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JCB found to be in violation of its human rights responsibilities

The UK National Contact Point (UKNCP) has found construction machinery company, J.C. Bamfords Limited (JCB), to be in violation of its human rights responsibilities.

The decision comes almost two years after Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR)launched a complaint regarding the “material and prolific use” of JCB’s construction equipment in the demolition of Palestinian communities and construction of Israeli settlements in West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Such actions would violate the basic human right to adequate housing and breach international humanitarian law. The complaint was filed under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

A close-up of a track/chain vehicle used for excavating

© Mika Baumeister

Reliable photo evidence of JCB equipment being used to demolish homes in Palestine

LPHR’s allegations regarding the use of JCB’s machinery were based on a variety of sources, including photos captured by Palestinian human rights organisation, Al-Haq, with the eyeWitness to Atrocities app. These photos revealed JCB’s equipment being used in four demolition incidents, including the demolition of the Palestinian village of Khan Al-Ahmar. All photos were stamped with immutable metadata that proved the time, date, and location they were taken, and then stored on eyeWitness’ secure server. These steps ensured that neither the images nor their metadata could be manipulated. The photos were subsequently used as reliable evidence in LPHR’s complaint.

Thanks to the strength of LPHR’s evidence, the UK NCP made an Initial Assessment in October 2020 confirming that JCB equipment was being used to demolish and displace Palestinian communities. It offered to facilitate a mediation between LPHR and JCB. However, whilst LPHR accepted the mediation, JCB declined. The UK NCP consequently launched a year-long investigation into JCB’s alleged contribution to demolitions in Palestine.

JCB called upon by UK Government body to undertake human rights due diligence

On November 12 2021, the UK NCP published a report revealing that, whilst JCB did not carry out human rights abuses or directly sell to those who did, the company “did not take any steps to conduct human rights diligence of any kind despite being aware of alleged adverse human rights impacts.”

The report also rejected JCB’s assertion that human rights checks were “not necessary”. Rather, the UK NCP recommended that, given the “scale of alleged adverse human rights impact and the evidence of JCB products used in demolition of houses”, and JCB’s awareness of such impacts, the company should create a human rights due diligence process. It added that such due diligence policies cannot be shifted to “other entities in the supply chain”.

Furthermore, as JCB failed to provide evidence of its policies enshrining human rights protection, the UK NCP requested that JCB write a policy expressly stating its commitment to respecting human rights.

“LPHR's complaint outcome is a key step for advancing Palestinian human rights,” said Tareq Shrourou, Director of LPHR. “JCB is now on public record in admitting its awareness of the use of JCB products to demolish homes that harm Palestinian lives and the National Contact Point has reprimanded the company for failing to address this serious human rights issue.”

One of LPHR’s suggestions to JCB moving forward is that it utilise its own Live-Link technology which enables the company to track, trace and even immobilise its products remotely. This would allow JCB to potentially immobilise machinery implicated in human rights violations in Palestine.

You can read more about LPHR’s response to the UK NCP’s announcement on their website.

Seeking alternative paths to justice

“One of the many barriers to survivors of atrocities is just how few avenues there are for justice, particularly when crimes involve private companies with complex supply chains,” said Wendy Betts, Director of eyeWitness. “This outcome demonstrates how important principles like the OECD Guidelines are for acknowledging human rights violations and holding private companies accountable when they fail to take steps to prevent them from happening. We hope that JCB is able to implement the findings of the UK NCP’s investigation and seek ways to prevent its equipment being used in demolitions in Palestine.”

The UK NCP will request an update from both LPHR and JCB in one year’s time.