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Re: Exclusion of Veolia Environnement SA from SNS portfolios

Tuesday, 25 March 2008 09:51
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SNS Bank/Asset Management
Jacqueline Baijens
ESG-analist
Postbus 70053
5201 DZ 's-Hertogenbosch
T +31 73 683 25 26
F +31 73 683 39 50


Dear Ms. Baijens, 

As a Palestinian organisation committed to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq writes to you to urge SNS Bank to follow the brave decision taken by your subsidiary, ASN Bank, and exclude Veolia Environnement SA from your investment portfolios.

As you know, Veolia and its subsidiary Connex in 2005 signed an agreement with the government of Israel regarding the operation and maintenance of the Jerusalem Light Rail system, construction of which is now well underway. The building and operation of this transport system entails serious and widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. 

Palestinian East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in June 1967 in violation of the most fundamental principles of international law. The prohibition on acquisition of territory by the threat or use of force is established as a norm of jus cogens, from which no derogation is permissible. Not one State outside Israel recognises this annexation as valid, and East Jerusalem legally remains part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory over which the Palestinian people hold an incontrovertible right to self-determination. Israel’s actions since 1967, however, have sought to further embed its control over occupied East Jerusalem. Indeed, over the last 40 years, Israel has acted in continued and unchecked defiance of the clear provisions of international law, and has to this day persisted in policies aimed not only at illegally securing a demographic superiority of the Jewish population in occupied East Jerusalem, but also at isolating East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank with which it is territorially, politically, socially and historically contiguous. This is done through the construction and continuing expansion of Jewish-Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Approximately a third of the land of East Jerusalem illegally annexed in 1967 was expropriated to build 12 settlements, now home to some 200,000 Israeli settlers. The majority of the remaining land of East Jerusalem was re-zoned so as to prevent Palestinian use, and in effect serves as a land reserve for further settlement construction and expansion. While Palestinians constitute over 50 percent of the population of East Jerusalem, only 7.3 percent of the land therein is available for Palestinian construction, most of which is already built-up. 

The latest measure adopted by the Israeli authorities in consolidating its unlawful annexation of, and control over, occupied East Jerusalem comes in the form of the aforementioned Jerusalem Light Rail.  As early as 2001, land belonging to Palestinians in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Shu’fat was confiscated by the Jerusalem Municipality for the future light rail. Construction of the first line of the system is now well underway; it is scheduled to begin operating between the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem and Mount Herzl in West Jerusalem, via the walls of the Old City and French Hill, in early 2009. This is but the first instalment of a masterplan for the broader Light Rail Transportation system, with seven lines slated for completion by 2020 to provide access from various illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem to the western part of the city. 

That the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem are illegal under international humanitarian law is indisputable, Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention stating clearly that “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The Security Council of the United Nations has held that these unlawful settlements “constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East” (see, for example Security Council Resolution 465).

The confiscation and requisition of property in occupied territory is also illegal under Article 52 of the Hague Regulations, unless justified by military necessity. 

Thus any actors involved in an enterprise which recognises, assists and consolidates illegal settlements, as well as confiscates the land of the protected occupied population in the process, are complicit in the illegal actions. 

Further, Veolia is a participant in the UN Global Compact, an international initiative bringing private companies together with UN agencies, labour and civil society to support universal human rights, environmental and social principles. This initiative has ten baseline principles at its core, the first two of which stipulate that participating businesses are to “support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights within their sphere of influence,” and “make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” By knowingly and actively participating in a measure aimed at altering the status of the city of Jerusalem which consolidates the Israeli settlements to the detriment of the Palestinian right to self-determination, Veolia is acting in clear breach of these stipulations.

Al-Haq trusts, therefore, that SNS Bank will uphold its ethical and legal commitment not to contribute to or associate itself in any way with a company that is actively complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and humanitarian law in East Jerusalem. We look forward to hearing that SNS will stand behind the principles of justice and human rights by excluding Veolia from its portfolios. Should you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely, 

Shawan Jabarin,
General Director,
Al-Haq