Corporate Accountability to Human Rights: The Case of the Gaza Strip

By: Dana Weiss and Ronen Shamir

Dana Weiss (LL.M, LL.B) is a practicing attorney with Libai, Mann & Co., Advocates & a doctoral student of the Zvi Meitar Center for Advanced Legal Studies in the Faculty of Law at Tel-Aviv University. The authors wish to thank Guy Mundlak, Kenneth Mann, and the participants of the 5th International Human Rights Reaserchers Workshop on "Private Power and Human Rights" held at the Academic Center of Law and Business, Ramat Gan, Israel, on December 28-29, 2009, for providing highly useful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

Excerpt: 24 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 155

Introduction: Overview of the Problem
 
This article discusses the human rights obligations of corporations that operate in bilateral zones of conflict. It analyzes the commercial activity of Israeli corporations in the Palestinian Gaza Strip 1 from within the framework of the evolving jurisprudence on the human rights obligations of corporations.

In recent years, greater attention has been paid to the role of commercial entities in violent contexts whose activities may, directly or indirectly, implicate issues of human rights or international humanitarian law. 2 International human rights law establishes a set of norms and obligations that are mainly enforced in relations among states or between states and their citizens. 3

Unlike states, private commercial corporations are generally not treated as bearing direct human rights obligations under international law; 4 human rights law applies only in a limited way to these corporations. 5 Similarly, international humanitarian law, although increasingly applied to non-state actors, has yet to be applied directly to privately-owned companies. 6

At the domestic level, most countries do not have national legislation establishing the extra-territorial duties of corporations with respect to human rights. 7 Domestic laws that apply to corporations in their home states do not ordinarily regulate corporate activities in host states. 8 At the same time, human rights norms in host countries, especially in developing ones, "may be heavily compromised by the economic considerations of the host state's unbalanced relationships with [transnational corporations]." 9 As a result, there is a relative legal vacuum...

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