Reference: Antoine Quéré, Le crime de colonisation par peuplement – Etude de cas sur les activités économiques des entreprises françaises au Sahara Occidental, Master’s thesis in penal law, Strasbourg, Université de Strasbourg, 2020, 104p.
Phosphates, fish, public markets, tourism… The economic resources of Western Sahara are numerous and attract foreign companies, including French companies. But Western Sahara is a territory with a particular legal status and French criminal law could thwart the strategies of these private actors: indeed, article 461-26 of the Code pénal punishes the crime of colonization by settlement. This research work aims to define whether French transnational companies can be guilty of this crime or not. The method consists first of all in asking whether the French judge can be “diplomat” or whether he should apply the law bluntly. Indeed, in order to retain the crime of colonization by settlement, it is essential to affirm that Western Sahara is an occupied territory, and that this occupation results from an international armed conflict. If this is the case, and if this situation is well known, it also contributes to characterizing in large part the intellectual or moral element of the crime: the awareness and knowledge of the occupation by the companies. Finally comes the challenge of attributing the crime to the corporations. It means demonstrating how the activities of French companies could materially constitute colonization by settlement or a complicity thereof. It is above all a matter of attributing this crime to legal persons such as French transnational companies, which in criminal law is not so easy.