Veolia Environnement affiliated Veolia Transport is a partner in the Israeli project to build a tramway that will run on occupied Palestinian territory. This is a violation of international law. Veolia received a lot of criticism since it first announced its intentions to become involved in the illegal project. Institut Veolia is an academic institute of Veolia Environnement, aimed at creating prestige and respectability to Veolia’s operations. Dr Freddy Karup Pedersen has been involved in activities of Institute Veolia and is thus indirectly involved in this violation of international law.
Dr Pedersen is also a member of the Standing Committee of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the former President of the Danish Red Cross. The Danish Palestinian Friendship Association has urged Pedersen to distance himself from the Institut Veolia, until now without success.
In the past, Pedersen said it was his duty to “shout it out loud and clear” when the rules of war are not respected or when governments fall short of their human rights pledges under the Geneva Convention. Today he is affiliated with such violations.
Red Cross is rooted in international law
The ICRC stood at the cradle of the Geneva Conventions. It has been active in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since 1948. It works towards ensuring the faithful application of and respect for International Humanitarian Law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in times of war and occupation.
According to its mission, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.” Therefore respect for international law will be a core value within ICRC and the work of ICRC officials.
Dr Freddy Karup Pedersen was President of the Danish Red Cross (DRC) from 1997 until 2005. In 2003, Pedersen was elected as a member of the Standing Commission of the ICRC3, the highest deliberative body of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Pedersen chaired the Standing Commission Working Group on updating the Strategy for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
As Red Cross official Pedersen visited the occupied Palestinian territories in 2001. Reporting back to the Danish Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, he strongly criticised Israel for preventing the Palestinian population from enjoying freedom of movement and Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian population. “Children are prevented from going to school, the sick from going to hospital and farmers have great difficulty tending their fields. Homes and agricultural areas are destroyed and water resources unequally distributed,” he reported. Pedersen described the conditions as “a complete lack of respect for international humanitarian rules.” According to Pedersen the lifestyle of Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories resembles with that of whites under the former racist apartheid system.
When the Danish Red Cross was accused of a one-sided attack on the Israeli government, Pedersen responded that ‘the Red Cross would be failing in its duty if it stayed silent’, he said.
Early October 2003 Christophe Girod - senior Red Cross official in Washington - publicly attacked conditions at the US military base on Cuba where prisoners are being detained. He said it was unacceptable that the 600 detainees should be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay without legal safeguards.
In November 2003, Pedersen took a courageous stand accusing the Danish Government of complicity in the United States’ illegal detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in November 2003. Addressing the annual meeting of the Danish Red Cross Society, Pedersen said governments twist international law for their own convenience, especially after the attacks of September 11. Pedersen deplores the “inaction” of Danish leaders and parliamentarians over the issue and calls on them to “rise to their responsibilities.”
Veolia violates international law
The Veolia-run tramway is far from being a simple ‘public service’. It is a tool to bolster the colonisation and occupation of Jerusalem, condemned by repeated UN resolutions and the International Court of Justice. The project plays a key role in sustaining the Jewish-only settlements, and Palestinians recognize it to be part of a concerted effort to destroy the city’s unique multicultural heritage and to eradicate their presence, history and culture in Jerusalem.
However, being a private-public partnership between the Israeli government and the consortium, this project is hinged upon the willingness of international business groupings to provide a huge injection of capital. In turn, Veolia will reap significant profits and dividends over a thirty-year period.
Veolia is well aware of the breaches of international law it is involved in, yet - just like in your case, Dr Pedersen - it requires some public pressure to ensure that human rights are given value.
Telephone conversation with Pedersen
Jo Falk Nielsen of the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association raised the issue of Pedersen’s involvement with Institut Veolia in a telephone conversation. Nielsen asked Pedersen to distance himself from Veolia because of its involvement in the Israeli tramway project. Pedersen told Nielsen that he had discussed the Veolia case with people in the Red Cross and that according to their opinion one can not blame Veolia for the tramway project, but Israel and Jerusalem Municipality are the parties to blame. Nielsen responded that Pedersen perfectly knew that it is impossible for us to stop Israel and that Veolia’s engagement is contrary to international law. Pedersen’s ended the telephone conversation, stating that “they surely wouldn’t agree about the issue.”
Rise to your responsibilities
Dr Freddy Karup Pedersen, it is our duty to “shout it out loud and clear” that you should distance yourself from the Institut Veolia. Your membership of the ICRC Standing Committee is incompatible with your relation with Veolia and its violation of the Geneva Conventions. Dr Pedersen, it is your duty to ‘shout it out loud and clear’ that you don’t want to be associated with the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Adri Nieuwhof is an independent consultant based in the Netherlands, Jo Falk Nielsen is a member of the Danish Palestinian Friendship Association based in Denmark. The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, based in the occupied Palestinian territories, also contributed to this article.
 More information: Stop Connex & Alstom and the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem!
 The ICRC in the Palestinian Territories
 Members of the Standing Commission
 AFP (9 August 2001)
 Red Cross blasts Guantanamo, BBC News (10 October 2003)
 ABC (Aus) Online (9 November 2003