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eyeWitness partner uses verified footage to lodge OECD Guidelines complaint against JCB

Presence of JCB equipment in Palestine

On 10 December 2019, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) successfully filed a complaint with the UK Government unit responsible for investigating business conduct of multinational enterprises. Footage gathered by Palestinian human rights organisation, Al Haq, using the eyeWitness to Atrocities App was crucial for substantiating the complaint against British multinational J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited (JCB). The complaint was lodged following the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises.

JCB equipment allegedly used to destroy Palestinian property

According to the complaint submitted to the UK National Contact Point, JCB provides heavy machinery products used by the Israeli State in the demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, and for the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Under the OECD Guidelines, this activity would violate JCB obligations to respect the human rights of people affected by their activities.

JCB is a world-leading construction equipment company headquartered in the UK.

Verified photos and videos reveal presence of JCB equipment in Palestine

eyeWitness to Atrocities provided LPHR with authenticated images displaying the presence of JCB equipment.

At the time the complaint was drafted, eyeWitness had received 4,527 videos, 212 videos and 3 audio files captured in Palestine by Al Haq. All images were taken using the eyeWitness App. The eyeWitness team conducted a visual analysis of all footage and identified images where JCB equipment was either visible or could otherwise be inferred from a set of footage. Thanks to the App, eyeWitness was able to verify the dates, times and locations of the images. They were also able to confirm that the images had not been altered in any way.

On behalf of Al Haq, eyeWitness shared 218 photos and 3 videos with LPHR. In addition to this, eyeWitness provided a report collating the date and location of each recording, as well as a detailed visual analysis about the logo and model of the machinery when visible.

As documented in the complaint, Al Haq’s eyeWitness footage revealed four instances where JCB equipment was allegedly used in displacement and demolition incidents:

  • The construction of a settler-only bypass road in occupied West Bank;
  • The demolition of at least 16 business stores and three petrol stations in Shu'fat Refugee Camp, affecting the livelihoods of 30 families;
  • The expansion of Bruchin, an Israeli settlement constructed on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank;
  • Ongoing preparation to demolish the Palestinian village, Khan al-Ahmar, including the reported paving of an access road to facilitate the demolition.

Holding non-state actors accountable

LPHR requested that JCB ceases the supply of its products, should it not be able to provide guarantees that its equipment will not be involved in the violation of human rights. It also asked that the company develops and publishes a human rights policy with a specific due diligence methodology. Additionally, LPHR requested that JCB participate in establishing an effective grievance mechanism to enable remediation.

According to the OECD guidelines, “Respect for human rights is the global standard of expected conduct for enterprises independently of States’ abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their human rights obligations, and does not diminish those obligations.”

Al Haq documenters continue to monitor the situation in Palestine with the support of eyeWitness.

Update:
The UK National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines has announced that LPHR’s claims regarding JCB’s links to human rights abuses are “material and substantiated”, and that they warrant “further examination”. Read the follow up story.