CAF General Assembly: Will companies respect human rights?

On Saturday, June 11, 2022, CAF shareholders who attended the General Meeting of Shareholders of the Basque railway company chose to enter through the back door of the company’s offices in Beasain (Basque Country) rather than confront protesters who they strongly protested against CAF’s business in the illegal Jerusalem Light project. Rail (JLR).

Inside the meeting room, Santiago González, shareholder of CAF and activist of the Committee on Solidarity with Arab Causes (CSCA), poses several questions to the CAF Board of Directors. “I told the meeting participants that the Council had misinformed CAF investors because this Israeli light rail project is not limited to West Jerusalem, but extends to East Jerusalem, the occupied Palestinian territories. I explained to shareholders that the company is deeply involved in violations of human rights and humanitarian law by building a new Blue Line, which will expand and de facto annex illegal Israeli settlements in and around occupied Palestinian Jerusalem. ».

It also asked the Board of Directors whether the company would comply with the recommendations issued recently by the Spanish national contact point (PNC) of the OECD. PNC has asked CAF to ensure due diligence, to verify published information about the JRL project, and to hire an independent expert to review company policies to ensure compliance with human rights. .

However, in his response, the president of CAF, Andrés Arizkorreta, once again emphasized that none of CAF’s business activities were involved in serious human rights violations. Although the President mentioned that they would study the PNC’s recommendations, he stressed that the CAF has no obligation to implement these recommendations, which are not mandatory.

After the demonstration in front of the company headquarters, about 50 demonstrators, including several local residents and CAF employees, marched towards the city center and distributed flyers to raise awareness among residents of Beasain, of which CAF is the main employer, of CAF’s involvement in serious violations of the law. Palestinian human rights.

Meanwhile, solidarity organizations and trade unions across Europe are also urging CAF shareholders to end CAF’s involvement in Israel’s violent occupation of Jerusalem and the apartheid regime in Israel. Thousands of emails were sent to representatives of CAF’s major shareholders, including Norway’s Norges Bank, Spanish investment holding company Cartera Social and Basque bank Kutxabank. In France, where CAF owns one of its factories, there’s been a social media storm.

A glimpse of the CAF’s involvement with Israel’s apartheid regime:

CAF, together with Israeli construction company Shapir, are building and operating a tram line to connect West Jerusalem to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a project that is an integral part of the ethnic cleansing and colonial strategy of the Israeli apartheid regime. .

Shapir is already listed in the United Nations Human Rights Council Database of companies identified as beneficiary of an illegal Israeli settlement company in the occupied Palestinian territories, and since CAF meets all the criteria, it is likely that the company will be named in the next update of this. UN Database.

Other well-known companies, including Alstom, Siemens, Systra, Bombardier and Macquarie, withdrew from JRL project bidding in 2019, in some cases specifically citing concerns about its human rights implications.

Several NGOs, as well as the European Legal Support Center, have sounded the alarm and explained to CAF that their business with JRL contributed directly to the consolidation of Israel’s illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and serious violations of Palestinian human rights. .

Popular opposition to CAF’s business with JLR:

In 2019, before CAF was officially awarded the JLR contract, worker representatives from CAF’s main factories in Beasain and Irun issued a public statement urging the company to withdraw from the JLR tender. However, a consortium led by CAF and Shapir was selected by the Israeli Ministry of Finance to lead and expand the JLR in August 2019.

In February 2020, Basque activists BDS launched the “CAF: Get off the apartheid train” campaign. Since then, the campaign has taken on an international dimension: CAF has lost bids and contracts in Mexico, Norway and the UK as a result of the campaign for exclusion from public contracts due to its involvement in the illegal JLR project.

Activists have also raised CAF’s involvement in the JLR in several parliaments, including in the Basque autonomous community, whose Administration is a shareholder of CAF, as well as in the Spanish and Navarre parliaments and in the Norwegian and European Union parliaments.

Despite CAF’s reluctance to respect human rights and international humanitarian law, activists know that CAF is feeling the impact of the campaign. Popular pressure and increasing international pressure will continue until CAF ends its business with JLR and serious human rights abuses.

*By Richard Weyndling and Santiago González Vallejo of the “CAF: Get off the apartheid train” campaign.

Basque

Roderick Gilbert

"Entrepreneur. Internet fanatic. Certified zombie scholar. Friendly troublemaker. Bacon expert."

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