International law – Danwatch undersøgende journalistik Tue, 19 Feb 2019 10:09:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 International law – Danwatch 32 32 Turkey bars refugees from leaving war-torn Syria with help from EU funds Fri, 23 Mar 2018 17:00:31 +0000
A Danwatch investigation
An investigation into hundreds of EU-contracts reveals how the EU is funding military equipment used by Turkey to prevent refugees from escaping the civil war in Syria. The EU are complicit in violating human rights, experts say.
Emilie Ekeberg


Research: Ida Emilie Stigaard Bruhn / Translation: Nikolaj Skydsgaard / Photo: Getty Images


Emilie Ekeberg


Research: Ida Emilie Stigaard Bruhn / Translation: Nikolaj Skydsgaard / Photo: Getty Images


In cooperation with
An investigation into hundreds of EU-contracts reveals how the EU is funding military equipment used by Turkey to prevent refugees from escaping the civil war in Syria. The EU are complicit in violating human rights, experts say.

På dansk?

Penge fra Danmark og EU hjælper Tyrkiet med at spærre krigsflygtninge inde i Syrien

Læs undersøgelsen

Two years ago refugees were roaming Danish highways and arriving on the southern shores of the Scandinavian country with ferries from Germany. Those days are over now.

The diminished flow of refugees entering Europe has been credited to a deal between the EU and Turkey. As part of the deal, the EU pays Turkey 3 billion euro to keep refugees, some fleeing acts of war in Syria, in Turkey and bar them from entering the EU.

But there are other deals with Turkey, that are lesser known: The EU is also supplying Turkey with funds for military equipment, which is being used to hinder refugees from seeking asylum in Turkey and escape the acts of war in Syria.

An investigation into hundreds of EU-contracts conducted by Danwatch and Politiken in collaboration with the European media network, EIC, reveals that EU has supplied Turkey with armoured military vehicles and surveillance equipment for border patrolling worth 83 million euro.

42 civilians killed by the border

Turkey has closed its border to Syria by erecting a three-meter high border wall, which spans 911 kilometres of the border territory between Turkey and Syria. The wall, which will be finished within weeks, effectively prevents Syrians from escaping the acts of war happening in Syria.

The border wall has been built with advanced surveillance equipment, which detects refugees approaching the border. It warns approaching refugees not to advance any further towards the border with powerful speakers. If they do, remote-controlled shooting towers commence firing deadly rounds at them.

Since September last year 42 civilians have been killed while attempting to cross into Turkey from Syria, according to Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, confirms that while the number of refugees fleeing Syria is on the rise, it has become almost impossible to cross the border except for severely wounded or sick people.

Violation of human rights

That is a violation, states Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, research director at Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, and adjunct professor at Aarhus University in Denmark.

“If lethal rounds are fired at refugees trying to cross the border, this is an outright violation of human rights. If the border wall makes it impossible for Syrian refugees to seek asylum, this is another violation of international law, specifically the principle of non-refoulement (no return)”, Gammeltoft-Hansen said.

An investigation into EU-contracts reveals how EU-funds are financing equipment used at the Turkish border to deter refugees. The EU has, among other things, co-financed 82 armoured military vehicles known as Cobra II. The Cobras, equipped with periscope technology, can drive along the wall on the Turkish side and track refugees approaching the wall.

EU and Denmark might be complicit

It could make Denmark and EU complicit, if Turkey is illegally hindering refugees in seeking asylum and even shooting and killing them in their attempt to cross the border illegally“, Gammeltoft-Hansen said.

“EU-countries are in principle complicit, if they know that the equipment is used in a way that violates the refugees’ rights”.

The Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs will not answer questions about Denmark’s potential responsibility, but merely in a written reply to note that “it is a premise for cooperation that this is done in full compliance with EU law and international law and with full respect for fundamental human rights ‘.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said in a written response that the is EU following the situation at the border between Turkey and Syria ‘closely’ and is aware of information about violence at the border “but have not been able to get an independent confirmation from out sources nor from the Turkish authorities’, according to the answer.

