OPT: Rights groups accuse HeidelbergCement of IHL violations; HeidelbergCement response scrutinized

Rights groups have raised serious allegations against HeidelbergCement’s operations at the Nahal Raba quarry in Area C of the occupied West Bank. According to the allegations, HeidelbergCement’s extraction activities may be linked to war crimes, including: pillaging Palestinian resources and facilitating the transfer of Israeli civilians to illegal settlements.

HeidelbergCement’s subsidiary Hanson Israel has also reportedly paid $467,000 in taxes to the Samaria Regional Council, a municipal body for Israeli settlements. Reports further claim another $3.5 million was paid in royalties to the Israeli Civil Administration, a military body responsible for overseeing the occupation of Palestinian land.

In a statement to the Electronic Intifada, a company spokesperson for HeidelbergCement responded saying: “[T]he quarrying activity at Nahal Raba is compatible with international humanitarian law as it produces substantial advantages for the local Palestinian population…Royalties and leasing fees are used by Israel for local projects, for example infrastructure projects, in Area C.”

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited HeidelbergCement to provide further comment. HeidelbergCement’s response is available below. The Resource Centre subsequently invited The Electronic Intifada and Al-Haq to provide rejoinders to HeidelbergCement's statement. Both have provided rejoinders available below. The rejoinders claim that HeidelbergCement’s statement demonstrates “a lack of understanding of the legal situation”. HeidelbergCement has allegedly overlooked Israel’s Military Order 418 of 1971 which purports to amend the Jordanian planning law No. 79 of 1966. The military order reportedly removed Palestinian participation from the planning process and transferred all power to Israel through a higher planning council appointed by the Israeli military commander. Al-Haq further claims that “by continuing to operate under unlawfully held Israeli licenses in occupied Palestinian territory, HeidelbergCement is contributing to the protraction of the conflict…In doing so HeidelbergCement risks complicity in a number of grave international humanitarian law violations, which may amount to war crimes”.

The Resource Centre invited HeidelbergCement to respond to the rejoinders. HeidelbergCement declined to provide further comments.

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NGO rejoinder
24 October 2017

Rejoinder via The Electronic Intifada

Author: Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada

HeidelbergCement has responded to my recent article on The Electronic Intifada about its illegal plunder of Palestinian resources…in the occupied West Bank. The German company’s response came at the invitation of the London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre…HeidelbergCement offers only transparent excuses and fails to address its role in the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. The company’s response reveals a “complete lack of appreciation” for the basic principles underpinning key pieces of international law, the Hague Conventions and the Fourth Geneva Convention, a spokesperson for the human rights group Al-Haq told The Electronic Intifada.

HeidelbergCement claims that its activities at Nahal Raba quarry are carried out under the Jordanian planning law (Law Number 79 of 1966)…prior to the Israeli occupation…The company overlooks Israel’s Military Order 418 of 1971 which purports to amend the Jordanian law. The order removed Palestinian participation in the planning process. All power was handed to Israel through a higher planning council appointed by the Israeli military commander.

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NGO rejoinder
24 October 2017

Rejoinder: Al-Haq responds to HeidelbergCement regarding allegations of IHL violations

Author: Al-Haq

...Al-Haq commends HeidelbergCement’s engagement in responding to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre as an important step in creating a dialogue for awareness of corporate involvement in human rights violations. However, Al-Haq notes that the 50-year occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory is continuing unabated because of international and Israeli corporate interests like HeidelbergCement who exploit the armed conflict and repression of the occupied Palestinian people for commercial profit. Al-Haq further contends that the presence of companies in illegal Israeli settlements and the exploitation of Palestinian natural resources by such companies, including HeidelbergCement, constitute manifest violations of international law. HeidelbergCement correctly points out that the “Nahal Raba quarry is located on public land in Area C.” The location of the quarry, is indeed on public land...in the occupied Palestinian territory. While admitting that the quarry is located on public land, HeidelbergCement then consistently fails to apply occupation law governing public property to the quarries. Instead, the corporation applies Article 43 of the Hague Regulations to conclude that no private ownership of the quarries is established. However, at the heart of Article 43 is the belligerent occupants temporary de facto administration of the occupied territory, where the sovereign rights of the occupied territory remain vested in the ousted sovereign...

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Article
13 October 2017

Danish pension fund divests from four companies over complicity in the Israeli occupation

Author: Sarah Scheer Pedersen, Danwatch (Denmark)

“Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation”, 10 October 2017

The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after [Danish research centre] Danwatch…documented that Sampension…invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines…“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, [have] been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the [pension fund stated in a] press release…Sampension…[is] also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements…

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Company response
2 October 2017

HeidelbergCement responds to allegations re violating international law

Author: HeidelbergCement

Business & Human Rights has kindly invited HeidelbergCement to respond to the concerns raised by Electronic Intifada in the article from 14 September. We follow this invitation, as we believe that the article includes wrong and speculative information and omits important aspects thus creating a onesided negative impression...The Nahal Raba quarry is located on public land in Area C, directly at the border to Israel...[T]he ownership of the land was checked thoroughly according to the statutes of article 43 of the Hague Conventions (IV) of 1907 on the basis of the Jordanian planning law No. 79 from 1966 and an extensive planning approval process was conducted that offered extensive veto rights to potentially affected local residents. No private ownership could be determined. Therefore no expropriation has taken place; consequently, any potential allegation of violations against article 47 of the Hague Convention (IV) from 1907 must be firmly rejected, too... Furthermore and in-line with the second guiding principle of the chapter on human rights of the OECD guiding principles and article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Hanson Israel does not sell building materials to Israeli settlements in the West Bank or the construction of border protection systems. There is no discrimination of Palestinian customers...

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Article
14 September 2017

German firm whitewashes its plunder of Palestinian resources

Author: Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada

HeidelbergCement is trying to present its theft of Palestinian natural resources under the cover of Israeli military occupation as a force for good. For a decade, the German company has operated without permission of the Palestinians a quarry on land stolen from the village of al-Zawyia, in the occupied West Bank...Companies like HeidelbergCement that extract natural resources through Israeli licensing may be engaging in the war crime of pillage, according to [human rights group] Al-Haq. The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination includes permanent sovereignty over natural resources, even under occupation, the group states...Human Rights Watch highlighted HeidelbergCement and other Israeli and internationally operated quarries in a 2016 report on corporate complicity in Israeli occupation and settlements. “These businesses sell nearly all of the quarried stone in the Israeli or settlement markets,” Human Rights Watch said. “This is in violation of international humanitarian law which requires that such natural resources should only be used for the benefit of the (Palestinian) population of the occupied territory...” [also refers to ABP and PFZW].

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