The public company that is building a high-speed rail link across England has the right to exclude a Spanish firm that is helping Israel colonize Palestinian land in violation of international law.
HS2 Ltd., which is building the high-speed line linking London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, is already seeking bids for tenders.
The HS2 company is wholly funded by the British government and is under supervision of the UK’s Department of Transport.
It is among five firms shortlisted by HS2 as potential providers of locomotives and carriages.
CAF’s complicity in Israel’s ongoing breaches of international law justifies its exclusion from public tenders in the UK, the two legal groups say.
They note that “every illegal Israeli settlement, built on land stolen from the Palestinian people, is considered a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
As recently as 2019, the British government reaffirmed its position that Israel’s settlements “are illegal under international law.”
Campaigners have been pressuring the government to put its money where its mouth is.
Some 2,000 people participated in the action, prompting Stephenson to reply that it would “be inappropriate for the department to intervene.”
But the two legal groups reject this. They assert that HS2 is “legally entitled to and should take all necessary steps” to bar CAF from bidding.
Public bodies like HS2 are bound by international legal obligations “to respect, protect and fulfill human rights“ and to avoid economic relations with companies involved in violations of international law, the rights groups argue.
UK law allows public authorities to exclude from contracts any companies involved in “grave professional misconduct.”
The rights groups argue that such misconduct includes involvement in ongoing breaches of international law – such as Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
CAF has faced mounting protests over its role in the Jerusalem light rail.
In 2019, its official workers council voted against participation in the project and urged management to withdraw.
A year ago, more than 70 political parties, trade unions and other groups in the Basque Country, where CAF is based, urged the train maker to withdraw from a project that “clearly entrenches Israeli apartheid.”
The Basque groups reminded CAF that the French company Veolia was forced to withdraw from the Jerusalem light rail project in 2015 after a sustained international campaign.
However, CAF has so far ignored these warnings and remains deeply involved in Israel’s settler railway.
That is why last December more than 30 organizations called on the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to include CAF in the UN database of businesses involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
By helping extend the Jerusalem light rail, CAF is involved in “gross and systematic violations of fundamental human rights against Palestinians,” observed Maha Abdallah of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies – one of the signatories of the call.
“We welcome LPHR and ELSC’s legal brief concluding that it is legal for the UK government to exclude CAF, and any other company violating Palestinian human rights, from the procurement process for HS2,” Alys Samson Estapé, Europe coordinator for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee told The Electronic Intifada.
Estapé added that “CAF should not be rewarded with contracts” for helping violate international law.
“Instead, like Veolia, it should be boycotted until it ends its complicity with Israeli apartheid.”