2019 award recipient



Al-Haq today named 2019 recipient of Human Rights and Business Award

Human Rights and Business Award Foundation

Geneva, 26 November 2019 – Today in Geneva, at the annual United Nations (UN) Forum on Business and Human Rights, our foundation is naming Al-Haq as recipient of the 2019 Human Rights and Business Award.  An independent Palestinian organization based in Ramallah (West Bank), Al-Haq “Law in the Service of Man” was founded in 1979 “to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.  Al-Haq documents and monitors violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Occupied Palestinian Territory and works to stop violations against Palestinians whether by Israel, by the Palestinian Authority, or by others including companies.

The award, recognizing “outstanding work by human rights defenders in the Global South or former Soviet Union addressing the human rights impacts of business”, is accompanied by a $50,000 grant.

In recent years Al-Haq has done ground-breaking work drawing attention to how certain companies operating in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including firms doing business with or in Israeli settlements, are involved in human rights abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law, notably the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Board members of the Human Rights and Business Award Foundation – Christopher Avery, Regan Ralph and Valeria Scorza – said in a joint statement today: “Al-Haq does exceptional work in difficult circumstances, using international law as the basis of its research and advocacy.  It is encouraging that an increasing number of human rights defenders in the Middle East are giving attention to the behavior of companies – Al-Haq is a recognized leader in this development.”

The foundation’s Advisory Network members who nominated Al-Haq for the award praised the organization for:

  • its professionalism, meticulous research and resolute advocacy;
  • its wide network of field researchers in communities across Occupied Palestinian Territory who closely monitor business activities and their impact on people;
  • its contributions to the treaty on business and human rights being drafted at the UN; and
  • its capacity-building activities – helping other NGOs in the Middle East develop their work on human rights concerns relating to business.

While this is the first award that Al-Haq has received specifically for its work on business and human rights, it has previously received prestigious awards for its broader work, including:

  • 2018 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, awarded by the French Government jointly to Shawan Jabarin (General Director of Al-Haq) and Hagai El-Ad (Executive Director of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization)
  • 2009 Geuzen Award given jointly to Al-Haq and B’Tselem: a Dutch award for those who have fought for democracy and against dictatorship, racism and discrimination. This award takes its name from a Dutch resistance group during World War II, members of which were executed by German forces.
  • 1990 Reebok Human Rights Award given to Shawan Jabarin, General Director of Al-Haq: the award honored activists under 30 who fight for human rights through non-violent means.
  • 1989 Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize given jointly to Al-Haq and B’Tselem: an award established by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and philanthropist Dominique de Menil to “promote the protection of human rights throughout the world”.

When receiving the 2018 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic, Shawan Jabarin said: “It is a great honor for Al-Haq to receive this prestigious award jointly with our colleagues at B’Tselem, who are our partners in the struggle for justice and a better future free from oppression and occupation.  Together, we are working to end the culture of impunity so that Palestinians can enjoy the full realization of their human rights.”  In this video Shawan Jabarin is interviewed on the occasion of receiving the Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

Al-Haq and its staff have been targeted for their human rights work.  The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders [Observatory] has repeatedly raised concerns about attacks and threats against Al-Haq, including multiple death threats against Al-Haq’s General Director Shawan Jabarin and against its representative before the International Criminal Court.  In July 2019 the Observatory issued an urgent appeal after 4IL – the official site of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs – published an article accusing Shawan Jabarin of “terrorism”, which led to death threats against him on its public platforms.  “4IL platform’s online visitors launched into an incitement to violence and hate speech against Al-Haq, including calling for Mr. Shawan Jabarin’s killing.  These comments were not filtered nor regulated by 4IL moderators.”  The Observatory has also called attention to cyber-attacks against Al-Haq; the hacking of Al-Haq staff e-mail, land-line phones and mobile phones; and a smear campaign sending to Al-Haq’s European donors false allegations against the organization, allegations purported to have been from Ernst & Young and an alleged official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the firm and the PA confirmed that these allegations were false and unfounded.  It should be noted that Shawan Jabarin was banned from international travel by Israel between 2006 and 2012.

