FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12 April 2005
Today marks International Day of Action Against Caterpillar, the US-based manufacturer of industrial equipment. As part of its business operations, the transnational corporation supplies bulldozers to the Israel military; that have been widely documented as being employed during the illegal razing of Palestinian land and property in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, Israel has destroyed 4,170 homes in clearing operations, or for punitive or administrative reasons, making homeless tens of thousands of Palestinians. Furthermore, Caterpillar machinery has been used in the razing of agricultural land, as well as the destruction of land for and building of the Annexation Wall in the OPT, which was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
As an Occupying Power, Israel is bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention and bears primary responsibility for any violations of international law it commits in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. Israel has committed numerous breaches of international law using Caterpillar machinery, including the extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Such destruction is deemed to be a grave breach (i.e., a war crime invoking mandatory universal jurisdiction) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition to the obligations imposed on Israel, all High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions are obligated under common Article 1, both to respect and to ensure respect of the Conventions.
In addition the United Nations Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, makes clear that States must promote, secure the fulfilment of, respect, ensure respect of and protect human rights recognized in international as well as national law, including ensuring that transnational corporations and other business enterprises respect human rights. States are not the only entities that have responsibilities under international law. These same norms find that transnational corporations are also responsible for promoting and securing the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] .
The rights enshrined in the UDHR and affirmed by the norms include the right to property, and protection against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, all of which are rights violated by the Israeli occupying forces using Caterpillar equipment. Furthermore, the UDHR clearly notes in its preamble that every individual and every organ of society should strive to secure the recognition and observance of rights and freedoms contained therein, including those to property and to an adequate standard of living, including housing.
Caterpillar has abdicated its corporate responsibilities for serious violations of international law committed using their equipment. Disappointingly, Chief Executive Officer James Owens stated, the fact remains that with more than two million of our machines and engines in use throughout the world, we simply do not have the practical ability or legal right to determine how our products are used after they are sold. However, international as well as local organisations concerned by Israels use of Caterpillar machinery as weapons against the Palestinian civilian population have repeatedly brought these activities to Caterpillars attention.
UN Special Rapporteurs have also highlighted Israel's misuse of Caterpillar equipment. In a letter to Mr. Owens, Special Rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler expressed alarm at Israels employment of armoured bulldozers supplied by [Caterpillar] to destroy agricultural farms, greenhouses, ancient olive groves and agricultural fields planted with crops, as well as numerous Palestinian homes and sometimes human lives . Moreover, in his 2005 report to the Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur John Dugard highlighted the role of Caterpillar machinery in the massive destruction of property in Gaza, which has destroyed electricity, sewage, and water lines, in addition to destroying homes and farmland, with a total lack of concern for the people affected.
On this day, Al-Haq therefore reminds all organs of society of their obligations under international law:
— Israel must stop the demolition of Palestinian homes, including those carried out in clearing operations or for punitive or discriminatory administrative reasons based on the lack of permit.
— Israel must cease the construction of the Annexation Wall in the OPT and dismantle those sections already built, as reiterated by in the ICJs Advisory Opinion.
— All High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention must uphold the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Convention. States must also cease material or financial support used to demolish Palestinian homes or construct the Wall, as well as prohibiting corporations within their jurisdiction from transferring equipment to Israel for use in such acts.
— Caterpillar and other companies must cease any activity that supports, aids, or facilitates human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Companies must not profit or benefit from these violations.