Source: International Court of Justice
Overview of the case
On 13 December 1974, the General Assembly requested 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 ?” In its Advisory Opinion, delivered on 16 October 1975, the Court replied to Question I in the negative. In reply to Question II, it expressed the opinion that the materials and information presented to it 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 equally showed the existence of rights, including some rights relating to the land, which constituted legal ties between the Mauritanian entity, as understood by the Court, and the territory of Western Sahara. On the other hand, the Court’s conclusion was that the materials and information presented to it did not establish any tie of territorial sovereignty between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco or the Mauritanian entity. Thus the Court did not find any legal ties of such a nature as might affect the application of the General Assembly’s 1960 resolution 1514 (XV) — containing the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples — in the decolonization of Western Sahara and, in particular, of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the territory.
Download at ICJ website: https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/61