NEW YORK/GAZA CITY — The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and partnering law firms today added members of four Palestinian families as plaintiffs to their federal lawsuit against Illinois-based Caterpillar, Inc., charging the company with responsibility for human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The new plaintiffs are joining the case brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American peace activist and student who was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer on March 16, 2003.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western Federal District of Washington, alleges that Caterpillar, Inc., violated international and state law by providing bulldozers to the Israeli military that it knew would be used to demolish homes and endanger civilians. The amended complaint details the stories of ten Palestinians who were killed and another six who were physically injured when Caterpillar’s bulldozers were used to demolish their homes without warning.
Two of the plaintiffs, Ibrahim Mahmoud Khalafallah and Jamal Fayad, were unable to get out of their homes because of physical disabilities. Members of the Al Shopi family and the Abu Hussein family were killed or injured when their homes were bulldozed in the middle of the night.
The Corries’ daughter Rachel, a student at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, was a volunteer peace activist protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes when she was crushed by a Caterpillar bulldozer. Much of the world community, including international human rights organizations and the United Nations, has consistently condemned these demolitions as clear violations of international humanitarian law.
Raji Sourani, Directer of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, said: “Caterpillar must be held accountable for its violations of international human rights and war crimes. Justice must finally be delivered to the family of Rachel Corrie and the four Palestinian families now joined to this lawsuit who have suffered tremendously under the belligerent Israeli occupation and home demolition policy. The Palestinian families are representative of scores of other Palestinians who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of Caterpillar’s actions.”
Jennie Green, Senior Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, stated, “International law clearly provides that corporations can be held accountable for violations of international human rights and war crimes. We are representing people who were injured or lost family members because Caterpillar purposefully turns a blind eye as to how their products are used. The Al Shopi, Fayed, Abu Hussein, Corrie, and Khalafallah families must have access to justice.”
Over the past four years, the Israeli military has used Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy more than 4,000 Palestinian homes, injuring, killing, or leaving homeless scores of individuals in the process. In April 2002, there were two major Israeli military attacks in Jenin and Nablus in the West Bank, in which hundreds of people were killed or injured. Two of the families who have joined the lawsuit are from this area. In Gaza, the attacks on plaintiffs occurred in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Human rights groups have sent more than 50,000 letters to Caterpillar executives and CEO Jim Owens decrying the use of Caterpillar bulldozers to carry out human rights abuses. Caterpillar’s April 13 shareholder meeting was dominated by discussion of the human rights abuses being perpetrated with full knowledge of the company.
The Plaintiffs are represented by lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, the Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, and the Public Interest Law Group PLLC in Seattle, Washington.