Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
التضامن الإيرلندي الفلسطيني

Veolia and breaches of international law

Veolia and its breaches of international law and norms
Below we explore 6 areas of international human rights and humanitarian laws along with recognised frameworks, norms and guidelines for multinational businesses which Veolia are in breach of in relation to its activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

1. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

2. The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)

3. International Court of Justice (2004)

4. Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights (2008)*

5. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2008)*

6. The UN Global Compact

Why are Veolia’s operations illegal under international humanitarian law, human rights law and UN Norms?

The Irish Government and the United Nations do not recognise Israel’s annexation and occupation of East Jerusalem and have repeatedly stated their views that the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank contravene international law and numerous UN resolutions.

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. The settlements violate several articles of the 4th Geneva Convention.

The tramway constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the OPT contrary to the Hague Regulations of 1907 Section 39, which Israel accepts as binding international law.

Numerous UN resolutions have condemned as illegal Israel’s colonies (settlements) that are built on what is internationally recognised to be occupied Palestinian land. The most recent reaffirmation of this verdict of international law came from the International Court of Justice which stated that states should not do anything to assist Israel in its unlawful settlement activities. Yet Veolia is involved in building and operating a tramline that runs through the Occupied Palestinian Territories and sustains the settlements.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted on 14th April 2010. Para 5(g) expresses
its grave concern at ” The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions;”.

# Full resolution: http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/37BF1829818D0B788525770D00536076

# Consolidation of Jerusalem annexation continues with the Light Rail
Report, Al-Haq, 2 July 2007 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article7076.shtml

1. United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Due to the proximity of Veolia’s operation in occupied Palestine they are clearly in breach of several articles of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights*. The ongoing occupation of Palestine is in contrary to;

Articles 2 which states;
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3;
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 17 confirms;
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 13 confirms;
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 25 confirms;
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

* United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Dec 10 1948,
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

2. The Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)

The settlements violate Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention*, which provides that the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies as well as Article 53, which forbids destruction of property. Articles 146, 147 refer to ‘Grave breaches’ of the Convention amounting to war crimes as they involve appropriation of Palestinian property not justified by military necessity.

These grave breaches are being facilitated by Veolia’s participation in the construction and future of the tramway serving the settlements. In addition the tramway will discriminate against Palestinians as they will not be allowed to travel on it. This discrimination is no different to the apartheid South African ‘whites only’ system of discrimination.

*Reference Guide to the Geneva Conventions http://www.genevaconventions.org/

3. International Court of Justice (2004)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ)* ruled the Separation wall illegal as they
considered it to be an attempt by Israel to annexe Palestinian territory contrary to
International Law and it interfered with the right of Palestinians to self determination.

The ICJ ruled that all states are:
• under an obligation not to recognise the illegal situation resulting from the wall including East Jerusalem
• not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation
• all states are obliged to ensure compliance by Israel of UN Charters and International Law.

The ICJ ordered Israel to:
• stop the construction of the wall
• dismantle what has been built
• make reparations for damage done
• re-instate the land and housing destroyed by the wall.

The ruling is quite clear that all states are obliged to ensure compliance by Israel of UN Charters and International Law. Veolia, too, are obliged to abide by these laws and charters and should not be to rendering aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by the wall nor should it be profiting from the ongoing human rights abuses of the Palestinian people.

Two companies owned by the French state fund CDC — Veolia and Egis Rail — are involved with and profit from such unlawful acts. This calls France’s commitment to international law into question.

*Summary of the Advisory Opinion 9 July 2004 ICJ http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf

4. Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights (2008)*

This important framework, prepared by John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises was adopted by the Human Rights Council and supported by the EU in 2008. It states that companies should adhere to four core elements:

• Have a human rights policy
• Assess human rights impacts of the company’s activities
• Integrate those values and findings into corporate cultures and management systems
• Track as well as report performance

Ruggie stated that among the various factors corporations should consider are whether and how the company might contribute to human rights abuse through the relationships connected to its activities, such as with business partners, entities in its supply chain, other non-State actors, and State agents. In “conflict-affected areas” he asserted that corporations should take into account international humanitarian law and policies; and in projects affecting indigenous peoples, should set standards specific to those communities.

The substantive content of this due diligence process is that Veolia should encompass all internationally recognized human rights. It is clear that Veolia are not adhering to this framework which has been endorsed by the EU. Ireland should not accept any company that is willing to ignore international norms and laws.
In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved its new Guiding Principles for the implementation of the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, designed to help states and businesses understand their duty to prevent corporate abuse of human rights and their obligations under international law+.
According to these principles, “states should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the state … [including by] denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation.”
* Main report: “Protect, Respect and Remedy: a Framework for Business and Human Rights” [PDF], 7 Apr 2008 and + Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework, 21 March 2011.

5. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2008)*

The Guidelines are recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide voluntary principles and standards for responsible business conduct in a variety of areas including employment and industrial relations, human rights, environment, information disclosure, combating bribery, consumer interests, science and technology, competition, and taxation.

These advisory guidelines state that Enterprises should take fully into account established policies in the countries in which they operate, and consider the views of other stakeholders. In this regard, enterprises should:

• Contribute to economic, social and environmental progress with a view to achieving sustainable development.
• Respect the human rights of those affected by their activities consistent with the host government’s international obligations and commitments

Veolia are clearly in contravention of these guidelines. Palestinians land is being illegally taken, homes demolished, farmland confiscated and olive groves destroyed to build the tramway.

*The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, OECD 2008, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/56/36/1922428.pdf

6. The UN Global Compact (2000)*

The United Nations Global Compact is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. The origin of Principles One and Two of the UN Global Compact is in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The aim of this Declaration was to set basic minimum international standards for the protection of the rights and freedoms of the individual. The fundamental nature of these provisions means that they are now widely regarded as forming a foundation of international law.

Veolia is a member of The UN Global Compact which states that businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their spheres of influence, and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. However it activities in occupied Palestine clearly in breach these fundamental principles.
*United Nations Global Compact Brochure, United Nations Global Compact Office, October 2008 http://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/news_events/8.1/GC_brochure_FINAL.pdf