JCB has been swiftly cleared of any actual abuse of human rights but faces questions about procedures and process.
UK-based charity Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights (LPHR) filed a complaint against JCB in December 2019. LPHR claims that JCB’s products and construction machinery were used in the demolition of Palestinian property and settlement-related construction, with adverse human rights impacts. It claimed that this meant JCB was in breach of Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) guidelines.
LPHR recognises that JCB does not itself cause the human rights adverse impacts, but it contributes to them through actions and inactions, it claims.
The complaint is being handled by the UK National Contract Point (NCP)*, the office of the Department for International Trade that considers complaints under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
LPHR claims that JCB is in breach of the guidelines by:
- contributing to adverse human rights impacts by selling products that facilitates another entity to cause harms
- failing to stop the sales of products that facilitates another entity to cause adverse impacts once there is knowledge of these harms occurring
- failing to seek ways to prevent and mitigate human rights impacts that are directly linked to their business operations and products
- failing to have a human rights policy in place
- failing to carry out human rights due diligence as appropriate to their size, the nature and context of operations and the severity of the risks.
JCB rejects the allegations and said that it does not condone human rights abuses in any form.
The UK NCP decided that the claims related to JCB contributing to abuses of human rights did not merit further examination
However, the claims related to JCB’s human rights due diligence processes, its business relationships and its human rights policy commitments "do merit further examination", it said.
The UK NCP now wants the two sides to engage in mediation. If these meetings achieve an agreement, the UK NCP “will reflect this in a final statement without making a determination on whether JCB acted inconsistently with the guidelines”.
If a mediated agreement is not possible, the UK NCP will conduct a further examination into the issues and come to a final decision on whether JCB broke the rules.
A spokesman for JCB said: “We are very pleased that the UK NCP has dismissed at the earliest opportunity any suggestion that JCB is involved in, or causes or contributes towards any human rights abuses whatsoever. There was no basis for the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights to make their complaint alleging this.
"As an organisation JCB does not condone any form of human rights abuse and we have a consistent record of providing urgent and substantial support in response to natural disasters around the world.
"While the NCP will now examine JCB’s human rights due diligence process, it has made clear that its decision to do so is not a finding against JCB and does not mean that it considers that JCB has acted in any way inconsistently with the OECD guidelines. We welcome the opportunity of engaging further with the NCP on these matters.”
Tareq Shrourou, director of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, said: “We welcome this initial assessment and the UK National Contact Point’s acknowledgment that there are serious human rights issues raised by our complaint under the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises which warrant mediation or thorough investigation.
“JCB’s apparent failure to address the material and prolific use of its products in demolition and displacement incidents that cruelly impacts Palestinian families, and also its use in settlement-related construction which creates pervasive human rights violations, must cease immediately. We look forward to constructively engaging with JCB and expect it will do the right thing by complying with its human rights responsibilities.”