On 27 August 2019, 103 local, regional and international organizations called on the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Michelle Bachelet, to release the UN database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (hereinafter the Database).
In the letter, the undersigned organizations expressed their deep concern that the release of the Database, including the names of companies facilitating Israel’s settlement enterprise, has been repeatedly delayed potentially due to political pressure. The delay comes over three years after the Human Rights Council (HRC) established the mandate to create the Database and more than two years after its initial scheduled release in March 2017.
The organizations urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to fully implement the mandate provided in HRC resolution 31/36 of March 2016 by releasing and transmitting the data, including the names of companies involved in the specified activities, to the Human Rights Council, so that the Database may be considered at the upcoming Council session in September 2019 and be updated annually.
The organisations expressed that there has been no other mandate given to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by the HRC that has been subject to such a prolonged and open-ended delay. The undersigned also stressed the importance of protecting the independence and impartiality of the Office of the High Commissioner, including by fully implementing the mandates by the UN Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, the letter reiterated that over the past few years, the Israeli government has escalated the construction of new settlements in the West Bank, while the Israeli Prime Minister has indicated his intention to formally annex parts of the West Bank, in violation of international law, which constitute grave breaches that amount to internationally recognized crimes.
According to Al-Haq General Director, Mr. Shawan Jabarin: “The prevailing culture of impunity for Israel’s persistent violations of international law and infringements on the rights of the Palestinian people has also allowed business enterprises to contribute to and benefit from the prolonged occupation and gross human rights violations in the OPT, particularly Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise, which deprives Palestinians fundamental rights, notably the right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources.”
The mobilization of organizations behind the release of the Database demonstrates the importance of fulfilling the mandate entrusted to the High Commissioner in order to ensure the protection of human rights and respect for international law by state and non-state actors and bolster the development of the business and human rights framework in situations of armed conflict and occupation.
“The message from global civil society is clear: the database must be released in full. The credibility of Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner is at stake”, said the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in Geneva, Mr. Jeremie Smith.
Date: 27 August 2019
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais Wilson, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Re: Release of the United Nations Database of Businesses Engaged in Activities Related to Israeli Settlements
Dear High Commissioner,
As you are aware, in March 2016, United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 31/36 mandated your Office to produce a database of all businesses engaged in listed activities related to Israel’s settlement enterprise (the Database), as detailed in paragraph 96 of the report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of Israeli settlements on the rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The resolution further stipulated that the data is to be presented and transmitted to the HRC at its 34th session, and the Database is to be updated annually.
The Database will bring an important degree of transparency on the activities of businesses which contravene rules and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law as a result of their operations in or with illegal Israeli settlements.
The undersigned organizations are deeply concerned that the release of the Database, including the names of companies facilitating Israel’s settlement enterprise, has once again been delayed and was not published at the 41st HRC session. This delay comes over three years after the Council established the database mandate and more than two years after its initial scheduled release, at the 34th HRC session. We know of no other mandate given to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by the HRC that has been subject to such a prolonged and open-ended delay.
The reasons for this delay have not been communicated with sufficient explanation or transparency, opening the OHCHR up to allegations that the delay could be due to political pressure. During the recent 41st HRC session, a joint statement was delivered on behalf of 65 UN Member States, requesting you to “give urgency to fulfilling the mandate of resolution 31/36 in its entirety, by publishing of the Database including the names of companies benefiting from economic activities in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and not risk jeopardizing the independence of the Office or setting a precedent where other mandates could be discredited and therefore not implemented.”
In addition, a joint statement delivered on behalf of 27 UN Member States, stressed the “crucial importance that the High Commissioner and her Office are able to operate and execute their mandates in an independent manner and without interference, of any kind,” and to allow for genuine and effective accountability and justice for affected individuals and communities around the world. Fulfilling this mandate without further delay would affirm the independence and impartiality of OHCHR.
Since the adoption of HRC resolution 31/36, the Israeli government has escalated the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. Some Israeli officials, notably the Prime Minister, have also indicated that they will seek to formally “annex” parts of the West Bank. Israel’s settlement enterprise constitutes serious violations of international humanitarian law and entrench a system of gross human rights violations and institutionalized discrimination that Palestinians residing in the occupied territory suffer from on a daily basis.
The undersigned organizations acknowledge the need to ensure due diligence in the mandates entrusted to the OHCHR. However, with regard to HRC resolution 31/36, we understand that all companies considered for inclusion on the Database should have been contacted by now and have had ample time to respond. Over a year ago, on 7 August 2018, the then High Commissioner indicated in a letter addressed to the HRC President:
Consistent with paragraph 26 of the 2018 report, after all 206 companies have been contacted, OHCHR expects to provide the Council [HRC] shortly thereafter an update, including the names of those engaged in listed activities.
The undersigned organizations recognize the efforts exerted by the OHCHR in the creation and development of the Database thus far. We maintain our position that the Database is not only important for the protection of the rights of the Palestinian people, but also constitutes an important development in international efforts to ensure respect for international law by State and non-State actors. Moreover, the Database is an important tool to strengthen the implementation of international law and standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, in situations of conflict and occupation.
