On 27 August 2019, 103 local, regional and international organizations called on the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Madam Michelle Bachelet, to release the UN database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (hereinafter the Database).
In the letter, the undersigned organizations expressed their deep concern that the release of the Database, including the names of companies facilitating Israel’s settlement enterprise, has been repeatedly delayed potentially due to political pressure. The delay comes over three years after the Human Rights Council (HRC) established the mandate to create the Database and more than two years after its initial scheduled release in March 2017.
The organizations urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to fully implement the mandate provided in HRC resolution 31/36 of March 2016 by releasing and transmitting the data, including the names of companies involved in the specified activities, to the Human Rights Council, so that the Database may be considered at the upcoming Council session in September 2019 and be updated annually.
The organisations expressed that there has been no other mandate given to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) by the HRC that has been subject to such a prolonged and open-ended delay. The undersigned also stressed the importance of protecting the independence and impartiality of the Office of the High Commissioner, including by fully implementing the mandates by the UN Human Rights Council.
Meanwhile, the letter reiterated that over the past few years, the Israeli government has escalated the construction of new settlements in the West Bank, while the Israeli Prime Minister has indicated his intention to formally annex parts of the West Bank, in violation of international law, which constitute grave breaches that amount to internationally recognized crimes.
According to Al-Haq General Director, Mr. Shawan Jabarin: “The prevailing culture of impunity for Israel’s persistent violations of international law and infringements on the rights of the Palestinian people has also allowed business enterprises to contribute to and benefit from the prolonged occupation and gross human rights violations in the OPT, particularly Israel’s expanding settlement enterprise, which deprives Palestinians fundamental rights, notably the right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources.”
The mobilization of organizations behind the release of the Database demonstrates the importance of fulfilling the mandate entrusted to the High Commissioner in order to ensure the protection of human rights and respect for international law by state and non-state actors and bolster the development of the business and human rights framework in situations of armed conflict and occupation.
“The message from global civil society is clear: the database must be released in full. The credibility of Human Rights Council and Office of the High Commissioner is at stake”, said the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in Geneva, Mr. Jeremie Smith.