The UN should clarify State obligations with regard to settlement-related business activities in Palestine

The UN Human Rights Council adopted today a resolution to follow up on the conclusions issued by the Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) that have found, in particular, that «private entities have enabled, facilitated, and profited from the construction and growth of settlements». The resolution requests the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights to fulfil its mandate, but fails to require a more robust mandate to monitor the above-mentioned misconduct of multinational companies involved in business with Israeli settlements in the OPT.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted today a resolution to follow up on the conclusions issued by the Fact-Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) that have found, in particular, that «private entities have enabled, facilitated, and profited from the construction and growth of settlements». The resolution requests the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights to fulfil its mandate, but fails to require a more robust mandate to monitor the above-mentioned misconduct of multinational companies involved in business with Israeli settlements in the OPT.

Although the international community accepts that Israeli settlements in the OPT are illegal, the trading of settlement products and activities of multinational companies in the settlements are still expanding. The Fact-Finding Mission, which presented its report to the Human Rights Council early this week, has clearly called upon «all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises’ contributing to Israeli settlements respect human rights in their operations».

It is not enough for the European Union and home countries of businesses operating in the OPT to declare Israeli settlements illegal. It is time for States to fulfil their obligations under international law to cease recognition, aid and assistance of this unlawful situation and to bring it to an end, Shawan Jabarin, Al-Haq Director said.

By trading settlement products, providing services to settlers, and by investing in infrastructure and other activities related to settlements, businesses de facto support the sustainability of settlements. The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 make clear that business enterprises should avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts and address any such impacts linked to them through their business relationships. They also clearly state that certain operating environments, such as conflict-affected areas, increase the risk of enterprises being complicit in gross human rights abuses.

FIDH and Al-Haq urge the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights to take the necessary steps to conduct a country visit to Israel and the OPT, including East Jerusalem.

Considering its mandate to « identify, exchange and promote good practices and lessons learned on the implementation of the Guiding Principles and to assess and make recommendations thereon », we further call on the Working Group to clarify the duty of States to protect Palestinian human rights from the detrimental impact of business activities related to settlements. In particular, the Working Group should make recommendations on measures Third States should take to ensure companies under their jurisdiction provide no contribution to the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law entailed in Israel’s settlement enterprise. Such measures should include recommendations to cease financial investment in settlements and impose restrictive measures on trade with settlements.

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