In the OPT, as in other cases of belligerent occupation, the absence of accountability has enabled the Occupying Power, Israel, to engage in activity in violation of international law in the occupied territory with near total impunity. This has allowed many private actors, including businesses, to contribute to and benefit from, sometimes unwittingly, gross human rights violations. The 2013 report of the UN commissioned International Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the human rights of the Palestinian people, found that “business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements”. This has detrimentally affected the lives of millions of Palestinians, depriving them of their fundamental human rights.
In light of the aforementioned, and your undertaking in your letter of 4 March 2019 to the HRC President to finalize the mandated activity “in coming months,” the undersigned organizations urge you, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, to fully implement the mandate provided in HRC resolution 31/36, by releasing and transmitting the data including the names of companies involved in the specified activities, to the Human Rights Council, so that it may be considered at the Council’s 42nd session in September 2019, and by annually updating the Database.
The full implementation of this mandate by the OHCHR would support and assist in the respect and protection of international law and universal human rights, regardless of the political context.
We thank you for your consideration of our letter and remain at your service should you require further information.
- ActionAid Palestine
- Agricultural Development Association (PARC)
- Al Ataa’ Charitable Society
- Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
- Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
- Al-Tadamoun Charitable Association
- American Friends Service Committee
- Amnesty International
- Association ADALA (Pour le Droit à un Procès équitable)
- Association Belgo-Palestinienne WB
- Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)
- Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS)
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
- Beladi Foundation
- Bisan Center for Research & Development
- Broederlijk Delen
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- CCFD – Terre Solidaire
- Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
- Community Action Center – Al Quds University
- Conectas Direitos Humanos
- Conflict and Environment Observatory
- Consejo de Pueblos Wuxhtaj de Guatemala
- Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité (CIDSE)
- CVPR PO
- Defender centre for Human Rights
- Defense for Children International – DCI Palestine
- El Comité Ambiental en Defensa de la Vida y la Corporación SOS Ambiental de Colombia
- EuroMed Rights
- European Middle East Project (EuMEP)
- Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos Argentina
- Fundaciòn Promociòn Humana
- Global Legal Action Network (GLAN)
- Gulf Center for Human Rights
- Health Work Committee
- Human Rights and Democracy Media Center “Shams”/Palestine
- Human Rights Watch
- International Accountability Project
- International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
- Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC)
- Jewish Voice for Peace
- Just Peace Advocates/Mouvement Pour Une Paix Juste
- Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)
- Libyan center for Freedom of Press
- Libyan organization for legal Aid
- Ma’an Development Center
- MADA – Palestinian Center For Development & Media Freedoms
- Médecins du Monde – France
- Mid-Islanders for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
- Mwatana for Human Rights (Yemen)
- National Society for Rehabilitation
- NAWA for Culture & Arts Association
- Netherlands Palestine Committee
- Norwegian Church Aid
- Novact – International Institute for Nonviolent Action
- Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
- Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)
- Palestinian Counseling Center (PCC)
- Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)
- Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisations Network (PNGO)
- Palestinian Women Development Society
- Palestinian Working Women Society for Development (PWWSD)
- Pax Christi Flanders
- Pax Christi International
- PAX for Peace
- Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine (PFP)
- POSCO PRATIRODH SANGRAM SAMITI (PPSS)
- Premiere Urgence Internationale
- Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) – regional, Latin America.
- Rural Women’s Development Society
- Sudanese Monitor for Human Rights
- Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research
- Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
- Syrian Network for Human Rights
- Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ)
- The Association Switzerland-Palestine
- The Democracy Center
- The Jus Semper Global Alliance
- The National Society for Democracy and Law
- The Regina Peace Council
- The Rights Forum
- The Union of Palestinian Women Committees
- Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
- US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
- Viva Salud
- War on Want
- Women Studies Center
- Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)
 Human Rights Council, Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 24 March 2016, A/HRC/RES/31/36, para. 17.
 Josef Federman, Josh Lederman and Jamey Keaten, ‘Israel races to head off UN settlement ‘blacklist’’ (AP, 26 November 2017) ; Nick Cumming-Bruce, ‘Clash Over Israeli Settlements Has a New Front: A Delayed U.N. Report’ (The New York Times, 5 March 2019),
 In a joint letter sent to the OHCHR on 27 November 2018, over 100 civil society organizations from around the world said that: “Further delays in the publication of the Database will only serve to undermine its establishment, and the important work done by your Office [OHCHR] and others, including members of civil society, to realize this necessary initiative to promote state and business responsibilities to protect and respect human rights.”
 See for example: United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases ‘Special Coordinator Reports Largest Expansion of West Bank Settlements in 2 Years, as He Briefs Security Council on Middle East Peace Process’, 20 June 2019,
 See for example: On 6 April 2019, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I’m going to apply sovereignty, but I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlement points, because from my perspective every such point of settlement is Israeli” See David M. Halbfinger, ‘Netanyahu Vows to Start Annexing West Bank, in Bid to Rally the Right’ (New York Times, 6 April 2019),
 Letter from High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, to the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Vojislav Šuc, on 7 August 2018,
 Human Rights Council, 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, A/HRC/22/63.
 “The violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life, owing to settlement development and infrastructure, Palestinians suffer from restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education; their rights to land and water; access to livelihood and their right to an adequate standard of living; their rights to family life; and many other fundamental rights.” Human Rights Council, Database of all business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the 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, 26 January 2018, A/HRC/37/39.
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