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061- Western Sahara

On 13 December 1974, the General Assembly requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to provide an advisory opinion on the following questions:

“I. Was Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet El Hamra) at the time of colonization by Spain a territory belonging to no one (terra nullius) ?” If the answer to the first question is in the negative,

“II. What were the legal ties between this territory and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Mauritanian entity ?” 

The ICJ delivered its opinion on 16 October 1975 considering:

  1. On the one hand, Western Sahara (Rio de Oro and Sakiet El Hamra) was not a terra nullius at the time of colonization by Spain;
  2. On the other hand, the evidence and information brought to its attention, which showed the existence, at the time of Spanish colonization, of legal ties of allegiance between the Sultan of Morocco and some of the tribes living in the territory of Western Sahara. They also showed the existence of rights, including certain land rights, which constituted legal links between the entity of Mauritania, as understood by the Court, and the territory of Western Sahara. On the other hand, the Court concluded that the information and information brought to its attention did not establish the existence of any link of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara, on the one hand, and the Kingdom of Morocco or the entity of Mauritanian, on the other. Accordingly, the Court did not therefore find the existence of legal links such as to alter the application of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) (1960) — which contains the declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples — as regards the decolonization of Western Sahara and in particular the application of the principle of self-determination.

Advisory Opinion of 16-10-1975.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.

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