Moroccan Occupation of Western Sahara

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In 1975, as the Spanish colonial forces left Western Sahara Moroccan forces invaded it and divided Western Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania, despite an ICJ ruling recognizing that the Sahrawi people are entitled to self-determination. In 1979 the Mauritanian forces withdrew from the territory and Moroccan forces took control over most of the territory. The internationally-recognized leadership of the Sahrawi people, the POLISARIO front, has effective control over about 20% of the territory, which is walled off by a Moroccan-constructed 2,700 km-long separation barrier. Despite agreeing in 1991 to hold a referendum in which the Sahrawi people can vote for either independence of integration into Morocco, the Moroccan regime and postponed holding the referendum for almost two decades. The Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara involves serious abuses of human rights, including napalm and white phosphorus bombardments of Sahrawi refugee camps and mass forced disappearances.

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