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eyeWitness helps hold JCB accountable for violating its human rights responsibilities in Palestine

November 1, 2022

The side of a continuous track on what appears to be yellow-coloured construction equipment.

An evidence-based complaint containing eyeWitness footage led to a UK Government body publicly acknowledging JCB's lack of human rights diligence

Construction equipment produced by British multinational J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited (JCB) is being used in the demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, and for the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. These demolitions and displacements violate the basic human right to adequate housing and breach international humanitarian law.

Thanks to an evidence-based complaint filed by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) containing eyeWitness footage in December 2019, the UK National Contact Point (UKNCP) found JCB to be in violation of its human rights responsibilities. The UKNCP's decision was made under the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines for multinational enterprises.

The complaint, the process of which is still ongoing, has been instrumental in formally acknowledging human rights violations and holding private companies accountable in a context where there are very few avenues for justice.

How did eyeWitness aid justice?

After receiving training from eyeWitness, Palestinian human rights organisation, Al-Haq,captured 4,527 photos, 212 videos, and 3 audio files in Palestine with the eyeWitness to Atrocities app. All footage was analysed, catalogued and tagged by eyeWitness.

Impact summary

  • JCB found to be in breach of human rights responsibilities by UK Government body.
  • JCB’s lack of human rights due diligence and basic human rights policy exposed.
  • Destruction and displacement of Palestinian communities and illegal construction of Israeli settlements formally acknowledged.
  • Frequent use of JCB’s heavy machinery in incidents formally acknowledged.
  • JCB formally asked to write human rights policy and carry out human rights due diligence.
  • International media attention brought to displacement and demolition incidents in Palestine.
  • eyeWitness identified 228 photos and 3 videos revealing JCB equipment being used in four demolition and displacement incidents:

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

    eyeWitness footage was beneficial to LPHR's complaint because it, firstly, helped prove that JCB equipment was being used in demolition and displacement incidents and, secondly, demonstrated precisely when and where those incidents were taking place. Moreover, eyeWitness could prove that the footage had not been tampered with and was reliable.

    What was the impact?

    In November 2021, the UK NCP published a report stating 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.” It also rejected JCB’s assertion that human rights checks were “not necessary” and recommended the company set up a human rights due diligence process. Furthermore, it asked JCB to write a policy expressly stating the company's commitment to respecting human rights.

    The complaint gained international attention from both the press and human rights organisations, including The Guardian,Amnesty International,and Middle East Eye.

    The UK NCP requested an update from both LPHR and JCB in 2022.