The Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), a U.K. and Ireland-based legal charity, has filed a complaint against San Leon Energy in relation to its oil exploration activities in Western Sahara. The complaint alleges that San Leon Energy has failed to respect the human rights of indigenous people in Western Sahara (known as the Sahrawi), as it did not obtain their free, prior, and informed consent before engaging in oil exploration activities in the territory. San Leon Energy currently operates in the region under licenses obtained from the Moroccan government. Morocco claims Western Sahara as part of its own territory, even though this is not recognized by most other states and the area is generally viewed as a non-self-governing territory.
GLAN requests the Irish NCP to determine that San Leon Energy‘s activities in Western Sahara are in breach of the OECD Guidelines, and to recommend that San Leon relinquish its license rights in Western Sahara and apologize to the Sahrawi. Furthermore, GLAN requests the NCP to ask the Irish government to advise companies against operating in Western Sahara without free, prior, and informed consent from the Sahrawi.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter II
- Chapter II Paragraph A14
- Chapter II Paragraph A2
- Chapter IV
- Chapter IV Paragraph 1
- Chapter IV Paragraph 2
- Chapter IV Paragraph 3
On 14 January 2021, the Irish NCP accepted the complaint for further consideration.
On 18 July 2022, the NCP published its final statement. In January 2022, the NCP engaged external mediators to facilitate two mediation sessions between the parties. While both parties participated in mediation, no common position was reached during the process. The NCP therefore conducted its own examination of the issues. Both parties made submissions during this process. In its submission, GLAN reiterated that San Leon Energy‘s operations in Western Sahara constituted a failure of due diligence under the Guidelines. In GLAN’s view, it was unavoidable for the company to breach the human rights of local people while operating in Western Sahara. In San Leon Energy’s submission, the company noted that its business had brought social and economic benefits to the local population in Western Sahara. The company also confirmed that it had ceased its operations and business activities in Western Sahara.
The Irish NCP made several recommendations:
- That San Leon Energy or any enterprise considering investing in a Non-Self-Governing Territory should have regard to the rights of such Territories under Chapter XI of the United Nations Charter. “Companies should be aware that operations in such Non-Self Governing Territories carry heightened risks of adverse impact concerning human rights and stakeholder engagement and are expected to undertake enhanced due diligence measures to identify and address such risks.”
- That enterprises have regard to due diligence expectations in the OECD Guidelines and OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. “Companies should be aware that the guidance notes that in some circumstances, mitigation of human rights risks will be impossible, and the guidance will require them to disengage from the business relationship.”
The NCP closed the specific instance. The NCP will not follow-up on its recommendations as San Leon Energy has disengaged from the territory and its operations which were the subject of the specific instance have halted.