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Israel/OPT: South Korean firm Hyundai must avoid complicity in war crimes in village of Masafer Yatta

Israeli forces using a Hyundai bulldozer to demolish a Palestinian house in the Umm Qasas area of Masafer Yatta on 25 July 2022
Israeli forces using a Hyundai bulldozer to demolish a Palestinian house in the Umm Qasas area of Masafer Yatta on 25 July 2022 © MOSAB SHAWER/AFP via Getty Images

Amnesty and Democracy for the Arab World Now documented construction equipment giant’s involvement in five West Bank demolitions last year

Letter to company demands halt to involvement in threatened house destructions

Amnesty has previously raised concerns at UK firm JCB’s involvement in West Bank demolitions (see JCB section below)

‘Businesses like Hyundai need to take action now to ensure that they are not accomplices in war crimes’ - Adam Shapiro

The South Korean construction equipment giant Hyundai must take immediate action to prevent its products being used in demolitions in Masafer Yatta in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Amnesty International and the NGO Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) said today. 

The two organisations have documented five occasions from last year where Israeli military forces used Hyundai excavators to raze Palestinian property in Masafer Yatta, an area of the West Bank where around 1,150 Palestinians are at imminent risk of forcible transfer. Last year’s demolitions displaced at least 15 Palestinians, including six children, and constitute war crimes under the Fourth Geneva Convention.  

Amnesty has written to Hyundai, asking it to explain what human rights due diligence procedures it has undertaken to prevent its products again being used by Israeli forces to commit human rights violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hyundai has replied saying it is not “engaged in Israeli settlement activities” but provided no details over due diligence, and nor did it address Amnesty’s concerns over the use of its machines to carry out past demolitions in Masafer Yatta. Amnesty also wrote to EFCO Ltd, Hyundai’s sole distributor in Israel, but at the time of publication had received no response. 

In May 2022, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition from Masafer Yatta residents and ruled that the demolition of nine hamlets and villages could go ahead - greenlighting one of the biggest acts of forcible transfer in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1967. Dozens of demolitions have since been carried out. In January, the Israeli authorities informed residents that their forcible transfer was imminent. 


Amnesty and DAWN have verified the use of Hyundai excavators in last year’s Masafer Yatta demolitions. For example, on 15 February Israeli forces used a Hyundai HX330AL crawler excavator to demolish a home and a water cistern in Khallet al-Mayah village, forcibly displacing a family of six. In July, a Hyundai HW210 wheeled excavator and a HX330AL crawler excavator were used on separate occasions by Israeli forces to demolish two homes in the village of Umm Qussa, forcibly displacing at least nine people. In all these cases, Hyundai’s logo was visible on excavators, alongside EFCO’s brand sticker. 

Amnesty considers that Hyundai has failed to conduct proper human rights due diligence on its business operations in Israel. An adequate risk assessment should have indicated that there was a likelihood of its products being used by Israeli forces to commit violations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Hyundai now has a responsibility to mitigate the harm it has been linked to and should do this by taking steps such as reviewing its human rights guidelines, and publishing a plan outlining the steps it will take to end its products being used in human rights violations.  


Amnesty and DAWN are calling on Hyundai to suspend distribution of its products in Israel through EFCO until the latter commits to conducting human rights due diligence, and until it ensures that end-users do not use Hyundai machinery for unlawful activities.  

In the 1980s, the Israeli authorities declared a large area of Masafer Yatta a “closed military zone”, claiming they needed the land to conduct training exercises. Since then, Palestinian families living in the area for generations have faced the constant threat of demolition and displacement, as well as attacks by settler groups and harassment by the Israeli military.  

Mark Dummett, Amnesty International’s Head of Business and Human Rights, said:  

“Palestinians in Masafer Yatta are living in a state of constant dread - watching the horizon for the arrival of Israeli forces, and the excavators which mean the end of life as they know it. 

“If it goes ahead, the mass expulsion of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta would constitute one of the largest acts of forcible transfer in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1967. 

“Some residents have already seen the Israeli military use excavators to demolish the homes of their neighbours and rip out essential village infrastructure - excavators which bore Hyundai’s logo.


“These violations help maintain Israel’s apartheid system and are crimes under international law - no business should be linked to or benefiting from them. 

“Hyundai must play no role in this appalling crime.”

Adam Shapiro, DAWN’s Director of Advocacy for Israel/Palestine, said:

“This is a crucial moment for the Palestinian residents of Masafer Yatta as they face ramped-up demolitions of their homes and community by the Israeli government to cleanse this area of the indigenous population. 


“Businesses like Hyundai need to take action now to ensure that they are not accomplices in war crimes and send an unambiguous message to the Israeli government and businesses that human rights standards are not just words on a page, but have practical consequences. 

“Hyundai is being forewarned of a crime - it can take decisive action that can have wide-ranging impact.”

Unanswered questions

On 20 July 2022, Hyundai published a set of Guiding Principles for Human Rights Management in which it claimed to abide by human rights standards while committing itself to “[taking] heed of infringement upon the rights of local residents”. Amnesty wrote to Hyundai on 27 January outlining concerns that the company has breached its international obligations and its own guidelines. In its 2 February response, Hyundai said it upholds its responsibilities to respect human rights and was committed to “promoting” the UN Guiding Principles, as well as saying it was not involved in the Israeli settlements. However, Hyundai did not address Amnesty’s findings regarding the use of its equipment in the Masafer Yatta demolitions. In a 6 February follow-up letter, Amnesty reiterated its research findings and queries. Amnesty has not received a response to this letter. On 21 February, Amnesty wrote to EFCO, sharing its findings and requesting details of EFCO’s human rights due diligence procedures. EFCO has not responded.

Businesses’ responsibilities 

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights state that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate. They must take steps to prevent, address, mitigate and remedy any human rights harms linked to their operations, products or services - even if they are not directly involved in the commission of violations. Businesses also have a duty to ensure their distributors only sell to human rights-compliant customers. This general duty applies in this case with regard to Hyundai, EFCO and the Israeli military.

In situations of armed conflict, including military occupation, businesses must also respect international humanitarian law. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, forcible transfer is a war crime, as is the unlawful destruction of property without military necessity. Forcible transfers carried out as part of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population are crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Corporate actors who knowingly provide practical assistance that substantially contributes to the commission of crimes against humanity may be held criminally responsible for aiding and abetting such crimes. The demolitions in Masafer Yatta are also violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to housing. As the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel is obligated to respect and protect these rights.  

JCB in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

In 2021, Amnesty published a major report showing how diggers manufactured by the UK construction equipment company had been used in Israel’s unlawful destruction of Palestinian homes and the construction of Israel’s vast network of illegal settlements. Amnesty warned that JCB’s failure to take appropriate steps to prevent its equipment being used in this way put the company in breach of its responsibilities under international human rights standards applicable to business. The year before, Amnesty wrote to former International Trade Minister James Cleverly urging him to take action in relation to JCB and two other UK companies - Opodo and Greenkote - after the firms were included on a United Nations list of 112 companies conducting “substantial and material” business activities in the illegal Israeli settlements.

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