Turkey’s Embassy in Copenhagen and the government in Ankara has for a week has not responded to inquiries.

Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:18:22 +0000 The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after Danwatch in January this year, in the investigation Business on Occupied Territory, documented that Sampension is the Danish pension fund that has invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines, the fund stated in a press release dated 2. October (Links to Press Release in Danish).

All of the four companies are excluded for violating Sampension’s new guidelines for investments in occupied territories.

”Based on our new policy we have reviewed whether or not there are companies in our portfolio which are listed in Vigeo Eiris’ BIOL-database (Business in Occupied Lands)”, explains director of investments in Sampension, Henrik Olejasz Larsen, in the press release.

“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, has been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the press release states.   

Six more companies are being examined

Last week the organisation Human Rights Watch documented that Israeli banks are violating the human rights of palestinians, as well as international law, through their financing of new infrastructure projects that cement the occupation of Palestinian territory.

Investments in the occupied territories are problematic also because Danish investors are undermining both Denmark’s and the EU’s official policy of supporting a two-state solution as a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Sampension had invested a total of 400 million Danish kroner in Israeli and international companies with activities in settlements on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the investments in January this year.

Then, Sampension stated that they had no specific investment policy for the occupied territories, but that all of their investments must respect human rights, no matter where the companies are doing business.

Today Sampension informs that they, apart from the four blacklisted companies, are also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements.

See the full list of companies excluded by Sampension here.

Stays on occupied land

Sampension’s policy change does not lead to any immediate policy changes with other Danish pension funds who hold similar investments.

In a survey Danwatch has asked seven investment funds, who all held investments in banks operating on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the matter in January 2017, if they plan to exclude or in other ways take action against the companies.  

Only three of the funds have replied to the survey – none of which have ended their investments in banks doing business on occupied land.

Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, confirms that they still hold investments in the two banks excluded by Sampension, Hapoalim and Leumi. In their latest investment portfolio made available to the public Danske Bank held 560.000 Danish kroner in Bank Hapoalim, and 930.000 Danish kroner in Bank Leumi.

They do not intend to keep an extra eye on the Israeli banks operating on the West Bank.

“We do not have a specific investment policy towards Israeli companies, but all companies we invest in have to comply with our internal guidelines for responsible investments, Robert Bruun Mikkelstrup, assistant director for Investment Risk and Implementation in Dansk Bank, says in an e-mail.

Neither Nordea has ended their investments in the banks, but they have initiated a dialogue.

“We have been in dialogue with the relevant banks about their investments in occupied territories, and we will include aspects of Human Rights Watch’ framework in our future dialogue with the banks. Depending on the results of this dialogue, we will consider our future investments”, states both Nordea Liv & Pension and Nordea Invest.  

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Business on Occupied Territory Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:41:07 +0000 Danske Bank removes Bank Hapoalim from exclusion list Fri, 12 Feb 2016 11:05:08 +0000 It did not create much attention when Danske Bank removed Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list at the end of 2015. An ongoing dialogue with Bank Hapoalim has convinced Danske Bank that the Israeli bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner, says Thomas H. Kjærgaard, Head of RI and Corporate Governance in Danske Capital. Currently Danske Bank’s investments in Bank Hapoalim amount to 140.000 DKK via one index fund.

Blacklisted over settlements

Danske Bank excluded Bank Hapoalim from its investment portfolio following a smaller divestment in the bank in 2014. At the time the stated reason behind the exclusion was that the Israeli settlements are in violation of international law, and it is contrary to Danske Bank’s policy to invest in companies that contribute to such violations. Danske Bank had already excluded companies Danya Cebus Ltd. and Africa Israel Investments Ltd. over their involvement in settlement construction.

Bank Hapoalim has received criticism for financing construction in the settlements and acting as a guarantor of state loans to companies involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail-project, which connects the Jerusalem city center with settlement neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. Danske Bank was not the only significant investor to blacklist Bank Hapoalim. Dutch pension fund PGGM and Copenhagen City Council also blacklisted Bank Hapoalim in the beginning of 2014.

