Falk: Firms tied to settlements may face charges

Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard among businesses that UN expert says should be boycotted because they profit from settlements.

October 25, 2012 22:47
2 minute read.
Caterpillar among targets for divestment

Caterpillar road grader 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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UN special investigator Richard Falk has warned that international businesses operating in West Bank settlements may face criminal and civil liability under international law.

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.

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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 settlements.

Falk further asked the international community to do more to stop West Bank settlements, including boycotting international businesses which operate there.

“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,” Falk said.

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 (Mexico).

The United States Ambassador to the UN in New York, Susan Rice, condemned Falk’s report and said his boycott call was “irresponsible and unacceptable.”

“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 toward Israel.”

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 this report.

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