Al-Haq attended the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which took place between 23 June and 12 July 2019. Al-Haq’s advocacy during the 41st Human Rights Council session focused on the UN database of businesses involved with Israeli settlements pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 of 2016, annexation, the right to self-determination, business and human rights, environmental injustices and climate justice, amongst other issues.
Between 2 and 5 July, Al-Haq, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and 11.11.11 Belgium, carried out meetings with UN Member States, urging them to support the release of the UN database of businesses engaged with Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The meetings highlighted the importance of such a database, as a tool to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs); to assist states in regulating corporate activities, specifically those in conflict-affected areas and situations of occupation; and to create a tangible instrument for transparency and corporate responsibility. The meetings also highlighted that the absence of accountability for Israel, the Occupying Power, and private actors within its jurisdiction has detrimentally affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of Palestinians, depriving them of the most basic human rights, notably the right to self-determination, encompassing access and sovereignty over natural resources and wealth. To this end, the organisations remind that businesses and private actors should be prepared to accept the consequences for their involvement and contribution to gross human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
The meetings were preceded by a side event entitled Upholding the Rule of Law: The UN Database on Businesses Involved in Settlements in the OPT, organized by CIHRS. The panellists presented on the importance of releasing the database from both Palestinian and international perspectives. Professor Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, joined via video conference. Professor Lynk discussed his report on the illegality of the occupation and annexation, stressing the importance of the database in the context of ongoing colonisation and annexation. Al-Haq presented on continuing corporate complicity on the ground, hence the need for a tangible tool, such as the database, in the face of expanding colonisation and the situation of de facto annexation. Meanwhile, 11.11.11, argued that the database is a way to operationalize UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016), which called on UN Member States to "distinguish in their relevant dealings between the territory of the State of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory." Human Rights Watch warned that failure to release the database would set a worrying precedent in the Human Rights Council. Amnesty International focused on the database as a tool for promoting international standards for businesses worldwide. The side event was attended by at least 20 UN Member States representatives, as well as representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and civil society actors.
In addition, Al-Haq, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights and CIHRS delivered a joint oral intervention under Item 4: Human Rights situation that require the Council's attention, on discriminatory Israeli laws targeting the Palestinian population in the OPT, Israel and the Diaspora. This is exemplified in the Israeli Nation State Law which restricts the right to self-determination to the Jewish people, denigrating Palestinians and other inhabitants in Israel to second-class citizens and making discrimination in Israel constitutional.
Al-Haq also delivered an oral intervention under Item 5: Report of the Forum on Business and Human Rights, highlighting concerns about obstacles to tools being developed in the pursuit of implementing the UNGPs. Accordingly, Al-Haq called on the Working Group on business and human rights to reiterate, in their report to the UN Human Rights Council and General Assembly, the importance of the database as a tool to implement the UNGPs, and stress the need for its publication and regular update; to carry out a country visit to the OPT to further investigate the extent of corporate activities contributing to human rights abuses and grave breaches; work with relevant civil society and stakeholders to enhance access to effective remedies for the occupied population, including by ceasing and reversing business activities that aid and abet the commission of grave breaches of humanitarian and human rights law, and guarantee non-occurrence; and to remind home states of their role to prevent and address human rights abuses by businesses domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction, to take concrete measures, in line with their domestic laws, National Action Plans and international law, including by engaging with businesses and ensuring effective accountability.
On 8 July 2019, Al-Haq delivered an oral intervention during the Human Rights Council's General Debate on Item 7: Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories. The oral intervention highlighted Israel's role in deepening environmental and climate vulnerabilities for Palestinians as a result of Israel's systematic and unlawful exploitation of natural resources. During the intervention, Al-Haq reiterated that Israel, as a temporary Occupying Power does not hold sovereign rights over any part of the occupied Palestinian territory, including over natural resources. Al-Haq further highlighted the impacts of Israel's prolonged occupation, including the expansion of the illegal settlement enterprise on Palestinians' capacity to adapt to climate change. Al-Haq concluded by stressing that achieving adaptation to climate change is not possible without the genuine realisation of Palestinians' collective right to self- determination and permanent sovereignty, and called upon the Human Rights Council to take concrete and collective action to bring Israel's 52-year occupation to an end.
Also, on 8 July 2019, Al-Haq organized a parallel side event on Agenda Item 7 titled: "Climate and Environmental Justice in the Occupied Palestinian Territory". Al-Haq's Environmental Policy Researcher, Suha Jarrar, delivered a presentation on "Climate Change Adaptation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: The Case of the South Hebron Hills". Other presenters included Mr. Samir Zaqout, Deputy Director of Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, who delivered a presentation on "Conflict and Erosion of a Sustainable Environment in Gaza". The third presenter, Mr. Atwa Jaber, a researcher and candidate at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, delivered a presentation titled "Loot and Harness: Israel's Systematic Appropriation of Natural Resources in the Occupied Jordan Valley".
Prior to the session, Al-Haq submitted a written statement highlighting the ways through which Israel's prolonged occupation and its settlement enterprise deepens Palestinians' climate vulnerability. The statement included examples from the field, reflecting Israel's discriminatory policies, namely in Area C of the occupied West Bank, and their impacts on different areas within the agriculture sector, including on livestock production and on water resources. In the submission, Al-Haq recalled that by virtue of the temporary nature of the situation of occupation, Israel is obliged to temporarily administer Palestinian natural resources in accordance with the rules of usufruct and with the obligation to safeguard the capital of the property. Accordingly, Israel is prohibited from exploiting non-renewable and finite natural resources in a manner that undermines their capital and results in economic benefits for Israel and its settlement enterprise.
Amongst other recommendations, Al-Haq called upon the Human Rights Council to urge Israel to act in accordance with international law, and in accordance with its responsibilities, as stipulated under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, governs States Parties' responsibilities to reduce climate vulnerabilities of vulnerable populations, and to respect, promote and consider their human rights obligations when taking action to address climate change. During the events and in meetings held during the session, Al-Haq emphasized the linkages between climate change adaptation for Palestinians, and their right to permanent sovereignty, including over natural resources, as part of their right to self-determination.