‘Constructive dialogue’ behind new decision

Danwatch has contacted Danske Bank to get an explanation for the decision to remove Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list, but Danske Bank declined our request for an interview and refers instead to an earlier written statement. The decision is based on “a thorough and constructive dialogue” surrounding the settlements, writes Head of Responsible Investments Thomas H. Kjærgaard: “It is our understanding that the bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner and therefore we see no reason to continue to exclude them from our investment universe”.


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The Municipality of Copenhagen continues investments in Israeli settlements Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:35:38 +0000 The Municipality of Copenhagen invests 2,2 million dkk. in Israeli settlements, shows a new research report from DanWatch.

However, such investments stand in sharp contrast to the official  position of the municipality. This summer, when the  municipality chose to exclude the Israeli Bank Hapoalim from their investment portfolio, the message from Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen was clear:

“The West Bank is occupied territory and according to international conventions it is prohibited to drive communities away from their territory in order to reside there yourself. Unfortunately we will therefore have to withdraw investments in a number of Israeli companies with activities in the illegal Israeli settlements,” said Frank Jensen.

Millions invested in occupied territory
Currently The Municipality of Copenhagen has investments for 2,2 million dkk. in seven companies that operate on the occupied territories of Palestine. Amongst these companies is the Israeli bank Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, which provides construction projects in settlements with loans and offers financial services to the local authorities.

The municipality’s largest investment of 1,3 million dkk. is invested in Cement Roadstone Holdings, a co-owner of the cement producer Nesher, that contributes to the construction of settlements, checkpoints by the separation wall and the light rail between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements.

The settlements have continuously been declared to be in conflict with international law by the UN and the International Court of Justice, and the investment policies of the Municipality of Copenhagen are based on UN conventions. However, the investments continue.

Repeated critique
With the newest findings, the Municipality’s investments in Israeli settlements are once again the object of public attention.

In 2012, when Danwatch first wrote about the case, it was critiqued that the company G4S was part of Copenhagen Municipality’s investment portfolio. The Danish-British security enterprise supplies security services to the settlements and to several Israeli prisons where political Palestinian prisoners are held.

Back then the municipality of Copenhagen had 12 million dkk invested in international companies with activities in the occupied territories, but today the municipality has eliminated investments for around 10 million dkk by excluding G4S from their portfolio.

In a written answer to DanWatch, the Municipality of Copenhagen states that investments in companies, whose products are applied for the maintenance of the illegally occupied territories, are in conflict with the investment policies of the municipality. However a possible exclusion will  “depend on a specific assessment” in each individual case.

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Danish stores halts sales of cosmetics from illegal settlements Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:59:24 +0000 Until recently the skin care product AHAVA was available in the stores of Magasin and Salling, however, the products are now dropped based on the exposure made by DanWatch that AHAVA is produced in illegal settlements.

Matas, a health care store planning to sell AHAVA products from October this year, has also chosen to retract the order because of the DanWatch report.

AHAVA is still sold in cosmetics store Sephora.

The lotions, containing minerals and mud from the Dead Sea, are produced in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, located on the Israeli occupied West Bank.

The Danish minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen strongly advise businesses from engaging with Israeli settlements.

“The government has on several occasions publicly reminded that it advises against Danish citizens and businesses engaging in arrangements which could benefit Israeli settlements. This I appropriately remind of again”, Mogens Jensen states to Danish

Warning from the EU

In July, the EU warned European businesses against the risks linked to having economical and financial activities in settlements, as well as the risk of a damaged reputation.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine and the associated Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law, such as the 4th Geneva Convention.

It is not illegal to trade with businesses producing goods in occupied areas, but it is ethically wrong, states associated Professor on business ethics at Aarhus University, Erik Kloppenborg Madsen.

“In business ethics, it is an inadequate argument to say that it is not in itself illegal to trade goods from settlements. The trading with Israeli settlements is unethical because one indirectly supports activities, which are assessed as illegal by the international community”, he states.

Production in settlement

The stores purchase AHAVA products through a Danish importer, Trademade Cosmetics, who confirms to DanWatch that the production of the beauty products occurs in Mitzpe Shalem on the West Bank.

