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Human Rights Watch urges UN to publish list of Israeli settlement-linked companies

Israeli excavator demolishes a Palestinian home [Nedal Eshtayah/Anadolu Agency]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to publish as planned a database of companies involved in Israeli settlement activity, as the Geneva-based body comes under increasing Israeli and US pressure to bury the list.

"Ongoing illegal Israeli settlement activity highlights the urgency of the publication of a United Nations database of businesses that have enabled or profited from settlements", the global rights group said in a statement published Tuesday.

As summarised by HRW, "the database will publicly identify businesses that contribute to rights abuses by operating in or with settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory".

This "will build pressure on businesses to stop doing business in and with settlements in order to meet their human rights responsibilities and for countries to respond to the Security Council's call in its Resolution 2334 to distinguish between Israeli territory and settlements in their dealings".

Read: Settlements watchdog warns of accelerated Israeli land seizures

HRW notes that in the year since the resolution was adopted, "Israeli authorities have accelerated settlement plans, passed a law legalizing the confiscation of private Palestinian land, and declared their intent to maintain settlements forever".

Such "brazen disregard" of Resolution 2334 "makes it all the more urgent for corporations to avoid entanglement in rights abuses inherent in settlement activity", said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch.

"The database can contribute toward establishing an authoritative list of corporations currently engaged in such activity", she added.

Such a database, "which will carry the imprimatur of the UN", will "also provide states with the information needed to carry out measures to prevent and address corporate involvement in rights abuses", the HRW statement said.

Settlement - Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

Settlement – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

HRW noted that the database was supposed to have been published in March, and that the UNHRC accepted High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid al-Hussein's recommendation to defer the report "for one time only". It is meant to be published "no later than the end of December 2017".

"Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel's theft of Palestinian land and other resources," Whitson said. "The database will build pressure on businesses to cease carrying out these activities and comply with their human rights responsibilities".

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