Palestine/Israel News and Information
More on Corrie lawsuit v. Caterpillar
from Prof. Steve Niva at Evergreen, in coordination with the Corrie Family:
Still Seeking Justice for Rachel Corrie: The Corrie Family Lawsuits Against the State of Israel and Caterpillar, Inc.
In March, 2003, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed by a specially modified Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier as she was seeking to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in the Israeli occupied Gaza Strip. Since that time, no one has been held responsible for her killing.
For two years, the Corrie family sought accountability from Israel in this case through diplomatic channels and direct appeals to Israel to conduct a thorough, credible and transparent investigation in order to find out what exactly happened and to charge those responsible. Israel has refused to do more than conduct a secretive internal investigation that exonerated the soldiers involved. In June, 2004, the Corries were told in a letter from Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff that the State Department did not consider the report of the investigation by the Israeli Military Police to reflect a “thorough, credible and transparent” investigation and were advised in the letter to initiate a private lawsuit against the State of Israel. In January 2005, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) hand delivered a letter from the Corrie family to Prime Minister Sharon asking the Government of Israel to invite and cooperate with an independent U.S.-led investigation into Rachel’s killing. That letter has yet to be answered. Although they continue to call for a U.S. investigation into Rachel’s killing, the two-year statute of limitations in Israel required that legal action be taken now, which they have just done through a court in Israel.
The Corries have also sought accountability from Caterpillar, Inc., which has sold bulldozers and other earthmoving equipment to the Israeli Defense Forces long after they knew that they were being used in a pattern of human rights abuses as documented by leading international human rights organizations. U.S. corporations that aid and profit from violations of human rights can be held responsible under U.S. law. The Corrie family wrote to James Owen, Caterpillar, Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer asking for a meeting to express their concerns and we even went to their global headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, but were not granted a meeting. They also helped introduce a shareholder resolution asking the Board of Directors to look into the issue but the resolution was defeated. As a result, the Corrie’s recently filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar, Inc. in the United States for damages in the case.
The Corrie family is acting on the basic principle that the Government of Israel and Caterpillar, Inc. must be held accountable for their past actions, even as they are encouraged to act responsibly in the future. The Corrie family never intended to file a lawsuit, but when our institutions falter in their responsibilities, a civil court proceeding is a powerful, if blunt, tool to enforce that accountability.
For more information on the lawsuits:
“Activist’s Parents Sue Caterpillar Inc.”
“The Israeli Government Did Not Do a Satisfactory Investigation”
– -Congressman Adam Smith, D WA, 3rd District regarding the killing of Rachel Corrie
“Corrie family seeks answers at State Department hearing.”
LAWSUIT AGAINST CATERPILLAR CORPORATION
The following question and answer discussion addresses some of the main issues in the Corrie family lawsuit against Caterpillar Corporation. The Center for Constitutional Rights based in New York City and the Seattle University Human Rights Law clinic is providing legal council and assistance. Ronald Slye, a Seattle University Associate Law Professor and expert on international law is an advisor to the Corries.
Q. Why are the Corries suing Caterpillar, Inc. when it was the Israeli army who was operating the bulldozer that killed Rachel?
A. Under international law, corporations can be held accountable for the ways in which their products are used, especially if they know that their products are being used to perpetrate human rights violations.
Q: How could Caterpillar, Inc. know that Israel uses their bulldozers for illegal home demolitions in the Israeli Occupied Territories?
A: Over the past few years, a number of detailed reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and religious organizations have clearly demonstrated that Caterpillar, Inc. bulldozers and equipment have been used by the Israeli army to commit a pattern of serious human rights violations. They have directly and repeatedly called on Caterpillar, Inc. to stop providing this equipment to Israel.
SEE: Human Rights Watch: Caterpillar Should Suspend Bulldozer Sales
Q: Surely others have used Caterpillar bulldozers to hurt people. Recently a man in Colorado went on a destructive spree with a bulldozer. Why isn’t Caterpillar, Inc. responsible for his mayhem? (www.thedenverchannel.com/news/3383547/detail.html )
A. The central legal issue is whether or not Caterpillar, Inc. knowingly allowed someone to use its products in a way to hurt someone. Law Professor Ronald Slye explains: “the theory of this case is not your product was used in a way that hurt someone. It is that you provided a product to someone that you knew was using that product to harm others; that you worked with that customer to alter your product to make it better suited for harming others; and that you continued to provide such assistance even after it was brought to your attention that your products were used to commit such harm.If I lend you my car, knowing that you plan to use it to hit someone against whom you have some dispute, I can be held liable as an accomplice in the harm you created. That is the simple principle the Corries would like to apply here.”