Mitzpe Shalem is located in the Jordan Valley close to the Dead Sea in the eastern part of the Israeli occupied West Bank.

However more and more Danish companies increasingly debate trading with products from settlements, Erik Kloppenborg Madsen tells:

“There is a clear tendency towards businesses and investors avoiding trading with or investing in products from settlements due to ethical concerns. Particularly the last few years, more companies and investors have become clearer in terms of the problem.”
COOP and Dansk Supermarked have earlier stated that they do not sell products, which have been produced in settlements on the Israeli occupied West Bank.

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G4S pulls out of Israeli Prisons Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:45:38 +0000 Torture and the imprisonment of children and political prisoners. Until last week, the Danish-British security company G4S supplied technology and thus contributed, according to Amnesty International, among others, to systematic human rights violations in the Israeli security services. However, that ends now.

At the annual general meeting at G4S last week, the company announced that it will not be renewing its contracts with the Israeli prison services when they expire over the course of the next three years.

In 2010, DanWatch revealed that G4S had contracts with the Israeli occupying force in terms of supply of guard services and technology to checkpoints and the wall between the West Bank and Israel, which was deemed to be contrary to international law back in 2004. The contracts also obligate G4S to supply security technology to Israeli prisons in the West Bank and in Israel, where human rights organizations have documented the use of torture, the imprisonment of miners and the systematic imprisonment of political prisoners.

Over the past few years, hunger strikes and serious human rights violations inside the prisons have sparked international attention to contracts between G4S and the Israeli security services. G4S has not had personel stationed in the prisons on a daily basis, instead it supplies and services infrastructure.

In May of last year, G4S terminated its supply of security and surveillance equipment to the Israeli Ofer prison in the West Bank, the Israeli ‘E1’ police station in the West Bank as well as checkpoints along the wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem and Israel.

The remaining G4s contracts, which have been active so far, will now be phased out over the course of the next three years.

What remains are the company’s contracts with private businesses that stand for civil infrastructure in the settlements, such as banks and supermarkets. According to the 4 th Geneva Convention, it is illegal for an occupying force to move an occupied population to the territory of the occupying force; an international law that Israel violates through the imprisonment of Palestinians in Israel.

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G4S: We’ll stay in prisons and settlements Thu, 13 Jun 2013 08:36:14 +0000 So far it has been impossible to get details about exactly which contracts G4S intends to pull out of and which activities in connection with the controversial occupation of Palestine they intend to continue.

But now Media Relations Manager Piers Zangana confirms to DanWatch that G4S is continuing its contracts with private and commercial clients in Israeli settlements and its contracts with Israeli prisons. Piers Zangana says to DanWatch  that G4S is withdrawing from the servicing of security and surveillance equipment in the Israeli prison Ofer placed in the Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli E1 prison in the West Bank and checkpoints along the wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalm and Israel.

Piers Zangana stresses that G4S does not have contracts involving the total operation of Israeli prisons.

 Amnesty International, who them selves have ended their contracts with G4S, are not satisfied:

”It is worrying that G4S has chosen only to pull out of one Israeli prison on the West Bank and not from the Ktziot, Megiddo and Damon prisons in Israel, all of which contain Palestinian prisoners,” says Trine Christensen, Vice-Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark, and adds:

”It is a violation of the Geneva convention that Palestinian prisoners are kept in Israel. Furthermore, many of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel have received administrative imprisonment without having been sentenced.”

Pulling out of selected activities after media storm

G4S became subject to a media storm when DanWatch in 2010 revealed the company’s association with the Israeli occupation of Palestine. After pressure from NGOs, G4S announced that they would pull out of activities in Israel and Palestine, but without going into details.

In an interview with Jyllands-Posten, Thomas Medom, spokesperson on political affairs of the Socialist People’s Party in Aarhus city council, was pleased when G4S announced retractions, because the city council has large contracts with the company. Today, after the details have been disclosed, he says:

”It is disappointing that G4S still actively supports the illegal and deeply harmful occupation of the Palestinian people. FN has repeatedly criticised the settlement policy and the large number of political prisoners, and it is also Danish policy to denounce the settlements. This does not fit well with the fact that G4S continues to play an active role in Israel’s violations of human rights.”

