

Algeria assumes responsibility to carry out a census as the ‘receiving country,’ notwithstanding its refusal, insisting that its implementation is pre-conditioned on the solution of the Western Sahara conflict. The condition would be satisfied only when ‘the refugees disappeared’. In consequence, the donation should be suspended till the census is carried out.

About the Author:

Shoji Matsumoto (Ph.D in Law, Ritsumeikan Universiry) is a Professor of African and international law at Sapporo Gakuin University. Sapporo. Hokkaido. He is also the President of the Sapporo Institute of International Solidarity. Japan, the General Secretary of the Japan Global Network 21. Japan. He published several books, among them: Problems on Military Comfort Women in the Philippines, SIIS, 1994(in Japanese), A Gift from Africa, SIIS, 2007(in Japanese), Ubuntu, 2008 (in Japanese), Western Sahara and International Law . 2014 (In English)

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