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Open Letter to HC on the UN Database of Businesses operating in Israeli Settlements

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26 February 2018

H.E. Prince Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein High Commissioner for Human Rights Palais Wilson – United Nations

Geneva, Switzerland


 22 February 2018


Joint Open Letter to the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Re: Release of UN Database of Businesses Operating in Israeli Settlements


Your Excellency,


The undersigned 33 organizations welcome the report your office released on 26 January 2018 pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 on Israeli settlements in the Occupied  Palestinian  Territory  (OPT),  with  regards  to  producing  a  Database  of  all business  enterprises   engaged  in  certain  specified  activities  related  to  the  Israeli settlements in the OPT. Our organizations acknowledge the significant progress made in establishing the Database, and in setting out a clear methodology, and a solid normative framework  for  this  purpose.  The  report  reiterates  the  unequivocal  language  of  UN Security Council resolution 2334: the establishment by Israel of settlements in the OPT has no legal validity, and constitutes a serious and flagrant violation of international law. It  further  affirms  that  businesses  should  be  prepared  to  accept  any  consequences  – reputational, financial, or legal – of involvement in human rights violations. Given the clarity  with  which  your  office  has  addressed  and  rebutted  the  standard  arguments proffered by certain  companies  seeking to justify their engagement in the settlements, going forward there can be no doubt  that an enterprise which conducts such activities does so at its own peril.


While we acknowledge the progress made to date, there is much work left to do. In that regard, and conscious of the fact that this mandate was created almost two years ago, we would urge your office to  complete its review of all companies named as a matter of urgency. As many of our organizations have already highlighted, the Database should be a mechanism that assists states in meeting their  obligations  under international law, including the obligation not to recognize as lawful – even implicitly – the illegal situation created by Israeli settlements and not to contribute to maintaining this illegal situation. This entails regulating businesses domiciled in their territory to ensure they are not engaged in listed activities in settlements.


In moving forward with this process, we would ask your office to further clarify and elaborate on specific matters of methodology and processes. For example, as part of the screening  process,  we  would  ask  that  your  office  define  the  ‘minimal  and  remote’ business activities that would result in the  business being excluded from the Database, and explain how this definition may relate to sub-contracting relationships and supply chains.  For  purposes  of  increased  transparency,  we  would  urge  you  to  reconsider providing  enterprises  with  the  option  of  keeping  the  substance  of  written  responses confidential. While we acknowledge that there may be a value in companies submitting information  confidentially  during  the  fact-finding  stage  for  the  purpose  of  enabling constructive engagement, we nonetheless suggest that company responses to allegations of  fact  be  made  public.  Alternatively,  as  a  minimum,  an  accurate  summary  of  the company's response should be publicly released. This disclosure constitutes vital access to  information   for  affected  communities  and  individuals  in  the  settlement  areas. Similarly, in relation to your  communications with states that have relevant business enterprises domiciled in their countries, we request that you provide more information on commitments  such  ‘home’  States  may  have  agreed  to   undertake  in  this  regard. Moreover, the data gathered on companies involved in human rights  violations in the OPT should be transmitted by the OHCHR to the Human Rights Council (HRC) as an annually updated official document providing a living Database.


The  undersigned  organizations  acknowledge  the  effort  and  resources  required  to accomplish the  progress highlighted in the report, where your office has reviewed 321 companies allegedly involved in  activities pursuant to paragraph 96 of the fact-finding mission  report  on  the  settlements  (A/HRC/22/63).  We  strongly  suggest  that  all  the businesses that were duly screened and contacted  according to the methodology and standard  of  proof  set  out  in  the  report,  and  who  subsequently  provided  a  response rejecting the process and mandate of OHCHR or have not provided a response within the given 60 day timeframe, should be immediately released. It should be recalled that the purpose of the Database is to be a living document with periodic updates. As such, the release of any current findings would be a first step towards the ongoing work set out in the mandate. In addition, we believe  that there must be a clear time frame set for an enterprise’s engagement with your Office, including a  maximum timeframe for those companies that opt to constructively engage with your Office, for the sake of increased transparency and clarity of the process for all stakeholders involved.


We are aware that UN bodies, including your office, have been facing unprecedented pressure by some  states and organizations to prevent the release of this Database. We therefore applaud your office for releasing this report nonetheless. The Database presents a significant step forward for the business and human rights agenda worldwide. It sets an example of an efficient tool to ensure greater accountability for corporate human rights abuses, including the right of victims to an adequate remedy, particularly in situations of occupation. It also assists states to bring their companies into compliance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (A/HRC/17/31), as well as principles of international humanitarian and human right law. An effective database would give a glimmer  of  hope  to  the  Palestinian  people  enduring  half  a  century  long  military occupation, and stand as a reminder that the international community is committed to putting an end to the illegal settlement enterprise that is stifling their economy, depleting their natural resources, and undermining their human rights.


In light of the above, we urge you to:

a) Immediately list businesses that have been duly screened and contacted according to the  methodology  and  standard  of  proof  set  out  in  the  report,  and  who subsequently provided a response rejecting the process and mandate of OHCHR, or have not provided a response within the given 60 day timeframe;


b) Continue working with civil society organizations and human rights defenders in full transparency for the completion and continuous updating of the Database, and the strengthening of methodologies and procedures;


c) Ensure that  appropriate  resources  are  allocated  so  as  to  allow  for  continued development of the Database mechanism;


d) Include, in  the  coming  report,  direct  recommendations  for  States  on  how  to engage  with  the  new  mechanism  to  help  them  distinguish  in  their  relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied the territories occupied since 1967, as stipulated by UNSCR 2334.


 Yours sincerely,



Amnesty International

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Aldameer Association for Human Rights

Arab Organization for Human Rights

Article 1 Collective

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

BADIL - Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights

Bytes For All, Pakistan


Community Action Center – Al-Quds University

Conectas Direitos Humanos

DCI - Defense for Children International – Palestine

EuroMed Rights

Forum Tunisien Pour les Droits Economiques et Sociaux

Hurryyat - Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

International Trade Union Confederation

Italian General Confederation of Labour

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)

National Institution of Social Care & Vocational Training


Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Palestina Solidariteit vzw, Belgium

Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine

Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies

QADER for Community Development


Health Work Committees