Also, Thomas Medom hopes that the new information will put the criticism, which subsided after G4S’ last announcement, back on the agenda:

”I hope that the Danish state and the major municipalities will once again put pressure on G4S since none of us are interested in being associated with the Israel-Palestine conflict. We need a more peaceful development in the Middle East, and settlements and the extensive use of political prisoners are the polar opposite of a peaceful development.”

den store brug af politiske fanger er det stik modsatte af en fredelig udvikling.”

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Are your savings invested in illegal settlements? Tue, 20 Nov 2012 10:44:08 +0000 Danes with savings in pension funds or investment funds most probably have some of their money invested in companies which support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. According to a new survey by DanWatch, the ten biggest pension funds and the eight biggest investment funds in Denmark each have approx. EUR 150 billion invested in companies that take part in the establishment and operation of illegal settlements.

The UN has several times declared the Israeli settlement a violation of international law, and there is unanimous agreement in the EU that the settlements are illegal. Therefore pension funds and investment funds cannot ignore the criticism, explains Steen Valentin, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School and expert in responsible investments.

”When international law, UN conventions or human rights are violated, there is no other way around it. The companies must consider the issue and ask themselves: Where do we draw the line? Do we really want to support this cause?” he says.

Investors deny responsibility – UN special rapporteur disagrees

The pension funds and investment funds explain DanWatch that their investments comply with the UN principles for responsible investment, and that the share holdings are evaluated continually in relation to the principles of the Global Compact. The Global Compact is a UN initiative whereby companies commit themselves to comply with basic standards within the fields of human rights, environment, anti-corruption and workers’ rights.

However, in a new report, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk stresses that the principles in the Global Compact are incommensurable with the companies’ involvement in the settlements. Therefore Falk urges people to ”boycott, sell shares and impose sanctions against companies until their operations are brought in compliance with international rules and standards.”

Thomas Torp, Director of Public Affairs at PFA, the biggest pension fund in Denmark, admits that there is a problem but does not believe that selling shares will make a difference.

”We fully recognise that the there are considerable ethical problems associated with investing in companies operating on the West Bank,” he says to DanWatch. ”But generally, it is our view that we as investors solve nothing by selling our shares. We believe that we contribute best by conducting active ownership and by trying to influence these companies.”

Thomas Torp confirms to DanWatch that PFA is currently engaged in cases involving some of the companies. However, he refuses to tell which.

Construction machinery, infrastructure, surveillance…

The pension funds and investment funds have huge sums invested in companies that have supplied construction machinery and cement for the construction of settlements as well as the West Bank barrier. Banks with branches in settlements and suppliers of telecommunications, infrastructure and security services are also on the list.

The Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit is among the more controversial investments: Elbit is the company behind a specially developed surveillance system along the barrier, which has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. This has prompted several Danish pension funds to ban the company, just like the Norwegian state-owned pension fund Oljefondet has done. Nevertheless, Denmark’s third biggest pension fund, Sampension, has EUR 400,000 invested in Elbit.

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Danish universities work with illegal settlements Sun, 11 Nov 2012 10:32:46 +0000 It is not just Danish companies, but also Danish universities that have connections to illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is working together with Ariel University, located in the settlement by the same name. According to DTU the collaboration dates back to the 1990s.

After DanWatch presented the information to the leadership of DTU, president of DTU Anders Bjarklev chose to stop the collaboration immediatley:
“We have ended the cooperation immediately after we were made aware of it,” he says: The money that was devoted to analyses in the laboratories of Ariel University has been suspended and will be paid back to the fund that supplied the finances.”

Acoording to DTU’s president, it is problematic for DTU to be associated with illegal settlements:

“If you fund analyses in laboratories at Ariel university, it can be seen as supporting a settlement, something we will not,” says Anders Bjarklev.

