On 21 January 2020, Al-Haq submitted a joint urgent appeal to the UN Special procedures on behalf of 16 Palestinian, regional and international organisations and networks regarding the continued delay by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the transmission of the database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements (the UN database) to the Human Rights Council.
The appeal comes more than three and a half years after the UN Human Rights Council voted in favour of creating a database of companies involved in business activities in or with Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The joint urgent appeal was addressed to the UN Special Procedures, namely the Working Group on business and human rights, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the OPT, and the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity. The signatory organisations called on the Mandate Holders to urge the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office to release the UN database, listing the names of all companies that have been screened and found to be involved in listed settlement activities.
The joint urgent appeal further called on the UN Special Procedures to take all possible actions on the issue of OHCHR’s stalling of the UN database and to highlight the importance of the UN database in facilitating the implementation of State duties to respect and protect human rights in the context of business activities and in ensuring accountability for violations of international law.
In addition, particular calls to the Working Group on business and human Rights were made, including to: (1) address the continued delay in the release of the UN database by the OHCHR; (2) detail the action it has taken under resolutions 22/29 (2013) and 31/36 (2016) to-date; and (3) provide an explanation as to how the UN database could support the fulfilment of State obligations and business responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The signatory organisations also called on the Working Group to formally request permission to conduct a country visit to the OPT.
Further, the joint urgent appeal called on UN Special Rapporteur on the OPT to continue to publicly advocate for the UN database’s release and remind the UN High Commissioner that the database is an important tool that can be used to support accountability for human rights violations linked to business activities in the OPT, as well as to assist States in upholding their obligations under international law.
Considering the importance of the UN database for the expression of international solidarity and human rights, the urgent appeal further requested the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity to comment on how such a tool could further the expression of solidarity by: States, including as related to the fulfilment of operative paragraph 5 of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016); by the private sector; and, by civil society at-large.
As reaffirmed by, inter alia, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 of 2016, Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN database, which was scheduled to be released in March 2017, will therefore provide much needed transparency regarding the activities of businesses which contravene rules and principles of international humanitarian and human rights law as a result of their operations in or with illegal Israeli settlements. The release of the UN database is a necessary step in ensuring compliance control and accountability for the role of businesses in the expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise, to the detriment of Palestinians’ individual and collective human rights, including the right to self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources.
However, despite numerous repeated calls from UN Member States and international and regional civil society organisations on the OHCHR to execute its mandate relevant to Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36 (2016), the OHCHR and High Commissioner have yet to publish the UN database. It should be noted that the delay in publishing the UN database is unprecedented. Several organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have previously expressed concern that no other mandate given to the OHCHR by the Human Rights Council has been subject to such a prolonged unfounded and unacceptable delay.