Discrimination – Danwatch https://danwatch.dk/en/ undersøgende journalistik Tue, 19 Feb 2019 10:09:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://danwatch.dk/dw-content/uploads/2017/09/cropped-Danwatch_fav-450x450.gif Discrimination – Danwatch https://danwatch.dk/en/ 32 32 Rohingya testimony https://danwatch.dk/en/rohingya-testimony/ https://danwatch.dk/en/rohingya-testimony/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 13:15:50 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/rohingya-testimony/

My husband was beaten to a pulp. We left him behind on the other side. I couldn’t find my youngest child.


Danwatch photographer Shafiur Rahman has visited the border area of Bangladesh close to Myanmar. At the moment members of the Muslim minority, Rohingya are fleeing murder and rape committed by Myanmar’s security forces.

Shafiur’s portraits and the testimony of the women describes a horrifying situation in Myanmar, one which the writer Azeem Ibrahim describes as a hidden genocide in his aptly named book “The Rohingyas – Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide” ( 2016).

These developments are not new and a UN report from last week suggests that gang rapes, beatings, and killings of men, women, and children are common in the northern Myanmar. Of the 204 interviewed people, the vast majority reported witnessing killings. Half reported having a family member who was killed, while half of the women interviewed reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.

They kept me as long as they wanted to. Those who came at 8pm raped me till 12am; and those who came at 12am, stayed till 1am. In this way, they did whatever they wanted to.


The conflicts in Myanmar

The violent attacks against the Rohingya’s are primarily committed by Myanmar’s security forces in the Rhakin State, but there is a general tendency in the predominantly Buddhist population towards discrimination and exclusion of the Muslim minority. A UN report shows that the segregation between Muslims and Buddhists is excessive in Myanmar, especially in the Rhakin State where the majority of Muslims live.

The Muslim minority Rohingya is not recognized as a distinct ethnic group in Myanmar because the Buddhist minority view the Rohingya population as illegal immigrants. This means that the majority of the Muslims are stateless and have no civil rights.

The same UN report shows that the conflicts in the Rhakin State have increased during the last couple of years while the military has become more and more aggressive. The military junta surrendered in 2011, but the military still has excessive influence in Myanmar and in the Rhakin State. The UN report shows that the military controls the western province of Myanmar.

UN estimates that 66,000 Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since October 2016.

They taunted me and tortured me. They put pictures of my rape on the internet. Even the people of my neighbourhood tormented me a lot.


My husband was a religious scholar. They took him away. How will I manage with my children?

Rashidas daughter was slaughtered in front of her. Husband taken by the military. Raped.
Yasminas mother and father was slaughtered in front of her. Gang raped.
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Europe’s Largest Pension Funds Heavily Invested in Illegal Israeli Settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/europes-largest-pension-funds-heavily-invested-in-illegal-israeli-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/europes-largest-pension-funds-heavily-invested-in-illegal-israeli-settlements/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:18:55 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20465 European investors have billions of euro invested in companies with activities in and around illegal Israeli settlements, according to a new investigation from Danwatch that screened the investment portfolios of Europe’s top five pension fund managers.

Statens pensjonsfond utland (Oljefondet) (NO), Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE), Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (NE), Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension (DK), and Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE) have a total of €7.5 billion invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.Not a valid elementor pageHugh Lovatt, expert on Israel and Palestine at the respected think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the problem with settlements:“Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and have led to the dispossession of Palestinians and the fragmentation of Palestinian land. They infringe on Palestinian rights and exploit Palestinian natural resources.”Business activities in and around settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are not necessarily against the law, but according to the United Nations, investors are obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence and to demonstrate that their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights.

Overview from the European Council on Foreign Relations of the 18 EU countries (in green), which to date has published indicative warnings to citizens and businesses about the risk of legal, financial and reputational consequences of financial and economic activities in the settlements. 

Warning from European governments

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In addition, 18 European countries warn their citizens and businesses in no uncertain terms against undertaking financial and economic activities that could support illegal Israeli settlements.

“Financial transactions, investments, purchases, tenders, and other economic activities (including services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements are associated with legal and economic risks due to the fact that, according to international law, the Israeli settlements are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a lawful part of Israel’s territory,” wrote the Danish Foreign Ministry in a 2014 statement similar to statements published by other countries.

“One should also be aware of possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” the statement warns and refers to OECD Guidelinesfor Multinational Enterprises (2011) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Businessand Human rights(2011).