Minister for Foreign Affairs happy with DTU’s decision

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That decision is Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal satisfied with: “We do not want to Danish scientific institutions participating in activities that may help to maintain the illegal settlements. If there has been any doubt about our position on this matter, the case of DTU is a good opportunity to reiterate. And I am satisfied with DTU’s decision, “said Søvndal.

Roskilde University: EU has endorsed cooperation with settlement

Roskilde University is part of a research project where Dead Sea Laboratories, which is behind the Ahava cosmetics products, participate. Dead Sea Laboratories is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem and use natural resources from Palestinian territory according to the Israeli army.

According to Roskilde University president, Ib Poulsen, one does not need assess the ethics, if the research project is approved by the EU:”According to regulation of EU research projects by EU, including the EU’s approval of the projects, it is sufficient guarantee of the project’s legality for Danish participation, and thus a sufficiently non-controversial basis for a Danish university or another Danish public institution involved,” he says.

Universities’ social responsibility

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According to Mads Øvlisen, chairman of the new Dansih Mediation and Complaint Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, universities do have social responsibilities like companies:”I strongly believe that universities have a duty to look at who their partners are, and have certain demands for partners,” he says, but points out that it can be difficult to make an ethical checklist that can cover everything: “It is a difficult balancing act, as it must be allowed, in scientific situations, to explore taboo or controversial areas.”

Ethical guidelines for universities on the way?

At DTU ethical guidelines for research are in the making, giving the university better possibilities to avoid working with problematic partners in the future: “You can not make a definitive ethical checklist for research collaborations, but you can at least create an awareness list so when the different departments begin collaborations, they know that you need to have special attention to certain conditions that a scientific researcher might not immediately see,” says president at DTU, Anders Bjerklev. At Roskilde University, the development of ethical guidelines have been launched, but guidelines for research partners and cooperates was recently abandoned by the scientific panel. “As far as guidelines for whom the university will and can work with, this is so much of a grey area, it is FOU’s (the Scientific Panel) opinon that you will never be able to maintain principles that can accommodate all political, moral and ethical considerations in relation to regimes or commercial enterprises behavior, ” the panel recently wrote to Roskilde University’s Academic Council. But this is not the last word on the matter, Mihail Larsen, member of the Academic Council, promises:”It is unambitious to give up that way. It is possible to make principles of what a researcher should not do, and in this case you should not work with an occupying power, “he says and continues: “At the Academic Council’s meeting, it was agreed that the scientific panel’s conclusion was not satisfactory and that guidelines need to be made.”


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ISS provides security services in illegal settlements Sat, 09 Jun 2012 09:21:15 +0000 ISS, one of the largest companies in Denmark confirms to DanWatch that they provide various services for settlements in the Golan Heights and the West Bank – areas occupied by Israel, whose ownership is not acknowledged by the UN. According to experts and politicians, this is incompatible with ISS’ ethical profile.

Danish CEO of ISS Maarten van Engeland is chairman of the Danish CSR Foundation. The foundation organises the CSR Awards, which honour Danish corporations. At the same time, the company operates in conflict zones which, according to Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Villy Søvndal, ”pose a serious obstacle to peace.”

DanWatch now reveal that ISS is also a player in the security industry in settlements – activities for which the security firm G4S has previously been criticised. And that is no good when trying to uphold an ethical profile, according to MEP Margrete Auken: ”It would be beneficial for the peace process if decent international companies signalled that they would not operate in settlements,” she says about ISS.

Head of Group Communications at ISS Kenth Kærhøg confirms that ISS through subsidiaries carries out catering, cleaning, pest control and security services for Israeli customers in Palestine’s West Bank, and adds that ”ISS usually does not operate in conflict areas.”

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Despite principles of not working in conflict areas, ISS is not worried about operating in illegal settlements, says Kenth Kærhøg. ”ISS believes that one can work in the West Bank and in Golan without being part of a conflict or discussion of territorial rights.”

