On 17 March 2020, 77 local, regional and international organisations sent a letter to the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), to commend her on the publication of the UN database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements (the database) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the OPT).
Al-Haq immediately welcomed the publication of the database following its long overdue release. General Director of Al-Haq, Shawan Jabarin stated, “I personally commend the High Commissioner for her commitment to the rule of law in staunchly defending the human rights of the Palestinian people and ensuring the release of the Database. We see the release of the Database as an important first step in ensuring corporate due diligence and accountability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Al-Haq has full confidence in the High Commissioner that she will continue to fulfil the terms of the mandate and ensure its annual renewal”.
Previous to this, a broad coalition of civil society actors called on numerous occasions, the UN High Commissioner and OHCHR to fulfil her mandate and the recommendation to produce the database, as expressed in the 2013 report of the independent fact finding mission (FFM), which investigated the ramifications of the Israeli settlements on human rights situation in the OPT. Al-Haq applauds the High Commissioner for standing strong in the face of significant political adversity and taking concrete steps to ensuring the fulfilment of her mandate, in line with international law. As representatives of Palestinian civil society we fully stand behind the High Commissioner and reiterate that it is absolutely imperative for the rule of law and the realisation of Palestinian human rights, in particular the right of self-determination, to maintain the financing and annual updating of the Database.
“Palestinian civil society, together with partners from all around the world, continue to work tirelessly to document corporate complicity in human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The database is a result of the combined efforts of those who recognise the role of businesses in sustaining the settlement enterprise in the OPT. It is crucial to acknowledge the vital links between Israeli annexationist practices and accountability of the third States and their businesses, who continue business relations with the illegal settlement enterprise”, said Mr Shawan Jabarin.
The organisations stressed that the database is an important tool for upholding human rights standards, in pursuit of accountability for the dispossessed and oppressed. Although not comprehensive in scope, the database might serve as an accountability tool for serious breaches of international law in situations of belligerent occupation.
“A release of the database is a significant step towards corporate accountability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for involvement in the illegal settlement enterprise and the pillage of Palestinian natural resources. We emphasise the necessity of fulfilling the mandate provided by Resolution 31/36 of the UN Human Rights Council, and continue to advocate for annual updates to the database. Currently, we noted several critical omissions in the database’s content, including various agricultural settlement businesses and exporters, wineries, quarries and involvement of companies like HeidelbergCement, or gas companies operating pipelines off the coast of the Gaza Strip“, says Dr. Susan Power, the Head of Legal Research and Advocacy in Al-Haq.
The organisations committed their support for the annual update of the database, in line with the High Commissioner’s mandate, as a living mechanism that would serve transparency, corporate responsibility, and contribute towards the ending of business activity as part of the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise. The annual update will be a precedent and positive incentive for corporations ready to conduct human rights-based due diligence and risk analysis in the situation of the occupation and conflict, as per their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The full list of the companies can be found in the report.