PHROC Open Letter to Siemens Regarding EuroAsia Interconnector
Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council Open Letter calling on Siemens to respect international humanitarian law and human rights regarding the companies involvement in the EuroAsia Interconnector.
To: Siemens Energy Executive Board
• Dr. Ing. Christian Bruch
• Ms. Maria Ferraro
• Mr. Karim Amin
• Mr. Tim Oliver Holt
Subject: Heightened IHL and human rights due diligence in connection with your business involvement in the EuroAsia Interconnector.
Dear members of Siemens Energy Board,
With this letter, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) is asking you to address an urgent matter concerning the Siemen Group’s commitment to respect human rights throughout your business operations.
We understand that Siemens was awarded the contract PCI 3.10 “EuroAsia Interconnector VSC HVDC Converters” for works on the EuroAsia Interconnector to be executed in Crete and Attica in Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
In this regard, we would like to ensure that decision makers at your company are aware that the EuroAsia Interconnector is a project that is deeply problematic in terms of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights standards. As explained in detail in our legal briefing, this is because Israel’s national electricity grid, which will be linked to Europe’s grid by the Interconnector, includes - inseparably and by design - Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
These settlements involve the forcible transfer of indigenous Palestinian populations and the de facto annexation of occupied Palestinian land. Consequently, they have been condemned consistently in resolutions of the UN Security Council and the European Union as a “flagrant violation of international humanitarian law”. All financing and works on the Israel-Cyprus segment of the Interconnector amount to recognition of these illegal settlements and contribute to their maintenance and expansion, implicating states and business enterprises in the associated grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and war crimes currently investigated by the International Criminal Court.
The European Union has not contested the above facts and legal findings concerning the EuroAsia Interconnector. In response to briefings and parliamentary questions, the European Commission has rather reiterated the EU’s position on the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the OPT, while also explaining that “the [Interconnector’s] link to Israel is a commercial project” (i.e., not receiving EU funding) and “currently in the planning stage” only. Moreover, recognizing the context of occupation and systemic violations of IHL and human rights, many EU member states, including Germany, issued business advisories already in 2016, warning of the financial, legal and reputational risks arising from business in the OPT, in particular from business in or for the benefit of Israel’s illegal settlements.
In light of the serious adverse IHL and human rights impacts of the EuroAsia Interconnector as planned - and noting that Siemens pursues a human rights policy that is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and addresses explicitly, among others, the human rights risks in Occupied Territories - we expect Siemens to refrain from all business involvement in the EuroAsia Interconnector that benefits and contributes to the maintenance and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements in OPT, including East Jerusalem.
In 2011, a subsidiary of Germany's state rail operator Deutsche Bahn withdrew from a €1.2 billion contract for construction of a railway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv because it runs through occupied Palestinian territory. Other multinational companies, such as Veolia, Orange, G4S and General Mills have terminated contracts and operations that had implicated them in Israel’s violations of IHL and human rights.
In this vein, we hope to receive your timely response to this letter, explaining if and how Siemens Energy will respect IHL and human rights in the OPT and avoid/withdraw from works on the Israel-Cyprus segment of the Interconnector.
Finally, we ask you to treat this request as a matter of urgency. In the absence of effective redress, Palestinian civil society will be compelled to initiate an international campaign for boycotts of the Siemens Group, similar to the campaigns against companies that were implicated in South Africa’s apartheid regime in the past.
On behalf of the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council with best regards,
Ashraf Abu Hayyeh
Enclosed: PHROC’s legal briefing/EuroAsia Interconnector