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Western Sahara

Last Updated: 02 November 2011

Mine Ban Policy


The sovereignty of Western Sahara remains the subject of a dispute between the government of Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguía el Hamra and Río de Oro (Polisario). Polisario’s Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is a member of the African Union, but is not universally recognized. It has no official representation in the UN, which prevents formal accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. Polisario officials have, since 1999, stated that they would adhere to the Mine Ban Treaty if permitted to do so.

In November 2005, Polisario committed to unilaterally ban antipersonnel mines through the NGO Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment. The Deed pledges Polisario to a ban on use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines, and to cooperation in mine action.

Use, production, transfer, and stockpiling

Both Polisario and the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces used mines extensively until the 1991 UN-monitored cease-fire. There have been no substantiated allegations of mine use since that time.[1]

Polisario is not known to have produced or exported antipersonnel mines. Polisario officials claim they acquired antipersonnel mines in the past by lifting them from Moroccan minefields, especially those around the berms (defensive earthen walls).[2] Based on mines previously destroyed, Polisario stocks have included antipersonnel mines of Belgian, Chinese, German, Israeli, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Soviet, United Kingdom, and Yugoslav manufacture.[3]

From 2006 to 2011, Polisario undertook four public destructions of stockpiled antipersonnel mines, pursuant to the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment.[4] The most recent stockpile destruction occurred on 28 February 2011, when Polisario destroyed 1,506 antipersonnel mines with technical assistance from Action on Armed Violence.[5] Polisario has not revealed the number of antipersonnel mines it still possesses. It has offered varying information on its stockpile in the past.[6]


[1] Morocco and Polisario have periodically traded accusations of new mine use, but both have denied it. See Landmine Monitor Report 2009, p. 1,216.

[2] They may have acquired mines from other sources as well. Some of the stockpiled mines Polisario has destroyed are not known to have been in Morocco’s arsenal, such as those of Belgian, Portuguese, and Yugoslav origin.

[3] “Observations made during field mission by Landmine Action UK,” provided by email from Landmine Action, 3 May 2006. See also, Landmine Monitor Report 2007, p. 1,095; and Landmine Monitor Report 2006, p. 1,196.

[4] From 2006–2011, Polisario destroyed a combined total of 10,141: 3,316 in February 2006; 3,321 in February 2007; 2,000 in May 2008; and 1,504 in February 2011. See Ilaria Ercolano, “UN-backed talks on future of Western Sahara to resume next week,” UN News Centre, 3 March 2011, www.un.org; Landmine Monitor Report 2008, p. 1,118; Landmine Monitor Report 2007, p. 1,095; and Landmine Monitor Report 2006, p. 1,196. The UN News Center report from March 2011 mistakenly noted that 1,506 antipersonnel mines had been destroyed. In an email to the Monitor, Geneva Call stated that 1,506 total mines were destroyed, including 2 TMA 4 antipersonnel mines used as donor charges, bringing the total number of antipersonnel mines destroyed in February 2011 to 1,504. Email from Katherine Kramer, Programme Director and Acting Coordinator for Landmines and Other Explosive Devices, Geneva Call, 22 August 2011. The mines included are: 111 M-35 (Belgium); six Type 58 (China); 6,728 VS-50 (Italy); 276 SB-33 (Italy); 76 M966 (Portugal); 20 M969 (Portugal); 49 MAI75 (Romania); 42 MI AP DV 59 (France); 303 MK1 [or Number 7] (UK); 109 PMD-6 (USSR); 1,490 PMD-6M (USSR); 12 PMN (USSR); 60 POMZ-2M (USSR); 29 PRB M404 (Belgium); 535 PROM-1 (Yugoslavia); 267 VS-33 (unknown type, presumably Italian); 22 “NEGRO” (unknown type, attributed to Israel); and six E-58 (unknown type, attributed to Germany). The Monitor had previously reported that the 2006 and 2007 destruction events also included 284 antivehicle mines. Geneva Call, which requested clarification from Polisario, was told that the destroyed mines were MK1 antipersonnel mines, not K1 antivehicle mines. Polisario also said that mines recorded as FMP1 were actually Portuguese-made M969 mines.

[5] Ilaria Ercolano, “UN-backed talks on future of Western Sahara to resume next week,” UN News Centre, 3 March 2011, www.un.org.

[6] In 2002, Polisario told the Monitor that it no longer had a stockpile of antipersonnel mines, except for 1,606 disarmed mines on display in a military museum. In January 2006, however, Polisario’s Chief Engineer, Mohammed Fadel Sidna, told the Monitor that its stockpile consisted of more than 10,000 antipersonnel and antivehicle mines.