Jeff Halper, Director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an organisation with expertise on West Bank infrastructure, disagrees: “It is not true that you can operate in settlements and be a part of the conflict, because settlements are the heart of the conflict. ”

“The private security companies are part of a strategy to lower the Israeli military profile in the West Bank to normalize the settlements. Part of that process is privatization, including security. So whether you are involved in perimeter security or securing private companies, you are a part of normalisation of settlements,” Jeff Halper says, “but the problem is, it is not normal. The occupation is illegal and all of the settlements are illegal.”

ISS has signed UN Global Compact, a set of guidelines on corporate governance. But this requires special precautions, says CSR expert Mads Øvlisen: ”In my view, it is obvious that companies operating in conflict zones have special obligations and a special information duty. In principle, you should make sure you are not complicit in causing damage/violating human rights and that your activity promotes peace and development in the area,” says Mads Øvlisen. ”Therefore these considerations should be included in the due diligence that must be carried out, which often should include a dialogue with local stakeholders, among these local minorities, and that members of the Global Compact provide exhaustive and comprehensible information on the company’s policy and activities in the area.”

However, in Margrete Auken’s view, corporate operations in settlements are incompatible with the UN Global Compact: ”ISS is not contributing to the credibility of UN Global Compact if they operate in settlements, while being blind and deaf to what is going on.”

The news about ISS comes at a time when especially the focus of EU is on the Israeli settlements. On May 14 2012 the foreign ministers of the EU levelled their harshest criticism yet of these settlements during a meeting on the Middle East peace process. During the meeting, the ministers emphasised the illegality of the settlements and condemned the escalating violence perpetrated by settlers towards their Palestinian neighbours.

Other Danish security firms operating in settlements

ISS’ involvement in illegal settlements in many ways resembles the story involving British -Danish security firm G4S that DanWatch brought to light in 2011. G4S, too, provides security services for companies located in West Bank settlements.

G4S’ presence prompted former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mogens Lykketoft to say:

”Many will see it as Denmark being involved, since it is a Danish listed company. Therefore it is important for the government to stress that it is not Danish policy and to urge the company to pull out of the West Bank.”

In connection with the affair, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen urged G4S ”not to carry out activities which risk contributing to the continuation of illegal settlements.”

Kenth Kærhøg from ISS stresses that ISS don’t have many employees in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

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Canned Pirate Tuna Thu, 14 Oct 2010 11:21:25 +0000 The project ‘Canned Pirate Tuna’ sheds light on how ships from the EU steals tuna from Africa, that end up as canned tuna in Denmark and elsewhere. Meanwhile African fishermen are struggling to survive.

The investigation is part of a DanWatch theme called ‘Out of Africa’, which uncovers how resources from Africa end up as consumer goods in our part of the world – without sufficient benefit for Africa’s poor.

Pirate tuna in Danish Supermarkets

The seas around Africa are full of fish, which gives an income and food security for millions of Africans. Meanwhile, the oceans around Africa are increasingly a subject to poaching – also known as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which robs African nations for billions, destroys their ecosystems, outperform the sustainable fisheries and keeps Africans in poverty.

DanWatch has looked into European illegal fishing vessels and resale of tuna to Danish consumers. This study shows that pirate fishing tuna very likely end up in cans on the shelves of Danish supermarkets.

Tuna is one of the fish caught illegally to a large extent, as it is particularly valuable. When foreign vessels not reporting their tuna catches, they avoid paying taxes and cheat the African countries of their rightful revenue from fishing.

EU is the world’s largest fish importer, and the EU fishing fleet has more than 88,000 vessels stretching across the globe. It has license to fish in distant African countries like Mozambique during the so-called FPAs.

European vessels infringe agreements

But the European fishing vessels are also involved in pirate fishing. Thereby Europeans undermines poor countries’ sustainable fishery and work against the very same development of the local fishing industry, which the EU would help to secure.

DanWatch visited Mozambique where local fishermen work hard to catch enough fish for a living. At the same time Mozambique loses millions of dollars every year as a result of pirate fishing, among other things committed by Spanish vessels.

Big seas and little resources to control and monitor them means that pirate fishers in Africa basically has free access. The ports where fish is landed, plays an important role in the control of catches. The Spanish port of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria is one of the fishermen’s favorite pirate ports.