Yesterday’s publication of the UN database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory is welcomed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and Al-Haq. The database is critical to ensuring transparency and accountability for businesses operating in the occupied Palestinian territory and in other situations of occupation and conflict. The database also demonstrates the commitment of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to upholding human rights standards and the rule of law in pursuit of justice and accountability for afflicted persons and groups around the world, while reaffirming the OHCHR’s independence and impartiality, even in the face of undue and intense political pressure.
Due to pervasive impunity, Israel’s illegal settlement industry has been allowed to operate and expand in violation of international law. As documented in the 2013 report of the independent international fact finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements, “[…] business enterprises unfold their activities in the settlements and contribute to their maintenance, development and consolidation.” Businesses play a significant role in the sustainability of Israel’s illegal settlements and are at great risk of contributing to or benefiting from the Israeli human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people.
In its report, the OHCHR recognizes that the mandate provided by resolution 31/36 included the annual update of the database, and recommended for the Human Rights Council to “establish a group of independent experts, with a time-bound mandate, to report directly to the council for such a purpose.” Shawan Jabarin, Director of Al-Haq, explained the significance of the database in countering widespread impunity for businesses benefiting from unlawful settlement activity:
“Adding and removing companies from the long-awaited database creates a necessary incentive and deterrent against engaging with Israel’s illegal settlement industry, as mandated by Human Rights Council resolution 31/36. It is therefore critical to annually update the database to bring an end to corporate complicity in Israel’s prolonged occupation and widespread and systematic human rights abuses.”
CIHRS and Al-Haq commend the High Commissioner and her Office for upholding standards of independence and the rule of law despite undue political pressure, and emphasize that the database sets a precedent and will serve as an important tool to stop the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources and to end Israel’s impunity for its human rights violations. “We welcome the database’s release as an important step towards transparency in regards to the activities of companies profiting from Israel’s illegal settlement industry. Now it is of utmost importance to not only oppose the settlements with statements but also with actions,” emphasized Bahey eldin Hassan, Director of CIHRS.
Palestinian, regional, and international organizations have worked persistently over the last three years to ensure the fulfillment of the Human Rights Council mandate 31/36, which requested the production of the database of businesses operating in illegal Israeli settlements. Following its review of the 321 business enterprises and the contacting of 206 businesses operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, the OHCHR has published the database report containing 112 Israeli and international companies. The full list of the companies can be found in the report.
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