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Israel: UN expert welcomes Dutch firm’s decision to pull out of an illegal Israeli project in East Jerusalem

GENEVA (10 September 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk today welcomed the decision made by the Dutch multinational company Royal HaskoningDHV to terminate its contract with the Jerusalem municipality to build the Kidron wastewater treatment plant intended to service illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

“The sewage treatment facility would have served to further entrench Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, now universally considered to be a violation of international law and United Nations resolutions,” said the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

“It is encouraging that international corporations are taking corporate social responsibility seriously and weighing the legal consequences, financial costs and reputational risks of involvement in the maintenance and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine,” he noted.

In its official statement, Holland’s largest engineering company, Royal HaskoningDHV, explained that ‘In the course of the project, and after due consultation with various stakeholders, the company came to understand that future involvement in the project could be in violation of international law.’ Special Rapporteur Falk praised the decision as a major acknowledgement of the arguments made by legal experts and human rights activists about the corporate responsibility to respect human rights.

“The Dutch firm’s decision is part of a growing momentum against Israel’s failure to comply with international law in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing belligerent occupation,” added the UN expert, citing the recent report of the international fact finding mission on Israeli settlements*.

Mr. Falk also recalled the new European Union guidelines which establish that all agreements between Israel and the EU for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU must now unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.

“It is hoped that other companies engaged in business relationships with the illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine will follow Royal HaskoningDHV’s lead and terminate their involvement out of respect for corporate responsibility and international law,” the human rights expert said.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on corporate complicity in the Israeli settlement enterprise to the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in October 2013. The report will set out a model for legal analysis of the specific ways in which business activities potentially implicate companies in international crimes.

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

(*) Check the report by the independent international fact-finding mission: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-63_en.pdf

OHCHR Country Page – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
OHCHR Country Page – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Kiyohiko Hasegawa (+41 22 928 9211 / khasegawa@ohchr.org to sropt@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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