Embargo: Tuesday 16th Nov 2010
Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Media Release
TOP LAW FIRM ADVISES COUNCIL TO DUMP ISRAEL OCCUPATION FIRM
A top law firm has advised Edinburgh Council leaders not to contract a firm involved in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Daniel Machover of Hickman & Rose solicitors warned the Council that employing Veolia could expose the local authority to “legal action for failing to take on board their obligation to recognise and comply with their duties and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law.”
Veolia in the running to take over a raft of public services in the city, including rubbish collection, street cleaning and ground maintenance. The French multinational has faced sustained protest however over its controversial work with Israeli authorities in Occupied Palestine, where it provides waste and transport services to Israel’s illegal settlements.
Its most high profile project is the development of a tramway set to link Israel with its illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine, which the United Nations Human Rights Council considers, “in clear violation of international law”. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hinted that that the route would help Israel take over yet more Palestinian land, an act that the UN and other bodies consider a barrier to peace.
However, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Veolia has already lost “major projects in Europe because of its involvement in the Jerusalem job [tramway]”, and the firm is currently being prosecuted in French courts over its activity in Palestine.
Council leader, Jenny Dawe had earlier rejected calls from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) to exclude the controversial company from the bidding process, telling campaigners that “having regard to ethical and political considerations… in the selection and award of a contract is considered by this Council to be unlawful.”
Councilor Dawe said that before the Council could exclude Veolia, the Council would need to see “very clear and robust evidence that the company had relevant criminal convictions or has behaved in a way that constitutes “grave misconduct”.”
In response, Machover’s legal submission, commissioned by the SPSC, provides a detailed case against the company and concludes, “Veolia’s activities clearly constitute misconduct sufficiently grave to warrant the exclusion of Veolia Environmental Services from bidding for (or being awarded) any new contract. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what “misconduct” could be more “grave” than the aiding, abetting, facilitation or exacerbation of war crimes, human rights violations and discrimination.”
However, SPSC Chair Mick Napier said that Edinburgh Council lawyers had already dismissed the advice within hours of its receipt last week. Said Napier, “It appears the Council no longer disputes the criminal nature of Veolia’s activities in Palestine; their latest argument seems to be that Veolia Israel is the human rights abuser, not Veolia UK. But everyone knows that Veolia is Veolia is Veolia.
“Councilors now have a political choice to make. They can either support human rights, or they can support the human rights abuser.”
A Council investigation into Veolia’s activities is due by December’s full Council meeting.
Notes for editors:
1. The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign started in autumn 2000 in response to the Palestinian second uprising against Israeli occupation (Intifada). The SPSC has branches and groups of supporters in several Scottish towns, cities, and universities, as well as individual members across Scotland and elsewhere.
For further information, contact:
SPSC Chair, Mick Napier: 0131 620 0052; 07958002591
2. Hickman & Rose is one of the most high profile criminal justice firms in the country.
Daniel Machover's CV can be found here: http://www.hickmanandrose.co.uk/Who-We-Are/daniel-machover.html
Their legal opinion was submitted to Edinburgh Council group leaders last week. Their submission can be accessed here:
3. Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council: A/HRC/RES/13/7
14 April 2010
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan
“The Human Rights Council… 5. Expresses its grave concern at: … (g) The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions”.
4. Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (2005) on the tramway (Jerusalem Light Rail):
“I believe that this [Jerusalem Light Rail] should be done, and in any event, anything that can be done to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it, and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the state of Israel, should be done”.
Quoted by Omar Barghouti, Derailing Injustice: Palestinian Civil Resistance to the “Jerusalem Light Rail”
See same link for detailed background information.
5. Reports of Veolia being shortlisted to run Edinburgh Council services:
Edinburgh Evening News, 21 June 2010
Seafield and tram firms bid to take over city services
6. An 11th Aug 2010 email from Edinburgh Council leader Jenny Dawe to Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign rejecting calls to exclude Veolia is copied below.
7. Edinburgh Council discussed the Veolia issue on Thursday 19th Aug 2010.
The minutes, including relevant motions can be found under Item 3 here (Item 1b also relevant):
After Green and Labour group criticism, the ruling Lib Dem/SNP administration agreed to investigate the firm further, with a report expected by the Council’s December meeting.
8. In September 2010, a joint Israeli-Palestinian human rights group, the Alternative Information Centre, urged Edinburgh Council to exclude Veolia. See SPSC media release:
9a. Dublin City Council passed a resolution on human rights grounds calling on the City Manager not to sign or renew any contracts with French multinational Veolia on 12th June 2010:
9b. Swansea City Council did likewise on 17th June 2010. See Item 40 of these council minutes:
10. Israeli press indicates Veolia losing contracts due to involvement in the tram project:
Jerusalem rail operator jumps ship, Tel Aviv group isn't even responding
“According to various reports abroad, the French firm had been losing major projects in Europe because of its involvement in the Jerusalem job.”
11. Edinburgh Councillors were each sent the following Veolia Briefing Document by SPSC:
12. The Council is being asked by SPSC to:
a) exclude Veolia Environnement or any of its subsidiaries - Veolia Transport, Veolia Environmental Services, Veolia Water, Onyx, Cleanaway, Connex , TMM - from all Edinburgh City Council contracts.
b) cancel contracts and/or ad-hoc arrangements that are in place to use services provided by Veolia Environnement or any of its subsidiaries.
13. More details of the SPSC campaign against Veolia, including factsheets and a councilor briefing document, can be found here:
See Note 6 above.
Email from Council Leader Jenny Dawe to SPSC:
Sent: 11 August 2010 13:43
To: Scottish PSC
Cc: Jenny Dawe; Steve Cardownie
Subject: RE: Veolia Environnement
Veolia Environment and Subsidiaries
Thank you for your email of earlier today requesting that existing contracts with Veolia and their associated companies are cancelled and that they be excluded from future tendering opportunities.
As you may be aware Veolia ES (UK) Ltd has been short-listed for a contract to provide Environmental services for the Council. The tendering of this contract is subject to the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2006.
The 2006 Regulations require a Contract Notice to be placed in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) inviting organisations to register their interest in bidding for the contract. The subsequent process is closely regulated and limits the reasons that can be used for the selection of candidates and the award of the contract.
The relevant Regulations for the selection of candidates are 23, 24, 26 and 30 and it is this Council’s interpretation of these Regulations that a candidate’s political/ethical connections cannot be considered in selecting or awarding contracts. For a candidate to be excluded under Regulation 23 there would have to be very clear and robust evidence that the company had relevant criminal convictions or has behaved in a way that constitutes “grave misconduct”. I am informed that the Council has seen no evidence that this is the case.
Section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988 also prohibits the Council taking into account non-commercial considerations including the “location in any country or territory of the business activities or contractors”.
Accordingly having regard to ethical and political considerations or a related company’s presence in a particular territory in the selection and award of a contract is considered by this Council to be unlawful. To do so may provide valid grounds for a successful legal challenge leading to an award of damages and/or the setting aside of the subsequent contract.
I trust this explains the Council’s position.
Councillor Jenny Dawe
Leader – The City of Edinburgh Council