Q. Don’t you think Israel needs to demolish homes when there is a legitimate security threat?
A: Israel has the right and even obligation to defend itself as long as it acts within the framework of international law. The extensive destruction of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully, and without military necessity constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention as defined in article 147, and as war crimes as clarified in article 85.5 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, at least 85% of house demolitions are primarily “clearing demolitions”-for building and expanding illegal Israeli settlements and road networks on occupied Palestinian land or caused by lack of Israeli-issued permits. Of the remaining 15%, last month the Israeli army announced that demolishing homes for collective punishment has not worked and that it would cease this practice. Neither Israel nor any other country in the world has the right to destroy homes or harm civilians engaged in peaceful protest, and a U.S. company may not assist them in these activities under international law.
Q: Aren’t the Corries just interested in the money they can get from the lawsuits?
A: The Corries have repeatedly expressed that they resorted to lawsuits only because other avenues of redress for Rachel’s killing have been ignored or blocked up to this point. Given the small amounts they are seeking, it is clear that they are seeking accountability and justice, not financial gain, and not only for themselves. As Ronald Slye points out: “If as a result of this lawsuit corporations like Caterpillar, Inc. stop providing their products to individuals who they know use them to harm other people, that would be a great victory.”
For more information:
“Human rights dynamo backs Corries’ suit against Caterpillar” seattlepi.nwsource.com/jamieson/217194_robert23.html
CAT charged with war crimes by Jewish Voice for Peace
Israeli official calls the CAT bulldozer ‘key weapon’.
War on Want (www.waronwant.org), a UK based NGO recently published “Caterpillar-The Alternative Report” which can be seen at waronwant.org/?lid=8247
Regarding the April 13 Day of Action Against Caterpillar in Washington State:
Q. Why are you targeting NC Machinery in Tukwila, WA even though they do not sell bulldozers to Israel?
A. NC Machinery is the largest Caterpillar distributor in Washington State and CEO Dean Harnish owns stock in the company, which gives him a great deal of influence on Caterpillar Inc. policy
Q: What are you requesting that NC Machinery and Mr. Harnish do influence Caterpillar, Inc. policy on bulldozer sales to Israel?
A: We recognize that Mr. Harnish and NC Machinery alone cannot change Caterpillar’s role in the Occupied Territories. We are simply calling on him as a shareholder to support the cessation of weaponized bulldozers to Israel until Caterpillar, Inc. can establish that doing so no longer contradicts Caterpillars own Code of Worldwide Business Conduct. We are also asking that he issue a statement to that effect.
4. HOW TO TAKE ACTION AND SUPPORT THE CORRIE’S LAWSUIT
To find out what actions you can take, appropriate to your time and energy, go to the following website and also sign the Declaration Against Caterpillar for Human Rights Abuses:
You can send a letter in support of the lawsuit. Go to: www.progressiveportal.org/letters/global/mideast/cat.html and fill out the ready-made email to Caterpillar urging them to stop sales to Israel.
A personal, posted letter will make even more of an impression. Here is a sample you can base your letter on:
I ask that the Caterpillar Corporation without delay stop providing D9, D10, and D11 bulldozers to Israel, because it is wrong for Caterpillar to continue to sell equipment to Israeli authorities with the knowledge that it is used in defiance of international law.
The razing of Palestinians’ olive trees and houses and the killing and maiming of nonviolent demonstrators by Israeli authorities using your company’s bulldozers is extensive, systematic, and known throughout the world. Failure to take responsibility for the ultimate use of its bulldozers goes against Caterpillar’s Code of Worldwide Business Conduct, in which the corporation pledges to “accept the responsibilities of global citizenship.”
We urge you to contact Representative Adam Smith and thank him for his efforts to ensure a fair and impartial investigation into Rachel’s death. You can reach him by phone at 202- 225-8901. Toll Free: 1-888-764-8409
Email Congressman Smith: www.house.gov/adamsmith/contact/contact.html
Write Congressman Smith: 1717 Pacific Avenue #2135 Tacoma, Washington 98402
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