From 23rd to 29th of October in Geneva, Switzerland, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop impunity has organized a Week of Peoples Mobilisation in occasion of the Second Session of the Open Ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) at the Human Rights Council with the mandate to establish a Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. Stop the Wall as a member organization of the Global Campaign has participated ensuring Palestine and its struggle against corporations complicit with Israeli crimes have been on the agenda.
For a treaty to hold transnational corporations accountable
In June 2014, the Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 26/9, which established the mandate of the OEIGWG; a historic achievement after decades of discussions and failed attempts within the United Nations. However, corporate pressure and the resistance of states protecting the interests of their transnationals are opposing any positive outcome of the negotiations that would allow peoples to hold corporations accountable and ensure respect for human rights and remedies for victims.
In 2015 the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity was present during the First Meeting of the OEIGWG. At the time, Stop the Wall and Friends of the Earth Palestine(PENGON) raised the case study of Mekorot, the Israeli water company responsible for the denial of access to water as a means for displacement and illegal colonization and land theft of the Palestinian people.
This year again, the Global Campaign used the space to lobby and present their case inside the UN, including side events and press conferences, in addition to following negotiations closely and direct advocacy to member states to ensure that they hear the voices of impacted communities loud and clear.
“The United Nations treaty must include the obligation of TNCs to refrain from all forms of collaboration (economic, financial or supply of services) with other entities, institutions or people that commit human rights violations.”
“States must assume the responsibility to protect human rights defenders and whistle-blowers working in the framework of TNC accountability and in any case must not be allowed to criminalize such efforts. States must as well be required to eschew cooperation with TNCs implicated in human rights violations.”
“A decisive contribution of the United Nations binding treaty must be to recognize that states have extra-territorial obligations related to their duty to protect human rights against TNC abuses, and it must clarify their content and the situation wherein they may arise. Thus, the treaty must require states to regulate the extra-territorial activities of TNCs and ensure access to justice and redress for the affected communities and victims of the activities of TNCs abroad. States must in particular ensure that TNCs based on their territory respect all human rights, including international human rights law, international labour law and international environmental norms, when operating abroad. They must sue and sanction these TNCs when they violate human rights. The treaty must clarify when such extra-territorial obligations arise but a state must, at a minimum, be bound by extra-territorial obligations when a TNC has its centre of activity, is registered or has its headquarters, or has substantial business or financial activities, in the state concerned.”
“This civil and criminal responsibility must apply to crimes and offences committed outright by TNCs and the executives themselves as well as to those resulting from complicity, collaboration, instigation, omission, negligence or dissimulation. The treaty must include strong provisions on the shared liability of transnational corporations with their subsidiaries (de jure or de facto) and their chain of suppliers, licensees and subcontractors. The principle of shared liability must also be applied upward, so that investors, share holders, banks and pension funds that finance TNCs can be held liable for the human rights violations that TNCs commit.”
For the full text, please see: https://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CampaignSubmission-EN-jul2015-PRINT.pdf
Corporations implementing and complicit with Israeli occupation and apartheid
During one side event, Abu Saqer from the Popular Council for the Protection of the Jordan Valley, has presented once again the crimes of Mekorot and the call for justice from the Palestinian people. For a video of his presentation see: https://justice5continents.net/fc/viewtopic.php?qu=720&vplay=1&t=1114&nrvid=5
Outside the UN, at the Place des Nations, in coordination with Swiss social movements and organisations, a number of public events have taken place. Among them a workshop on the “Privatization of War and Security: The impact of Private Military and Security Companies. Lessons for an international regulation”.
Historically, private military and security companies (PMSCs) have been operating across the globe as indirect agents of their home state, especially in contexts where governments don’t want to be seen as giving direct support. Countries, such as US and Israel, have a long history of supporting their operations and dictatorships across the world through ‘private’ security companies. The new dynamic rising since the turn of the century is the scale of the profits and the development of powerful TNCs of the sector – such as G4S, Blackwater etc – which because of their size are rather more independent from their home state and more directly profit driven. PMSCs should not be considered as ordinary commercial entities or commodities. These entities are authorized to use potential lethal force in environments designed to avoid public scrutiny and where supervision and accountability is legally uncertain and practically difficult.
During the last decades, PMSCs have been involved in grave human rights violations that have attracted international concern and debate over the legitimacy of PMSCs, the norms that should guide their operations and the mechanisms to monitor their activities.