Al-Haq’s research and advocacy on concerns about business involvement in abuses of human rights and breaches of humanitarian law, listed on its website particularly in this section, has included:

  • Al-Haq has called on companies to pull out of the Jerusalem Light Rail project insofar as it runs through Occupied Palestinian Territory, connects Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land, fragments Palestinian land, and restricts free movement of Palestinians. For example, see Al-Haq’s Feb 2019 and May 2019 statements about Canadian company Bombardier.  Companies that withdrew from bidding for the Light Rail project include Bombardier, French firms Alstom and Systra, German firm Siemens, and Australian firm Macquarie.  In 2012, the UN Human Rights Council had expressed its “grave concern” at “The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions” (Resolution 19/17, paragraph 4e).
  • A 2019 submission to the UN working group developing a draft treaty on business and human rights, and continued advocacy and analysis in that regard.
  • A 2019 submission to the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee in support of a treaty on the right to development.
  • Raising concerns in a 2019 statement about Airbnb and a 2019 letter to Booking.com, that by listing properties in Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory, these firms are transgressing international law.
  • 2018 advocacy and research on Ireland’s Control of Economic Activities (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018, to prohibit the import of settlement products and services to Ireland.
  • Al-Haq’s advocacy, including a 2018 joint briefing paper, calling for corporate accountability in situations of armed conflict to be included in the International Law Commission’s (ILC’s) draft principles on the protection of the environment. The principles adopted by the ILC in 2019 did include such a principle.
  • A 2018 joint communication to the International Criminal Court about the alleged pillage of Palestinian natural resources by private actors including Israeli and multinational corporations.
  • A 2018 letter to Honda Motor Co., highlighting Honda’s complicity (through its Israeli affiliate Mayer) in violations of international humanitarian law perpetrated in Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Honda failed to respond to these concerns when invited to do so by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
  • Raising concerns in 2018 about Chinese company Hubey Pengdun Group, in relation to its partnership with a winery based in an Israeli settlement in Occupied Palestinian Territory: “Grapewashing the Occupation: The Case of the Chinese Hubey Pengdun Group”.
  • Responding to German multinational HeidelbergCement in 2017 about its quarries in Occupied Palestinian Territory, expropriating natural resources in contravention of international law. In June 2015 Norway’s largest pension fund KLP had excluded HeidelbergCement from its investment portfolio, due to its operations in the occupied West Bank.
  • A 2015 letter calling on the Dutch Government to prevent the export of dogs by Dutch firms to the Israeli security forces, given their use to attack and intimidate Palestinian civilians. The letter includes links to videos of dogs attacking a 53-year old woman and a 20-year-old boy.
  • A 2013 report on the discriminatory appropriation of water in the occupied West Bank (for sale to Israeli settlers) by Mekorot, the national water company of Israel: “Water For One People Only: Discriminatory Access and ‘Water-Apartheid’ in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory]”.

International law relating to companies doing business with Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory:

United Nations: In its 2018 report on business enterprises linked to the Occupation (UN document A/HRC/37/39, paragraph 41), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that: “considering the weight of the international legal consensus concerning the illegal nature of the settlements themselves, and the systemic and pervasive nature of the negative human rights impact caused by them, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a company could engage in listed activities in a way that is consistent with the [UN] Guiding Principles [on Business and Human Rights] and international law.”

Amnesty International: “Israel’s establishment and maintenance of settlements [in Occupied Palestinian Territory] breaches the international law rules governing what an occupying power may do in a situation of military occupation. It constitutes war crimes. Moreover, in addition to the inherent illegality of the settlements themselves, the settlement enterprise is inextricably linked to gross and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians. Given these circumstances, companies cannot do business in or with settlements without contributing to serious violations of both international humanitarian law and human rights law.” (“Think Twice: Can companies do business with Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories while respecting human rights?”, Amnesty International United Kingdom, 2019, p. 2). Section 2 of this report, “Facts on the ground: What human rights issues do these settlements raise?”, explains the wide range of human rights impacted by the settlements.

More about Al-Haq

Website: http://www.alhaq.org

Affiliations: Al-Haq is affiliated with:

  • International Commission of Jurists
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
  • EuroMed Rights network
  • ESCR-Net – International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Habitat International Coalition (HIC)
  • Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
  • Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC)

About the Foundation

Human Rights and Business Award Foundation is an independent non-profit foundation.  To ensure its independence, the foundation does not accept donations from any government or any company.  The foundation’s Board members and Advisory Network members from across the world are listed on this webpage.  Contact: contact@humanrightsandbusinessaward.org

Al-Haq is the second award recipient.  The 2018 recipient was Justiça nos Trilhos, an organization working closely with local communities in remote parts of Brazil – including indigenous peoples, peasants, and Afro-descendants – to address human rights and environmental abuses by mining and steel companies, in particular the multinational Vale.