Russell Tribunal on Palestine: Corporate Complicity in Violations of International Law - What can lawyers in the UK do?
inminds 5 November 2011
The second international session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine took place in London, in November 2010. It examined International corporate complicity in Israelís violations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and War Crimes.
The Tribunal concluded that it has "heard compelling evidence of corporate complicity of Israeli violations of international law, relating to: the supply of arms; construction and maintenance of the illegal separation Wall; and in establishing, maintaining and providing services to illegal settlements".
Following on from this, on 11th February 2011, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights held a seminar to ask what can lawyers in the UK do next and how can corporations complicit in violations of international law be held to account. Speakers included Shubhaa Srinivasan and Andrew Sanger.
Shubhaa Srinivasan, Andrew Sanger, and Rachel (left to right)
Shubhaa Srinivasan is from Partner Leigh Day & Co. Solicitors, a firm that specialises in human rights cases involving actions against businesses and multi-national corporations. She is one of the three legal clerks that the Russell Tribunal's London session had and she assisted the tribunal jury in putting questions to witnesses and preparing the conclusions.
Andrew Sanger is an academic at Cambridge University who specialises on the subject of 'Corporations and International Law'.
Rachel, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
The speakers spoke for 50 minutes, and was followed by a 20 minutes of questions and answers. the full video is provided below.
After Rachel from Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights introduced the speakers, Andrew Sanger talked about the Russell Tribunal, summarising its proceedings.
Drones are indiscriminate weapons, for every one military target killed it results in 10 civilian deaths - Brookings Institute, Washington 2009
Next Shubhaa Srinivasan looked at how corporate acts contribute to Israeli violations to International Law. These can be split in to three areas of corporate complicity:
1. Delivery of military material and equipment
2. Assistance to the illegal Israeli settlements
3. Assisting in the construction & maintenance of the illegal Wall
Corporate Complicity - Military Equipment
Shubhaa Srinivasan then analysed in detail the corporate complicity of three British companies to the delivery of military material and equipment to Israel:
Manufactures display components used in Israel's AH-64 apache helicopters
UK Government has conceded that the components licensed for export from Britain were 'almost certainly' used by the Israeli armed forced in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
Multinational British / Danish corporation - owns 90% of G4S Israel (Hashmira), an Israeli security company. Has assisted Israeli in illegal activities by:
supplying luggage scanning equipment & full body scanners at military checkpoints in the West Bank, all built as part of Separation wall, whose route has been declared illegal by the ICJ in its Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004.
Supplying security services to businesses in the illegal settlements in the West Bank and settlement neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem.
Provides perimeter defence system for the walls of the Ofer prison dedicated to Palestinian political prisoners
3. Elbit Systems & Subsidiaries
Leading Israeli multinational in the defence and war industry founded in 1967
Business model built on very close relationship with Israeli military
Intimate knowledge of Israeli military needs
Weapons developed by Elbit were first used / tested by the Israeli military - if successful these are marketed worldwide
Western countries continue to do business with Elbit Systems despite its questionable relationship with the Israeli military, purchasing its products, awarding military and defence contracts to its numerous subsidiaries around the world
Elbits Hermes 450 UAVs widely employed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. Countries worldwide have procured and continue to develop UAVs, some of them in conjunction with Elbit's subsidiaries.
Thales UK (Crawley), partners
with Elbit in subsidiary U-Tacs
British Army awarded Elbit Systems & its partner Thales UK a contract worth over US $1 billion for the development of the Watchkeeper programme.
British company UAV Engines Ltd (wholly owned Elbit subsidiary) will produce plane's engines. Another Elbit subsidiary U-Tacs (UAV Tactical Systems Ltd) - a British company operates the Watchkeeper Programme.
Complex web of corporations in the security and war industry but if they are disentangled a clear picture emerges of how all of these different desperate corporations from different countries ultimately serve the corporate interest of Elbit.
Corporate Complicity - Israeli settlements
Some corporations such as Ahava are also involved in the assisting of the transfer of the Israeli population - actually complicit in the process of violating international law in transferring Israeli population to the West Bank and also provide considerable assistance to illegal settlements to actually function.