Undermining the two-state solution

In addition to the “increased risk of adverse human rights impacts”, as the UN puts it, European investors are also actively undermining the official policy of the EU regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“When European investors finance, fund or facilitate the settlement enterprise and illegal actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, they are contributing to the undermining of the two-state solution and therefore the undermining of the EU’s own foreign policy objectives. And these investments are illegal under international law – or at least very problematic – and exposes European investors to reputational, financial and legal risks,” says Lovatt.Investments in companies with business activities in and around settlements tie European investors to potential violations of international humanitarian law and Palestinians’ human rights.Lars Erslev Andersen, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), agrees that it is problematic when companies have activities in settlements.“In my opinion, businesses that have branches or factories in the occupied Palestinian territories help to maintain the occupation and facilitate Israel’s continued construction of settlements, infrastructure and security apparatus in the West Bank,” Andersen tells Danwatch.Not a valid elementor page

Norwegian fund biggest investor

The largest single investor by far is Statens Pensjonsfond Utland, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, with €5.2 billion out of the total €7.5 billion invested in all 36 companies on Danwatch’s list.

This includes €135 million in Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories; €286 million in HeidelbergCement, which has been blacklisted by several other European investors due to exploitation of Palestinian natural resources; and €1.5 billion in Siemens, which has installed traffic systems on Israeli roads in the West Bank and placed bids on projects on occupied territory with Israel Railways.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund also has €233 million in five Israeli banks financing settlement construction and operating in the West Bank in various ways: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel Ltd, Israel Discount Bank Ltd and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

These same banks are blacklisted by Europe’s third largest pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE) which in 2014 ended several years of dialogue.

“Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” wrote PFZW (formerly PGGM) about the decision to divest from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot because they finance settlements and operate branches on occupied territory.

Danwatch asked The Norwegian Government Pension Fund specific questions about each of their investments in the 36 specific companies, but received no specific reply. Instead the fund answers in general terms about how they expect companies they invest in to strive to observe “the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Global Compact.”

“Our expectations are especially relevant for companies with direct operations, supply chains or other business relationships in high-risk sectors, high-risk geographical areas, or otherwise high-risk operational environments,” they explain.

The Norwegian oil fund’s decisions about excluding specific companies is regulated by an independent council appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

New  findings will be considered

Of the five largest European pension funds, Denmark’s ATP is by far the smallest investor in companies on Danwatch’s list, with about €1 million in total in Siemens and The Priceline Group Inc, the owner of booking.com, which facilitates hotels in a number of settlements. However, ATP’s publicly available stock portfolio does not include index futures, which amounts to almost 95% of ATP’s entire foreign holdings.

On the two specific investments, ATP explains that Danwatch’s findings includes new information not covered by their external screening partner, and that they will have to consider this before they can answer specific questions.

Sweden’s largest pension fund, and Europe’s fifth-largest, Alecta Pensionsförsäkring, only has investments in one company on Danwatch’s list: Volvo Group. The Swedish industrial conglomerate partly owns Merkavim, which provides armoured busses for Egged bus lines in the West Bank, where Volvo busses are also used for transport. Two Volvo-certified garages operate in the illegal industrial zones of Mishor Adumim and Atarot in the occupied West Bank. Furthermore, Volvo excavators are used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses on occupied land, as documented in FebruaryApril and October 2016 in the Palestinian villages of Jinba, Halaweh, Um Al Kher and in the Jordan Valley. Danwatch presented these findings to Volvo Group, but received no reply.

On the subject of house demolitions, Volvo Group stated in 2011 that “Volvo neither can nor wants to take a position in international conflicts […] We regret if they are used for destructive purposes, but it does not stop us from believing that our excavators and vehicles largely play a part in making the world a little better.”

Alecta Pensionsförsäkring explains to Danwatch that their due diligence is outsourced to external partner GES, and that GES confirm their knowledge about the issue and have concluded that Volvo Group’s activities is not a breach against international conventions.

“Volvo has limited possibilities to influence how their products are used and we believe that Volvo cannot be directly linked to human rights violations,” Swedish investor Alecta therefore tells Danwatch.

“Alecta has an active and ongoing dialogue with Volvo as well as with our external partner GES and has so far not received any indication pointing towards an exclusion. If necessary we will as a first priority engage further in our dialogue with Volvo to make them comply with international law, rather than exclude them as an investment,” Alecta says.

Danwatch also contacted the two Dutch pension funds Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), but received no reply.



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Tourism on stolen land https://danwatch.dk/en/tourism-on-stolen-land/ https://danwatch.dk/en/tourism-on-stolen-land/#respond Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:54:45 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20492 According to a new report by Danwatch, seven Danish travel agencies are in breach of the country’s Marketing Act when they advertise their trips to occupied territories as “to Israel”.
The Dead Sea, Bethlehem, and beer breweries in the Golan Heights are not destinations widely associated with military occupation. Nonetheless, they are pieces of the complex puzzle that is the Israel-Palestine conflict and of its long-standing history of human rights violations and war crimes.A number of tourist destinations in the region are advertised largely as Israeli destinations by the Danish travel companies despite being located on occupied territories.
The agency Tikva Travel writes in their sales material for “Agricultural Travelling Israel” that tourists can “drive to Katzrin, where you can visit the vineyard, dairy farms and apple orchards”. However, it is not made clear to the tourists that they will find themselves in an illegal settlement on the Syrian Golan Heights, beyond Israel’s internationally recognised borders.

