RToP London Session
Q: How is the Russell Tribunal Financed?
A: Funds to make the RToP possible have come from a variety of sources, including hundreds of small donations by individuals from over a dozen countries. This demonstrates the real commitment by so many to making this peoples’ tribunal possible. The RToP is made possible by the dedication of individuals (in the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, etc) volunteering their time to make this a success. In addition to individual donations, funds have been raised by concerts and conferences, and the tribunal has received strong support from foundations and charities sharing our values of justice and accountability.
Q: How were the Jury and witnesses selected?
A: The jury is composed of individuals of various backgrounds and experience – who share a strong commitment to human rights of all people. Their conclusions will be made on that basis. Witnesses have been invited to give personal testimony of the impact of corporate involvement on their lives, and experts to give an overview of actions by specific corporations.
Q: Why aren’t the corporations present before the tribunal?
A: The RToP has welcomed the named corporations’ participation in proceedings. Letters were sent to each corporation, followed by phone calls. Some of the corporations have said that they will send replies soon.
Q: Why has the Government of Israel not been invited to represent itself?
A: Israel’s violations of international law have been fully and comprehensively documented by various international bodies (ICJ, UN Human Rights Council, UN bodies) and human rights monitoring groups (Palestinian, Israeli, international). The RToP is not another such tribunal, and is not looking to further document Israeli violations. Rather, RToP is examining the question of third party responsibility for international law violations – i.e. institutions, companies, other nation states. In Barcelona, the role of the EU was the focus. This current session focuses on corporate involvement in violations that are well documented.
Q: Why the focus on corporations?
A: Corporations play a major role in world politics. Some corporations are more powerful and wealthier than States. Their impact is profound on communities across the world. This is why there are growing moves for corporate accountability and responsibility – be it on human rights, transparency or the environment. RToP is documenting the specific involvement of corporations in illegal acts, and raising public awareness about the extent of their involvement. This is an important contribution. We have also been working with legal advisors throughout this process to look into new legal avenues to ensure accountability by corporations for their actions.
Through the testimonies and evidence given at the tribunal, individuals and organisations will be able to make better informed choices about which companies to support or engage with.
Q: Is the Russell Tribunal political?
A: The main objective of RToP is justice and accountability – this is a universal standard that goes beyond the politics of particular nation states. The RToP has focused on a variety of situations, such as Vietnam and Latin America. The focus is now on third party accountability related to Israeli violations of international law. The legitimacy stems from application of international law in the context of Israel-Palestine.
Q: Why is this event being held in London?
A: London is a major world capital and the UK is a major player in world politics. Also, historically the UK has had a very important role to play from the start of the Israel-Palestine question. Picking London was therefore also symbolic. Also, most of the corporations that are the focus of the Tribunal have important holdings and presence in the United Kingdom.
Q: What impact does the RToP have on people’s lives on the ground in Palestine?
A: The RToP has been endorsed by a range of Palestinian organisations and unions. Many Palestinian organisations and communities are directly affected by corporations involved in illegal settlements and their industries, the Wall, settler-only roads and transportation systems. Challenging the involvement of these entities and their actions is a demand for justice and solidarity made by those communities. The RToP directly answers this call for accountability and a cessation of these violations.
Q: Sometimes the subject matter seems dense, how can ordinary people understand the Palestine-Israel conflict and international law through the tribunal?
A: While there are complexities, the basis of the conflict in Israel-Palestine is not in itself complicated. The same applies to international law. People who are not familiar with the topic will find the Tribunal accessible. You do not need to be a political scientist or historian to understand the conflict, and do not need to be a lawyer to understand discussions relating to international law.
Q: What are the highlights of this event?
The whole session is the highlight. Witnesses from Palestine will talk about the impact of the Veolia/Alstom Jerusalem Light Railway on their daily life, Israeli experts will talk for the first time about their new findings on the implications of financial institutions in settlements and also of the actions of the British company G4S in the OPT.
Q: What is the message you would like people to come away with from the tribunal?
A: Respect for international law can secure the foundations for a just peace – The RToP believes in promoting international law as a framework for securing human rights, equality, justice and peace not just in Palestine-Israel but the world over. The message is also that when governments and decision makers do not act in compliance with the law, it is up to the people to remind them of their duties.