UN special investigator Richard Falk has warned that international businesses
operating in West Bank settlements may face criminal and civil liability under
This also extends to employees of the businesses in
question, he told the United Nations in New York on Thursday, when he spoke at
the 24th meeting of a UN General Assembly human rights group – formally called
the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee.
Falk also submitted a
report to that effect to the General Assembly.
He called on it to
considering asking the International Court of Justice at the Hague, which has
already advised that Israel is in occupation of the West Bank, to issue an
opinion on the liability of businesses that benefit economically from
Falk further asked the international community to do more to
stop West Bank settlements, including boycotting international businesses which
“My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted
in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the
Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted, until they bring their
operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and
standards,” Falk said.
“In short, businesses should not breach
international humanitarian law provisions.
Nor should they be complicit
in any breaches. If they do, they may be subject to criminal or civil liability.
And this liability can be extended to individual employees of such businesses,”
Among those businesses which he highlighted in the report
were, Caterpillar Inc. (US); Veolia Environnement (France); G4S (UK);
Dexia Group (Belgium); Ahava (Israel); the Volvo Group (Sweden); the Riwal
Holding Group (Netherlands); Elbit Systems (Israel); Hewlett Packard (US);
Mehadrin (Israel); Motorola (US); Assa Abloy (Sweden); and Cemex
The United States Ambassador to the UN in New York, Susan Rice,
condemned Falk’s report and said his boycott call was “irresponsible and
“Throughout his tenure as special rapporteur, Mr. Falk has
been highly biased and made offensive statements, including outrageous comments
on the 9/11 attacks,” Rice said.
“Mr. Falk’s recommendations do nothing
to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and indeed
poison the environment for peace. His continued service in the role of a UN
Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the
UN,” she said.
Caterpillar said, in a statement, that Falk’s report was
inaccurate and misleading and “reflects his personal and negative opinions
The company said it sells products to the US government,
which are then sent to Israel.
Hewlett Packard said Falk was “far from an
independent and unbiased expert in this matter,” and that the company has a
strong human rights policy and complies with the highest standards in every
market in which it operates.
Motorola and Volvo were not immediately
available for comment.
Falk has long been a controversial figure. In 2011
he wrote on his blog that there had been an “apparent coverup” by US authorities
over the September 11, 2001 attacks and he also posted an anti-Semitic cartoon,
which was later removed.
He was appointed in 2008 by the Geneva-based UN
Human Rights Council as the special investigator on the situation of human
rights in the Palestinian territories.
Israel has barred Falk from
entering the country, including the West Bank.
Reuters contributed to