Many Small Wars: The Classification of Armed Conflicts in the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara (Spanish Sahara) in 1974–1976

African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law, 2017, Forthcoming

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/33

18 Pages Posted: 4 May 2017

See all articles by Ben Saul

Ben Saul

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: May 3, 2017

Abstract

Much has been written about the various international legal aspects of the Western Sahara dispute, yet there has been little attention to the legal classification of the violence which engulfed the then Spanish Sahara in 1974-1976. This article closely examines the historical record in order to identify how international humanitarian law applied leading up to and during the Spanish withdrawal and the attainment of control by Morocco and Mauritania. In particular, it finds that there existed a series of five consecutive and/or parallel conflicts of different legal characters, including three non-international armed conflicts (involving Polisario against Spain, Morocco and Mauritania respectively) and two international armed conflicts (between Spain and Morocco, and Morocco and Algeria). (The non-international conflict between Morocco and Polisario was also transformed into an international (self-determination) conflict as a result of the application of Additional Protocol I of 1977 in 2011.) The legal classification of the hostilities is not merely of historical interest, but has continuing consequences for the legal responsibility of states, and the criminal liability of individuals, for violations of international humanitarian law in each of the conflicts. Accountability is likely to be an important aspect of a comprehensive peace settlement and post-conflict justice.

Keywords: Western Sahara, POLISARIO, Morocco, armed conflict, conflict classification, Additional Protocol I, IHL violations, reparation

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Saul, Ben, Many Small Wars: The Classification of Armed Conflicts in the Non-Self-Governing Territory of Western Sahara (Spanish Sahara) in 1974–1976 (May 3, 2017). African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law, 2017, Forthcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 17/33 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2962803

Ben Saul (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://https://sydney.edu.au/law/about/people/profiles/ben.saul.php

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