UN warns Caterpillar that sale of bulldozers to Israel may implicate
company in human rights violations.
On 28th May 2004 the Special Reporter on the right to food for the UN
High Commissioner on Human Rights Jean Ziegler wrote to Jim
Owens, CEO of Caterpillar Inc., to express deep concern "about the
actions of the Israeli occupying forces in Rafah and in other locations
in Gaza and the West Bank, using armoured bulldozers
supplied by your company."
The letter goes on to outline Caterpillar's responsibilities under the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other
international human rights instruments:
"While only States are parties to the Covenant and are thus ultimately
accountable for compliance with it, all members of society
individuals, families, local communities, non-governmental
organisations, civil society organisations, as well as the private
business sector have responsibilities in the realization of the right
to adequate food. In this context, there is also a concern that allowing
the delivery of your D-9 and D-10 Caterpillar bulldozers to the Israeli
army through the Government of the United States in the certain
knowledge that they are being used for such actions, might involve
complicity or acceptance on the part of your company to actual and
potential violation of human rights including the right to food."
Caterpillar's worldwide code of business conduct states:
"Caterpillar accepts the responsibilities of global citizenship.
Wherever we conduct business or invest our resources around the world,
we know that our commitment to financial success must also take into
account social, economic, political, and environmental priorities."
However, when confronted by campaigners, Caterpillar claim that they
"have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use of
that equipment." As the Special Reporter points out, where sales to
Israel are concerned it is simply not credible for Caterpillar to claim
that the end use of their products is not foreseeable, and the company
have a duty to prevent such foreseeable misuse. By ignoring this
fundamental duty of all citizens, be they corporate or individual, the
company is implicating itself in the human rights violations and war
crimes being committed in the Occupied Territories.
This strongly worded letter from the UN follows a recent report by
Amnesty International advising Caterpillar to "take measures within
the company sphere of influence to guarantee that its bulldozers are
not used to commit human rights violations, including the destruction of
homes, land and other properties",
and echoes the tens of thousands of letters sent to the company by
activists in the US, UK and elsewhere. The lack of any credible response
from the company has led activists to tackle Caterpillar more directly,
visiting company offices, factories, dealerships and trade exhibitions,
engaging employees, customers and shareholders in dialogue.
In April, US activists from Jewish Voice for Peace attended the
Caterpillar Annual Meeting in Chicago, having obtained sufficient
shares in the company, backed by the Mercy Investment Program and the
Sisters of Loretto, to present the first shareholder resolution in US
history examining a corporation's relationship with the Israeli
occupation. The resolution did not pass but achieved more than enough
support to allow them to refile next year. After the meeting,
Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens wrote a letter to the activists, refusing to
meet with Rachel Corrie's parents, saying "I feel we have seen this
issue to its conclusion."
Rachel Corrie was crushed to death under the blade of a Caterpillar
bulldozer in Rafah, Occupied Palestine, as she stood in front of the
home of a local pharmacist, and friend, to prevent it being demolished.
The Nasrallah family home survived for nearly a year after Rachelıs
death, but was demolished by the Israeli army early in 2004.
Just four weeks after Rachel was killed, Tom
Hurndall was shot through the head by an Israeli soldier in Rafah. As
with Rachelıs death, the Israeli Army conducted an investigation and
exonerated itself of all responsibility for Tomıs shooting. However,
Tomıs family and supporters conducted their own investigation and, after
a long campaign, the soldier that shot Tom was finally charged on 13th
January 2004; Tom died the same day, having spent nine months in a coma.
The soldier is currently standing trial in Israel. The Hurndall family
strongly urge a similar investigation into the killing of Rachel Corrie
and all other innocents killed in this "culture of impunity".
In March and April, actions took place across the world to mark the
first anniversary of the killing of Rachel Corrie. In Palestine,
activists from the International Solidarity Movement and the
Christian Peacemaker Team remembered Rachel with a 'die-in' at the Erez
checkpoint, Gaza. Activists in the US visited Caterpillar dealerships
across the US and, the following month, went to corporate headquarters
with Craig and Cindy Corrie, Rachel's parents, in an attempt to meet
with Caterpillar CEO, Jim Owens. Meanwhile, activists in the UK paid a
visit to the Ministry of Defence-owned base of Caterpillar Defence
Systems Ltd, in Shrewsbury, and succeeded in shutting down production
for the day when management decided to evacuate the buildings rather
than observe a three minute silence for Rachel.
More recently, activists from the UK have been attempting to present the
Homewrecker of the Year Award to Caterpillar, so far without success.
Activists have also targeted the company at their Headquarters, at the
DSEi arms fair in London, at a trade fair and in shopping centres and
high streets all over the UK.
Other companies supporting Israelıs activities in the Occupied
Territories have also been targeted. In April, an 8 month campaign
against Rafael, a now-privatised former "support unit" of the Israeli
Occupation Forces, culminated in the company being evicted from their
central London offices, and this week Caoimhe Butterly, an Irish
activist, started a 2 week hunger strike outside of Cement Roadstone
Holdings in Dublin to focus attention on direct Irish complicity in the
construction of the Apartheid Wall. Joining, visiting or supporting the
fast are a number of activists and politicians, including Dennis
Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator to
Iraq, Tom Hyland, Senator David Norris and Nuria Mustafa.
Jewish Voice for Peace (US)
ISM London & Caterpillar Out (UK)
The International Solidarity Movement (Palestine)
The Tom Hurndall Foundation