As mandated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released on Wednesday a report on companies with specific links to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The list contains more than 100 companies involved in business activities in illegal Israeli settlements.
Amnesty International said the publication is an important step towards accountability in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
The report lists several digital tourism companies including Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com, which Amnesty International’s research has found are driving tourism to settlements and contributing to their existence and expansion.
“Settling civilians in occupied territories violates international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime. Naming the businesses which profit in the context of this illegal situation sends a clear message from the international community that settlements must never be normalized. These companies are profiting from and contributing to systematic violations against Palestinians,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director.
“We call on companies to comply with their international responsibilities and stop doing business in the settlements.”
Amnesty International is calling for both OHCHR and the Human Rights Council to work in collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure that the list of companies is regularly updated and predictably financed, with clear reporting time frames, to allow for continued scrutiny of businesses linked to human rights violations in the OPT.
When an occupying power builds settlements in occupied territory and allows its civilians to live in these settlements it is committing war crimes under international law. Settlements in the OPT are built on unlawfully appropriated land and have been the cause of a range of gross and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians.
Last year Amnesty International’s research exposed how Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com are driving settlement expansion and urged them to remove listings on illegal settlements in the OPT.
“These companies are promoting tourist attractions which are linked to war crimes. This welcome move by the OHCHR must increase pressure on tourism companies to stop listing attractions on stolen land,” said Saleh Higazi.
“The publication of this list is a timely reminder that settlements are illegal and must never be normalized. Listed businesses have no excuse – to continue their involvement in Israeli settlements is to knowingly breach their international obligations.”
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are required to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and address such impacts when they occur.” (Source: Amnesty Intl.)