Al-Haq has issued letters to urge the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, Thailand, and Luxembourg as home States to companies featured in the UN Database on Business Enterprises with Activities Related to Israeli Settlements (the Database), to ensure such illegal activities and operations are ceased in line with international law and national legislation.
Al-Haq reminds the home States that the Database, which was published as a report by the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights on 12 February 2020, is a concrete step towards corporate accountability in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and a key tool for assisting corporations in carrying out enhanced human rights due diligence in conflict affected areas. As well as being an effective accountability mechanism to hold corporations accountable for aiding and abetting violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the context of belligerent occupation.
Critically, the settlements are illegal under international law, and the presence of foreign corporations in the settlements may “have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements”.[i] As such, UN Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), calls on all States to distinguish in their dealings between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. States have a primary duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
The letters further highlight that it is a high time for home States, as the primary duty bearers, to ensure that businesses within their jurisdiction conduct enhanced corporate due diligence assessments to prevent human rights violations and to take all necessary steps to meet their obligations expressed in national law, as well in the UNGPs, and the OECD guidelines on business and human rights.
Al-Haq urges the home States to companies listed in the report to ensure such illegal activities and operations are ceased in line with international law. It is crucial that governments hold national businesses operating in illegal settlements in the OPT to account, and to facilitate measures and remedies for the compensation of the affected Palestinian communities, whose rights to movement, property, livelihood, and family have been severely violated due to such illegal operations and activities.
Moreover, Al-Haq raises the concerns regarding fulfilling the purpose of the database as a living mechanism for accountability and the duty of States to protect and ensure respect for human rights by businesses.
Accordingly, Al-Haq urges home States to listed companies as well the UN member States to commit their full support for the annual update of the UN Database as the only way to fulfil the mandate of the HRC resolution 31/36 in its entirety and to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) to fulfil this mandate.
On 12 June 2020, Al-Haq received a response from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom. We will continue a dialogue on the effective accountability measures for human rights violations in the OPT connected to the business activities in the illegal settlement enterprise such as the Database.
[i] A/HRC/22/63, UNGA, “Report of the independent international fact finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”(7 February 2013) para. 96.