NGO: HeidelberCement's operations in Western Sahara may be linked to IHL violations

In March 2018, Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) addressed a letter to HeidelbergCement CEO, Bernd Scheifele, expressing concerns regarding the company's operations in Western Sahara. WSRW claims that El Aaiún cement factory, owned by HeidelbergCemenet subsidiary Italcementi, may be furthering Morocco’s illegal military occupation. 

According to the letter, Morocco has failed to meet basic requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. WSRW also highlights a 2016 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union which acknowledges Western Sahara as “separate and distinct” from Morocco.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited HeidelbergCement to respond to these allegations, but the company did not provide response.

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Company non-response
16 April 2018

HeidelbergCement did not respond

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited HeidelbergCement to respond to concerns about its operations in Western Sahara, it did not respond.

Article
2 March 2018

What is HeidelbergCement doing in occupied Western Sahara?

Author: Western Sahara Resource Watch

A few kilometers outside of the capital city of Western Sahara, a subsidiary of HeidelbergCement is operating a cement production plant. The factory is owned by Ciments du Maroc (CIMAR), which in turn is part of the German multinational via an Italian subsidiary, Italcementi. Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW) on 1 March 2018 sent a letter to HeidelbergCement, enquiring about whether it had obtained consent from the representative of the people of Western Sahara to operate in the occupied territory. WSRW also asked questions regarding the company's clients and policies. WSRW already on 20 October 2016, 19 February 2017 and 5 December 2017 contacted HeidelbergCement's subsidiary Italcementi, which is in charge of the operation. No response was received. WSRW also sent a letter to Italcementi's former subsidiary Italgen on 19 October 2016, without obtaining a response. Italgen has built the energy infrastructure associated to the CIMAR factory, opened in 2011 by the secretary-general of the Moroccan Ministry of MinesHeidelbergCement and its subsidiaries systematically place the El Aaiún cement factory in the wrong country...

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Article
1 March 2018

HeidelbergCement’s involvement in cement industry in Western Sahara

Author: Lydia Groche, Western Sahara Resource Watch

... We have three general concerns regarding HeidelbergCement’s operations in the part of Western Sahara currently under Moroccan occupation. First, the construction and operation of the... cement factory in El Aaiún seems not to have been consented to by the Saharawi people. It is an accepted principle of international law that development in a territory such as Western Sahara – occupied militarily and non-self-governing – cannot be done unless there has been consent of the legitimate representatives of the inhabitants of the territory. Second, building infrastructure in Western Sahara entrenches the occupation. Such activity gives the appearance of normality and legitimacy to a colonization that is in itself manifestly illegal. We expect that cement - potentially from your company – is used for Moroccan infrastructure, housing programmes, administration, military etc. It is pertinent to highlight that, in general, by supporting or assisting Morocco in what is an illegal continuing occupation there is the prospect of criminal liability as a matter of international humanitarian law. The continuous reference to Western Sahara as being in “Morocco”, or “Southern provinces” underlines how a company’s presence can take part in the legitimisation of Morocco’s baseless demands to that land. Third, the Saharawi people in exile at refugee camps sees no benefit of the cement factory in Western Sahara...

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