The involvement of JCB equipment in the destruction of Palestinian villages in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem breached Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines according to a claim filed with the organisation.
The claim was raised by UK based Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights at the end of last year after, it says, JCB refused to communicate with it over accusations that its equipment was being used to flatten Palestinian villages.
JCB now has the right to enter into UK government supervised mediation with Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights or contest the claim legally. The Foreign Office's National Contact Point issued a statement yesterday stating that after examining the complaint and considering JCB’s rebuttal - which said that it simply sold the equipment to its Israeli distributor, Comasco, and had no responsibility regarding its use after that - it felt that the manufacturer had a case to answer, at least in part, although it exonerated the company of any involvement whatsoever with human rights abuses.
Specifically it stated: “The UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has decided that:
- The claims related to JCB’s human rights due diligence processes, the claims regarding its business relationships that they are directly linked to and their human rights policy commitments merit further examination
- The claims related to JCB contributing to abuses of human rights does not merit further examination.”
JCB’s rebuttal also stated that it could not be sure that equipment sold to Comasco had been used to destroy Palestinian villages or help with the construction of new illegal settlements and added that its equipment was also used to build hospitals, schools and roads.
The OECD guidelines require companies to seek ways to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts directly linked to its business operations and products by a business relationship. It also asks that they have a policy commitment to respect human rights, and to carry out human rights due diligence.
The director of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Tareq Shrourou, said: “We welcome this initial assessment and the UK National Contact Point’s acknowledgment that there are serious human rights issues raised by our complaint under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises which warrant mediation or thorough investigation.”
“JCB’s apparent failure to address the material and prolific use of its products in demolition and displacement incidents that cruelly impacts Palestinian families, and also its use in settlement related construction which creates pervasive human rights violations, must cease immediately. We look forward to constructively engaging with JCB and expect it will do the right thing by complying with its human rights responsibilities.”
A spokesman for JCB said: “We are very pleased that the UK NCP has dismissed at the earliest opportunity, any suggestion that JCB is in involved in, or causes or contributes towards any human rights abuses whatsoever. There was no basis for the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights to make their complaint alleging this. As an organisation JCB does not condone any form of human rights abuse and we have a consistent record of providing urgent and substantial support in response to natural disasters around the world. While the NCP will now examine JCB’s human rights due diligence process, it has made clear that its decision to do so is not a finding against JCB and does not mean that it considers that JCB has acted in any way inconsistently with the OECD Guidelines. We welcome the opportunity of engaging further with the NCP on these matters.”
It is unlikely that anything will come of this, apart from generating some publicity for the ‘cause’. It is similar in many ways to a claim raised by UANI in the USA in 2011 that tried to stop crane manufacturers - including Terex - from supplying cranes to Iran, given that the regime had used them as mobile gallows from which to hang people - see: Campaign to stop crane sales to Iran, as well as the investigation into Riwal in 2010 that claimed that its equipment has been used to help build the wall being erected between Israeli occupied territory in the West Bank and the rest of Palestine - see: Riwal investigated.
It is hard to see how a manufacturer selling equipment to a distributor or a rental company providing equipment to contractors, who then use them on projects that breach international human rights can be held accountable for that – unless there is a clear case of collusion. Where would it end? Even if companies enforced a policy not to sell equipment in countries that breached human rights, there is nothing stopping third parties selling their machines into those markets? And should manufacturers be held responsible when there machines are used for criminal activities? Such as ripping out cash points?
While this group makes a strong case regarding the gravity of the human rights abuses, trying to hold manufacturers directly responsible seems illogical - apart from presenting another opportunity to flag up the issue and perhaps apply indirect pressure on the offending governments of course - and that really is what all this is about.