The case of Palestine is particularly telling. Israel has since the 80s created a growing number of security companies that are using the ‘expertise’ developed by the Israeli military and intelligence agencies in their efforts to expel the Palestinian people from their lands and repress any resistance. These companies globalise the Israeli ideology of a security paradigm based on surveillance and repression, Israeli methodologies of human rights violations and Israeli technologies that serve to implement the former. This has a threefold impact of legitimising Israeli illegal policies, creating profits from know-how in human rights violations and promoting human rights violations across the globe.
The need of the Israeli regime of occupation and apartheid for services to implement its illegal policies are as well a source of revenue for international PMSCs, such as G4S. In this case, the global campaign against the company presented by Riya Hasan from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), shows not only complicity but as well a people’s response to hold such corporations accountable for their crimes and complicity.
Specific articles should be included in the international convention addressed to PMSCs:
Private contractors/clients that contract PMSC should require by contract that the conduct of any subcontracted PMSC is in conformity with relevant national law, international humanitarian law and international human rights laws. (Related to theme 1)
An international convention reached jointly by all states of the international community would be the ideal instrument to affirm the principle of state responsibility to regulate, supervise and control the activities of PMSCs and to set up concrete obligations of all states with regards to their PMSCs industry and extra-territorial activity. (Related to theme 2)
Reinforce the public scrutiny of the use of force. The international treaty should limit the outsourcing of the use of force such as military and public security to private agents. Military orders adopted during occupation contexts to transfer States’ functions to PMSCs are not acceptable and violate the international law.
The status (civilian, combatants, etc) of private security agents should be clearly established under national and international law. For example, Security Coordinator in Israeli settlements are civilians contracted by the settlement authority but paid by the Ministry of Defence, they have law enforcement tasks but are not police. They coordinate with IDF, and lead squad of settlers to protect the illegal settlement. There is a national and international vacuum that provokes lack of access to remedy for victims of these Security coordinators.
Contracting states as well as PMSC need to be held accountable for the human rights violations committed during operations within the country or abroad. States have the responsibility not to aid and assists PMSCs involved in grave breaches of international law and war crimes in the implementation of these practices and to withhold all contracts, subsidies or cooperation until the PMSCs have ended these practices. They are to hold accountable decision makers and implementing personnel of PMSCs in cases of grave breaches of human rights and international law.
The United Nations have to immediately regulate and reduce to an absolute minimum the use of PMSCs, including G4S.
Palestinian organizations in the framework of the ESCR-Net and the Palestinian mission at the UN
Al-Haq joined African, Asian and Latin American organisations and a representative from the Ecuadorian government on a panel organised by the International Network on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net). The aim of the side-event was to highlight some key proposals, following regional consultation organised by ESCR-Net, that are necessary to include in an international legally binding instrument on regulating the activities of corporations. Al-Haq highlighted conflict-affected areas specifically, mentioning that in the context of occupation, colonialism and post-colonialism, a future legal instrument should include provisions requiring states to adapt their national legislation in order to ensure that corporations are prevented from taking part or benefiting from serious international crimes through requiring enhanced due diligence to that effect. Al-Haq also highlighted that the Treaty must ensure that corporations currently contributing to or directly involved in international crimes withdraw entirely and immediately and be held accountable to its action – particularly when adequate third party documentation has illustrated the illegality of involvement in the affected area.
Al-Haq also delivered an oral statement jointly with Badil and Al-Mezan, emphasizing that any legally binding instrument resulting from this process must ensure that, through national legislation, States are requiring compliance of corporations with international humanitarian law when operating in conflict-affected areas. The statement also highlighted that States must take necessary measures to ensure that where national companies are complicit in their State's unlawful practices and policies, international sanctions and accountability measures are available to ensure that the affected communities have meaningful access to effective remedy and accountability.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) had strong presence throughout this session bringing up important issues that need discussion – including extraterritorial obligations related to transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights. While the participation of States and CSOs from Middle East and North Africa was little in this session, the Palestine mission in Geneva spoke out in a statement highlighting that it is of "… vital importance for the legally binding instrument to include language aimed at preventing and addressing the heightened risk of business involvement in abuses in conflict situations, which includes situations of foreign occupation, colonialism and post colonialism."