Next Andrew Sanger examined corporate assistance to Israeli settlements. Over 1400 corporations are active in the settlements. The 'Who Profits' database lists 400 of them, and the Tribunal heard evidence on the 12 major corporations. The evidence was from primary sources, all corroborated.
Examples - Israeli Corporations
1. Africa Israel Investments : constructs buildings in settlements
2. Avgol: manufactures non-woven fabrics, which are mostly used in sanitary pads and diapers. Factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone, which is on occupied land in the West Bank.
3. Ahava - manufactures & exports cosmetic products using Dead Sea mud obtained from Mitzpe Shalem, a West Bank settlement established in 1977.
4. Carmel Agrexco - exporter of agricultural produce, some of which originates from the illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Examples - Foreign Corporations
1. Veolia Transport (S.A., Nanterre, France) involved in the construction of the Jerusalem tramline, which Veolia is due to operate.
2. Dexia (Brussels, Belgium) finances Israeli settlements in the West Bank via its subsidiary Dexia Israel Public Finance Ltd.
3. Caterpillar (USA) - supplies specifically modified military D9 bulldozers to Israel.
4. Cement Roadstone Holdings (Ireland) - holds 25% of the shares of Mashav Initiating and Development. Mashav is a holding company that is the sole owner of Nesher Israel Cement Enterprises, which is Israel's sole cement producer, supplying 75-90% of all cement in Israel and occupied Palestine.
5. Penioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (Netherlands) - 2nd biggest pension fund - investments in 27 corporations that either contribute to Israeli violations of international law or profit from the Israeli occupation.
6. G4S, (see above)
Corporate Complicity - The Wall
Andrew Sanger then looked at the corporate assistance in the construction & maintenance of the illegal Wall. The Wall de facto annexes 16% of the West Bank to Israel and provides an enclosure to illegal settlements.
1. Caterpillar - bulldozers used to prepare the ground for the wall
2. G4S - equipping military checkpoints built in to the wall
3. Elbit -responsible for many sections of the Wall
4. Riwal Holding Group, based in the Netherlands - leased cranes used to construct parts of the Wall.
5. Cement Roadstone Holdings -supply of cement for the construction of the Wall.
6. Ashlad Ltd - manufactures concrete slabs for the construction of the Wall.
Shubhaa Srinivasan and Andrew Sanger finished with a very interesting session looking in detail at possible legal remedies both under International Law, English Law and Criminal Law.
This was followed by a useful question and answer session.
0:00:00 Introduction - Rachel, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
0:01:37 Russell Tribunal - Andrew Sanger
0:06:50 How corporate acts contributing to Israeli violations to International Law was analysed by the jury - Shubhaa Srinivasan
0:10:15 Corporate Complicity - military - Shubhaa Srinivasan
0:19:56 Corporate Complicity - settlement - Andrew Sanger
0:24:00 Corporate Complicity - Wall - Andrew Sanger
0:27:46 Legal avenues under International Law - Andrew Sanger
0:29:33 Legal avenues under English Law - Shubhaa Srinivasan
0:41:35 Legal avenues under Criminal Law - Andrew Sanger
"Its important to choose a strategy that doesn't end up diverting attention from the issue.. the other side wants nothing more than to divert attention from what the record shows, what the human rights record shows, what the UN record and so forth - they don't want to talk about that because once they start talking about that they loose. They'd rather talk about anti-Semitism, the Nazi holocaust - anything accept Israel and Palestine. With that in mind you have to be careful that you don't embark on a tactic which is going to end up diverting people from Israel-Palestine.. You don't' want to choose grey areas, you always want to choose black and white areas where there is no room for discussion, where there is no room for debate. This is black and white: World Court decision [wall and settlements illegal] 14 to 1. Human rights issues - Amnesty says Israel tortures, Human Rights Watch says Israel tortures, B'Tselem says Israel tortures, everyone says it - its black and white. And the other side has to end up with some ridiculous proposition as Professor Dershowitz put it 'they're all lying'."