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Refuse bids from those 'involved in Israeli war crimes', legal groups tell UK rail construction company

A CAF logo sits on display on a structure at the Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles SA (CAF) railway rolling stock manufacturing plant in Beasain, Spain, on 16 July 2013. [David Ramos/Bloomberg via Getty Images}
A CAF logo sits on display on a structure at the Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles SA (CAF) railway rolling stock manufacturing plant in Beasain, Spain, on 16 July 2013. [David Ramos/Bloomberg via Getty Images}

A new legal brief has deemed it legal for the company building the UK's new high-speed railway, HS2 Ltd, to exclude firms "involved in Israeli war crimes" from its tender process.

Drafted by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights and the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), the legal brief states that the rail project is "legally entitled" to reject Spanish manufacturer Construcciones Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF)'s bid, on the grounds of "grave professional misconduct" and breaches of international law.

In 2019, CAF and the Israeli infrastructure company Saphir was chosen by Israel's finance ministry to expand the settlement railway project, known as the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR).

CAF and Saphir won the $2 billion contract to extend the railway to more illegal Israeli settlements, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.

Under international law, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are occupied territories and all Jewish settlements there are illegal.

CAF is one of five companies which have issued bids to secure a £2.75 billion ($3.76 billion) contract to supply high-speed trains to the HS2 rail project.

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ELSC, an NGO based in Amsterdam which defends and empowers the Palestine solidarity movement in Europe through legal means, said companies "involved in war crimes should have no standing in public tenders."

"HS2 Ltd has the legal right and a moral obligation to exclude CAF from the tender procedure," said the group's Programme Director Giovanni Fassina.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) national committee's Europe campaigns co-ordinator, Alys Samson Estape, added: "The JLR project is part of the ongoing process of entrenchment of Israel's apartheid, illegal settlement enterprise and theft of Palestinian land in and around occupied East Jerusalem."

JLR is so blatantly illegal that other multinationals which had participated in the initial stages of bidding for the project, including Alstom, Siemens, Systra, Bombardier and Macquarie, withdrew from the call for tenders, leaving just two consortiums bidding.

"Public institutions, including the UK government, should exclude CAF from its public tenders due to its violations of international law until it stops profiting from Israel's illegal occupation."

Palestine Solidarity Campaign Director, Ben Jamal, explained: "All public contract authorities must discharge their responsibilities to cease complicity in ongoing violations of international law."

"This means HS2 Ltd must exclude CAF, and any other company violating Palestinian human rights, from the bid to provide rolling stock."

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