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Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign

Mekorot and other corporate giants go on on trial for human rights abuses in Geneva

Eight transnational corporations (TNC), including the Israeli national wate rcompany Mekoort, have gone on trial on Monday in Geneva for the human rights violations they have committed around the world.

The cases have been heard in a special session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) organised by the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power & Stop Impunity at the Maison des Associations between 9 am and 6 pm. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) and the Stop the Wall Campaign have supported a Week of Mobilization in Geneva, which included the People’s Permanent Tribunal and was organized by dozens of international networks. 

Abeer Butmeh, coordinator of PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine explained: "During the Permanent People Tribunal and the Action Week of the Stop Corporate Impunity Campaign, we jointly denounced the human right abuses the Israeli national water company Mekorot is perpetrating against the Palestinian people. Especially among the environmental justice movements, the case of Mekorot is today widely considered one of the main transnational corporations to be targeted."

Mekorot, Israel’s water services company, which implements a system of water apartheid in Palestine that includes human rights abuses, ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination and pillage of natural resources. 

The tribunal has examined cases that seek to confirm how the United Nations’ present business and human rights regime is woefully inadequate to deal with ongoing corporate violations. Presently, the regime, which downplays the extent to which legal obligations exist and sorely lacks clear definitions and mechanisms of implementation, accountability and reparations, has merely continued the  systemic denial of access to justice for the victims of corporate abuses.

Other cases presented included the operations of the Coca-Cola Company in Colombia and the Spanish Hydro dam company’s operations in Hidralia in Guatemala. Victims of decades-long oil pollution caused by Chevron in the Ecuadorean Amazon and of Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria presented their cases that illustrate the long-standing impunity by big oil companies. The mining industry was also on trial through the troubling cases of Swiss mining giant Glencore in the Philippines, Peru, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. Cases were also presented involving the Canadian mining company Pacific Rim in El Salvador and the United Kingdom based Lonmin in South Africa.

The Tribunal’s jury, composed of a panel of experts including international lawyers, members of parliament and prominent academics, will hear the testimony of victims’ representatives and will present a conclusion about the operations of the accused corporations according to existing international human rights instruments and the fundamental need of access to justice.   The judges for the session include Colombian lawyer and activist Dora Lucy Arias; Law professor and researcher Juan Hernandez Zubizarreta, from Hegoa Institute, Basque Country; Adriana Martinez Rodriguez, professor of Economics, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Francesco Martone, jurist and Senator in the Italian Parliament; Roberto Schiattarella, professor of Economics and vice-president of the Lelio Basso Foundation; and Jean Ziegler, former Sociology professor, former member of the Swiss Parliament, and former UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food.

After the session Abeer Butmeh concluded: "We call on all movements around the world to unify their efforts and join the Stop Mekorot campaign to work with us to stop all cooperation with the company. The corporation needs to be held accountable by international justice and Israeli apartheid needs to end."

The PPT has taken place in parallel with the 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where Ecuador has led an initiative by over 80-member countries seeking to start the process for developing a binding treaty to punish TNCs for their violations. The proposal is being staunchly resisted by the EU, US, Japan and others nations that serve as host to the large majority of TNCs.

”It is disturbing that governments in the European Union, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the United States are more concerned with defending the interests of their corporations than the human rights of peoples,” said Brid Brennan from the Transnational Institute and the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. 

The Geneva Peoples Permanent Tribunal has provided an opportunity to the victims of corporate violations to publicly present their struggle and to demand the justice that they have never achieved. More generally, it aims to provide a truthful and authoritative account of the operations of TNCs and their repercussions on human rights. Through these testimonies, an international audience will recognise the urgent need for a binding international legal instrument that will enforce human rights obligations to TNCs  

 

About the Global Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power

Launched in June 2012, the campaign was established to facilitate a cooperative movement of solidarity between existing local, national and global movements and networks in order to increase the visibility of resistances to TNCs violations around the world. For more information and to see a list of participants and signatories please visit: http://www.stopcorporateimpunity.org/

About the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was established on June 24, 1979 by Lelio Basso, lawyer, senator, writer, and one of the “fathers” of the Italian Constitution. It is a so-called 'opinion tribunal', inspired by the experience of the Russell tribunals on Vietnam (1966-1967) and Latin America dictatorships (1974-1976). It bases its activity on the 1976 Algiers Declaration on the Right of Peoples. The PPT raises public awareness of legal shortcomings affecting the marginalised communities and peoples non-recognised as subjects of rights, in order to provide voiceless victims with a stand of visibility and a possibility of claim, recognition and remedy of their rights.

Carlos Latuff
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