UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Norway rejects UN Human Rights Council blacklist

Norway’s government procurement department has rejected arguments that it should refuse a tender from a subsidiary of a company included in the UN Human Rights Council’s “blacklist” of companies allegedly involved in activities related to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Tennfjorden Raftsundet Hinnøya, Norway bySimo Rasanen, Wiki Commons

Egencia provides travel booking services and is part of the Expedia group, one of the 112 companies blacklisted by the UN Human Rights Council.  Employees at a number of institutions in Norway’s education sector are required to buy their trips from Egencia.  These include colleges in Østfold and Volda, OsloMet, the University of Stavanger, the University of Southeast Norway and the Ministry of Education.

The Department Director at Norway’s Government Procurement Center, Kjetil Østgård, has now stated: “our procurement law assessment is that we have neither the right nor the duty to reject Egencia from the competition as a result of the conditions discussed”.

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented: “Mr Østgård is undoubtedly right not to regard the UNHRC list as a justification to exclude a company from tendering. This list has no legal validity. Under EEA rules companies can only be excluded from tendering for public contracts where the procuring authority demonstrates grave professional conduct rendering the company’s integrity questionable so that it cannot be relied upon to carry out the contract.”

In December 2019 UKLFI helped leading Norwegian NGO, Med Israel for fred (MIFF), to counter BDS proposals by the ruling coalition of Oslo Council.

Oslo’s ruling coalition agreed a political platform expressing its intention to “investigate the scope of action contained in the procurement regulations to not acquire goods and services produced in an area occupied in violation of international law by companies operating under the permission of the occupying power” (page 22).

The proposal pretended to apply generally, but statements by the politicians involved have made it clear that Israeli businesses in areas administered by Israel beyond the 1949 armistice lines are the only target.

UKLFI assisted MIFF to write to Oslo’s Governing Mayor, Raymond Johansen, explaining why it would be illegal for Oslo Council to target goods and services produced by Israeli companies in East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) or the Golan Heights.

In October this year, Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it has no money earmarked for donation to the Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC) over the next five years. This information was provided in response to a letter written by UKLFI to Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 29 July this year.

The UAWC is an agricultural NGO in the Palestinian Territories  which has been closely linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group (PFLP). Three of its top officials were arrested last year for terrorist offences and two of them are currently on trial for the murder of 17 year old Israeli Rina Shnerb in August 2019.