Sahrawi nationality law

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Sahrawi nationality law is the law of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) governing nationality and citizenship. SADR is a partially recognized state which claims sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara, but only administers part of that territory.

Legal framework[edit]

The legal basis for Sahrawi nationality law is established in Article 104 of the Sahrawi constitution which provides that the Sahrawi National Council can make:[1]

  • fundamental legislation on nationality, the right to citizenship and civil status; and
  • general laws relating to the status of foreigners.

Generally, international practice is that nationality is established at birth by a child's place of birth (jus soli) and/or bloodline (jus sanguinis). When new states are established, typically citizenship is extended to all those who were born in the territory of the new state or who were lawfully resident in that territory for a specified period before the establishment of the new state. Typically, nationality may also be acquired later in life through naturalization. Corporations, ships, and other legal persons also have a nationality, generally in the state under whose laws the legal person was formed. However, it is unclear whether the Sahrawi National Council has exercised any of its powers to make laws under Article 104 of the Sahrawi constitution. Because of this, it is not possible to determine with legal certainty who in fact is a Sahrawi citizen.

Responsibilities of Sahrawi citizens[edit]

Sahrawi citizens enjoy a range of rights under the Sahrawi constitution such as those relating to participation in the political, economic and social life of SADR. Sahrawi citizens are also subject to a number of obligations, some of which reflect the particular circumstances of the Sahrawi Republic. The following obligations are imposed on Sahrawi citizens under Chapter Five of Sahrawi constitution:[1]

  • to respect the Constitution and the laws of the Republic;
  • to defend the country and participate in its liberation;
  • to defend national unity and fight against all violations of the will of the people;
  • to participate in national service as may be laid down by law;

Citizens who are parents are also obliged to protect their families and their education while children must respect their parents.

Status of Moroccan settlers[edit]

Among the Western Saharan population there is a very significant number of people who have resettled in Western Sahara from Morocco (‘Moroccan settlers’) or who were born in Western Sahara, the children of Moroccan settlers. Some estimate that Moroccan settlers and their descendents now constitute a majority of the Western Sahara population although estimates vary. For some years, the SADR government has stated that it is willing in principle to allow Moroccan settlers to vote in the long stalled United Nations (MINURSO) supervised referendum on Western Sahara independence or integration with Morocco.

On 10 April 2007, the Polisario Front - the government of SADR – presented its “Proposal of the Polisario Front for a mutually acceptable political solution assuring the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara”.[2] In the 2007 Proposal the Polisario Front went further to reassure Moroccan settlers that they will continue to have a future in Western Sahara if the proposed referendum takes place and results in Sahrawi independence. Paragraph 9 of the Proposal states that in the context of Sahrawi independence, the Sahrawi government would provide:[2][3][4]

guarantees regarding the status and rights and obligations of the Moroccan population of Western Sahara, including their participation in the political, economic and social life of the territory of Western Sahara. In that regard, the Sahrawi State would accord Sahrawi nationality to every Moroccan citizen legally established in the territory who requests it.

In the absence of a comprehensive Sahrawi nationality law, the citizenship of settlers who came from Morocco or the smaller number who came to Western Sahara when it was a Spanish colony and province - and indeed that of ethnic Sahrawis themselves will remain unclear.

The future status of Western Sahara remains the subject of UN sponsored negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front. Future developments in Sahrawi nationality law (and indeed its continued existence) may well be shaped by the outcome of those negotiations.

In March 2013, Hassan Serghouchni, an old Moroccan political prisoner in the 1980s residing in Oujda, sent a letter to the Sahrawi Republic embassy in Algiers asking for the concession of the Sahrawi nationality, being the first Moroccan to demand it.[5] In October 2012 Serghouchni had renounced to the Moroccan nationality.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]