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Amnesty International urges UN to release database on companies operating in Israeli settlements

By Yehudit Tzfat - September 23, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlements]

Amnesty International is calling on United Nations member states to push for the release of a database listing companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements during the next Human Rights Council session on Palestine. 

“[Fo]r decades, official condemnation and quiet diplomacy have failed to bring about necessary change. Now more than ever is the time for concrete action. States must use the next Human Rights Council session on Palestine to demand the release of the database,” Laith Abu Zeyad, Amnesty International campaigner on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said. 

In a report published last week, the human rights organisation indicated how the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has consistently delayed the publication of the database. In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council tasked the High Commissioner with creating and updating the database annually. 

“It has become increasingly clear that the delay is in part because certain states are bringing extensive political pressure to bear, not just to put off the database’s release, but to stop it being made public at all,” Abu Zeyad said. 

“In other words, some powerful states in the UN are lobbying the High Commissioner to simply ignore the mandate she has been given by the Council, or to interpret the mandate in a way that strains all credibility: either by not mentioning companies’ names or not releasing the database at all.”

While the database was expected to be finalised by March 2017, the process of publishing it has been stalled under former High Commissioner Zeid al-Hussein and now his successor, Michele Bachelet. An official date on when to release the data has still not been set.

The database is meant to track business services that profit off of the growth of Israeli settlements or support “the maintenance and existence of settlements,” including activities related to supplying construction equipment, surveillance, security, finances and natural resource exploitation.

“The purpose of the UN database is quite simple: it is meant to help businesses, and the states in which they are based, take steps to ensure they are not committing or contributing to gross human rights abuses of Palestinians,” Abu Zeyad said. 

Between 600,000 to 750,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 150 settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Despite the UN Security Council stating the settlements are in violation of international law and disrupt peace efforts, newly published data shows settlement construction has increased significantly since President Donald Trump took office over two years ago. 

Yet Amnesty International said “[t]he UN has the potential to change the status quo in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” by fulfilling this mandate. 

“This will bring much needed transparency to business activities in Israeli settlements, facilitate states’ compliance with international law and expedite companies’ progress towards respecting human rights.”

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