In breach of the Danish Marketing Act

According to the General Clause §1 of the Danish Marketing Practices Act, tour operators must “exercise good marketing practices, taking into account consumers, traders and public interests.”
According to Associate Professor in Property and Consumer Law at Aarhus University, Anne-Dorte Bruun Nielsen, the paragraph is one of several prohibitions in the Marketing Act, which the companies are in breach of:
“That of Israel and the occupied territories is a special situation, as it is not a case of domestic political circumstances but of one country occupying another, with all the consequences that follow. . It is documented that both the Danish Government and the UN have a clear position on how one should deal with this reality.
From an ethical standpoint, the travel agencies in question are not handling this properly,” she says and adds:
“This is particularly offensive in the case of those travel agencies which directly and explicitly say they comply with ethical standards and are committed to looking after the local population’s interests. As a consumer, I would feel outright deceived.”

Marketing promotes the Israeli position

During the length of the conflict, Israel has occupied a number of areas, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian West Bank among others, which the international community does not recognise as under Israeli rule. Therefore, the travel agencies’ marketing can be a problematic production beyond deceptive marketing, according to Associate Professor and expert in International Relations, Ole Wæver:
“A political and moral problem of this incorrect marketing is that the travel companies participate in promoting the Israeli narrative about the conflict, which is contrary to the interpretation of, among other bodies, the UN General Assembly and the Danish parliament”, he states.
“If Israel succeeded in attempts to reframe important aspects of the political and historical reality of the occupation, this could make the occupation and annexation of Palestinian territories invisible and, in the long term, prevent a peaceful solution.”

Settlements and kibbutzim

The travel agencies featured in the report ‘Tourism on stolen land’ organise trips to destinations in the West Bank, which is Israeli occupied territory; the historical site of Qumran, managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority; Israeli settlements in the Syrian Golan Heights; and also Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which situation is described by the international community as one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

Travel company Unitas describes the settlements to DanWatch as kibbutzim:
“On our individual travel packages, we also offer kibbutz stays, and here I can read from your description that we do not clearly describe that ’this kibbutz is an illegal settlement’. The information will of course be corrected  –  because unfortunately there are not many other accommodation options in some areas other than these kibbutzim”, says Klaus Boe Østergaard from Unitas.

Some of the travel companies which are less discerning in their marketing choices for trips to conflict areas will now change the wording of their material. Tikva Travel answers Danwatch’s request by stating that the agency had not considered the dilemma before, but now wants to rectify some of the travel descriptions:
“Following your mail, we will insert a link to Wikipedia in our mentions of city trips to Jerusalem and round trips, so people can seek more information if they wish. We will also update the description of round trips accordingly and insert a link to the  Wikipedia on of the mention of Katzrin, if necessary with a parenthesis ’(located in the annexed Golan Heights)’ says Mette White Hansen of Tikva Travel to Danwatch.

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Investment funds invest half a billion in Israeli settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/investment-funds-invest-half-a-billion-in-israeli-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/investment-funds-invest-half-a-billion-in-israeli-settlements/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:09:03 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20501

Against international law

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The investment funds investigated by DanWatch are Danske Invest, Nykredit Invest, Bank Invest, Nordea Invest, Sydinvest, Jyske Invest, Sparinvest and SEB Invest. All investment funds are subject to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UN, EU and the Danish government have repeatedly warned companies against investing in the Israeli occupation. Both the Israeli settlements, the separation wall and checkpoints in the West Bank are against  international law, since they violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

However, DanWatch has identified investments for over half a billion in companies that deliver surveillance equipment to checkpoints, cement and building materials to the maintenance of the separation wall and bulldozers to the Israeli army. The investment funds thereby risk complicity in human rights violations in the occupied territories.

Disagreement on blacklisting

In a survey made by DanWatch, all of the investment funds refer to ethical guidelines in accordance with UN conventions, however they far from agree on which companies it is ethically viable to invest in.

For instance, the investment funds Bank Invest, Jyske Invest and Sydinvest have in total  invested 13 million dkk. in Cemex, a company that owns a cement supplier to the Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the wall. For the same reason Cemex is blacklisted by Nordea Invest, which on the other hand hold investments in the Israeli bank Hapoalim Bank, that for one provides loans to construction projects in settlements and is blacklisted by Danske Invest.

With one exception, all the funds have investments in the large American corporation Caterpillar, that supplies the D9 bulldozers the Israeli army use for house demolitions. According to Human Rights Watch it was the same bulldozers which in 2010 were used to destroy buildings while civilians were still residing.

The investments continue inspite of the Danish Government’s many appeals to Danish companies to avoid activities which could benefit the Israeli settlements. In September the Danish minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen (S) stated that:
“The government has on several occasions publicly reminded that it advises Danish citizens and businesses  against engaging in arrangements which could benefit Israeli settlements. This I appropriately remind of again”.

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