Richard Falk of UN letter to NLWA members

Richard Falk letter to NLWA councillors (pdf file)

Dear NLWA members,
I am writing to you in my capacity as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 to urge you not
to select Veolia for public contracts due to its active involvement in Israel’s grave violations
of international law.

On October 25, I presented a report to the United Nations General Assembly on the
legal responsibility of business enterprises, corporations and non-State actors involved in
activities relating to Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.1 The report
concluded that corporations and non-State actors play an instrumental role in Israel’s
belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and the infringements on the human rights of
Palestinians and that public authorities and civil society must take actions to hold complicit
corporations to account.

Due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law
and the strength of concern of Palestinian, European and Israeli civil society about the role
played by Veolia, I decided to select Veolia as one of the case studies to include in my
report. I have attached the report for your consideration.

Veolia has a 5 per cent share in the CityPass consortium, through its subsidiary
Connex Israel, which was contracted by Israel to operate the light rail project in Jerusalem.
The light rail is designed to connect the city of Jerusalem with Israel’s illegal settlements.
Veolia owns approximately 80 per cent of Connex Jerusalem, the company that operates the
trains. Furthermore, through its subsidiary company, the Israeli Veolia group, Veolia owns
and operates the Tovlan landfill in the Jordan Valley of the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Tovlan landfill is used to dump Israeli waste from both within Israel and Israeli
settlements. Veolia furthermore operates buses linking Modi’in and Jerusalem via road 443
and thereby servicing the Israeli settlements of Giv’at Ze’ev and Mevo Horon. All these
activities directly contribute to flagrant violations of international law.

The UN and the overwhelming majority of its members have consistently
condemned Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory as illegal under
international law (Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 governing
belligerent occupation) and as a formidable obstacle to peace, yet Israel continues with their

expansion. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has
documented how the existence and continued expansion of illegal settlements have a severe
humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians, including with respect to house demolitions,
killings and injuries of Palestinian civilians and restrictions of movement that affect
Palestinians, but not Israeli settlers.

Veolia is a signatory to the UN Global Compact, a set of principles regarding
business conduct. Yet its wide ranging and active involvement in Israel’s settlement regime
and persistent failure to exercise due diligence show utter disregard for the human rights
related principles of the Global Compact.
One of the key recommendations of my report is to urge states to implement the new
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These Guiding Principles suggest
as good practice that state authorities consider “denying or withdrawing existing public
support or services” to companies that fail to address their involvement in serious human
rights recommendations.2

I was therefore heartened to learn that a UK government minister has confirmed that
UK legislation allows public authorities to exclude companies involved with Israel’s illegal
settlements from tender exercises.3
Indeed, I agree with the increasing number of experts in international law that argue
that any decision by the NLWA to provide access to public funds to Veolia may contravene
the UK’s international legal obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international
law.

It is my view that Veolia’s violations of the UN Global Compact principles and its
deep and protracted complicity with grave breaches of international law make it an
inappropriate partner for any public institution, especially as a provider of public services.
As I conclude in my recent report, the failure to bring Israel’s occupation of
Palestinian territory to an end after more than 45 years creates an augmented international
responsibility to uphold the human rights of the Palestinian people, who in practice live
without the protection of the rule of law.

I urge you to follow the example set by public authorities and European banks that
have chosen to disassociate themselves from Veolia and take the just and principled
decision not to award Veolia any public service contracts. Such a measure would contribute
to upholding the rule of law and advancing peace based on justice.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Falk
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights
in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

1 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43376#.UJ-8rYVY4Xw

2 http://www.business-humanrights.org/media/documents/ruggie/ruggie-guiding-principles-21-mar-2011.pdf

3http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120523/text/120523w0004.htm#12052384000139

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