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Corporate complicity in international crimes related to Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine

NEW YORK / GENEVA (31 October 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk put the spotlight on two international companies, the European banking group Dexia, and the United States-based real estate company Re/Max, for their involvement in illegal settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine.

“All Israeli settlements in the West Bank, as well as in East Jerusalem, have been established in clear violation of international law,” Mr. Falk reminded the UN General Assembly during the presentation of his final report*, referring to case studies undertaken of Dexia Israel Bank Limited and Re/Max.

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 warned that “financial institutions and real estate companies may be held criminally accountable for their involvement with illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.”

The UN expert called on Belgium and France, the majority stakeholders of Dexia Group to compensate Palestinians who have been directly harmed by the settlements to which Dexia Israel has provided loans or administered grants.

“This is a banking company which has served as a conduit to transfer Israeli national lottery grants intended to finance the construction, sustainability and maintenance of settlements such as Ariel and Kedumim,” he said. “I am also particularly disturbed to learn that Dexia withdrew from the UN Global Compact earlier this year.”

Turning to Re/Max Israel, the Special Rapporteur noted that the US-based real estate company openly advertises properties and executes sales of settlement homes in the West Bank.

Mr. Falk’s report outlines a model of legal analysis to assess the probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements.

“I encourage Member States and civil society to use this model as a template to examine other companies engaged in similar activities related to the illegal settlement enterprise,” he said.   

The question of corporate complicity addressed in the Special Rapporteur’s report follows-on from his call made last year at the General Assembly for Member States as well as civil society to boycott Israeli and international businesses profiting from Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine.

“I strongly encourage all business to use the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a guide for how to conduct their business, and to exercise due diligence to ensure they do not contribute to human rights violations and abuse, and in order to avoid responsibility for complicity in breaches of international law,” he said. 

The Special Rapporteur also called on Israel to inform Israeli businesses of their corporate responsibilities if they are franchises and subsidiaries of global companies which profit from activity with the settlements, as well as the international legal ramifications of such business activities, particularly concerning potential liability for corporate complicity in overseas domestic courts.

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 in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. As a Human Rights Council’s mandate holder, Mr. Falk is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.  The position is unpaid and the mandate holder is not a staff member of the United Nations.

(*) Check the full report: http://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/menaregion/pages/psindex.aspx

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

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In New York: Nenad Vasic (+1 212 963 5998 / vasic@un.org)
In Geneva: Kiyohiko Hasegawa (+41 22 928 9211 / khasegawa@ohchr.org or Camilla Wee (+41 22 928 9190 / cwee@ohchr.org) or 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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