Spanish court rules against display of Sahrawi flag in blow to Polisario

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya previously sparked controversy after she posted on Twitter a map of African countries excluding the “Polisario Banner.”
Thursday 04/06/2020
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita meets with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya in Rabat, last January. (REUTERS)
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita meets with Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Laya in Rabat, last January. (REUTERS)

RABAT – The Polisario Front finds itself further isolated after the Madrid Supreme Court ruled to ban the use of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s (SADR) flags in public buildings and spaces.

The Spanish Supreme Court, the country’s highest judicial body, banned all unofficial flags that belong to political entities that are not recognised internationally inside and outside public buildings.

According to the court’s decision, the use of flags, pennants or unofficial symbols in buildings and public areas is not “compatible with the current constitutional and legal framework” or with the “duty of objectivity and neutrality” of Spanish administrations.

The Supreme Court ruling prohibited the display of the Polisario flag next to flags of other officially recognised pennants.

The Polisario Front is a Sahrawi rebel movement that advocates for an independent republic in the disputed Western Sahara territory.

Sabri Al Haw, an expert in international law, immigration and the Sahara conflict told The Arab Weekly: “The Spanish judicial decision confirms Madrid’s rejection of any exploitation of its lands and public spaces to promote political propaganda of non-established entities.”

He said the decision was a “blow of mercy” to the Polisario, which has attempted to gain international legitimacy by having its flag raised in public institutions abroad.

Observers saw the Spanish court ruling as a severe setback for the Polisario Front and its lobbies in Spain

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya previously sparked controversy after she posted on Twitter a map of Africa with the flags of all official African Union members states, excluding the “Polisario Banner.” That prompted outrage from leading Polisario figures, who protested outside the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

Polisario leaders have criticised the United Nations and its Security Council for failing to resolve and of even prolonging the Western Sahara conflict, which Morocco denies.

The Polisario Front has suggested it could take military action if its case is not resolved, which would go against UN resolutions that urge for a peaceful resolution.

The Front’s representative in Algeria, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, said the movement had no choice but to use all means necessary to advocate for their cause, including military action if diplomacy fails.

The UN Security Council recently restated the parameters set out in its resolutions 2414, 2440, 2468, and 2494 to work towards a solution to the conflict.

In October last year, the Security Council  extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for 12 months, stressing that there is no alternative to negotiations between Morocco, the Polisario Front and Mauritania.

Contrary to the Polisario Front’s expectations, the Security Council also found that moves by several African states to open consulates in the disputed Western Sahara were “an issue related to sovereign steps in line with the international law, and fully within the framework of bilateral relations between Morocco and its African partners.”