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British tractor firm JCB fails to carry out rights due diligence in Palestine, watchdog finds

LONDON: JCB, the British tractor giant, was found by a watchdog to have failed to carry out due diligence human rights checks over the potential use of its equipment in the demolition of homes in Palestine.

The government watchdog ruled: “It is unfortunate that JCB, which is a leading British manufacturer of world-class products, did not take any steps to conduct human rights due diligence of any kind despite being aware of alleged adverse human rights impacts and that its products are potentially contributing to those impacts.”

The UK National Contact Point, charged with ensuring multinational British firms meet Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development guidelines for human rights, urged JCB to draw up a human rights policy.

The case was brought to the UK NCP in December 2019 by Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, who said they had identified the use of JCB products in “at least 60 out of the 266 demolitions” in one year.

While UK NCP found that JCB failed to carry out its due diligence over human rights, the watchdog dismissed claims that JCB failed to use its leverage to persuade its Israeli distributor, Comasco, not to allow its equipment to be used to bulldoze homes.

There was no conclusive evidence, it said, that JCB equipment used in the bulldozing of Palestinian homes was supplied by Comasco, nor that JCB had sufficient leverage to influence the distributor.

JCB told the inquiry that the machines could have been “purchased secondhand from sellers within Israel, from neighboring countries via the internet or international auctions or brought in by sea.” That defense was accepted by the inquiry.

UK NCP added, however, that JCB should “engage with companies with whom it has a business relationship on their human rights policies, uncover any potential human rights issues and ensure there is no risk of adverse human rights impacts in its supply chain.”

Tareq Shrourou, director of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, said: “JCB’s board of directors and senior management must consider the real-life repercussions of its noncompliance with core human rights provisions of the OECD guidelines.

“JCB cannot defy a UK Government body. The onus has firmly been placed on JCB to take all necessary steps to fully comply with its responsibility to address the use of its products in serious human rights violations against Palestinians. It is now unsustainable for JCB to act otherwise.”

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