KLP sold $69m stake over fears bulldozers contributing to ‘human rights abuses’ against Palestinians.

Norwegian pension fund KLP has divested its stake of close to $70 in US industrial group Caterpillar due to the risk that its equipment is being used to violate human rights in occupied Palestine.

Norway’s largest private pension manager said in a statement released on Wednesday that the manufacturer of bulldozers and other heavy machinery could be “contributing to human rights abuses and violation of international law in the West Bank and Gaza”.

Israel’s military has for decades converted Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, fitted with armour and weapons, for use in demolishing houses and infrastructure in the occupied territory, as well as in combat scenarios.

KLP, which previously held shares in Caterpillar worth 728 million Norwegian crowns ($69m), said it has engaged in dialogue with the US company but has not received satisfactory assurances that it was able to reduce the risk of violating the rights of individuals.

“For a long time, Caterpillar has supplied bulldozers and other equipment that has been used to demolish Palestinian homes and infrastructure to clear the way for Israeli settlements,” said Kiran Aziz, head of responsible investments at KLP, in the statement.

“It has also been alleged that the company’s equipment is being used by the Israeli Defence Force in connection with its military campaign in Gaza following the Hamas attack on October 7 last year,” she added.

KLP has about $90bn under its management. It suggests that the Caterpillar stake was sold on June 17.

In April 2021, KLP excluded companies linked to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including telecom equipment giant Motorola.

Along with a number of other countries, Norway considers the settlements a breach of international law.

Last month, Norway joined Ireland and Spain in announcing its decision to formally recognise Palestinian statehood based on the pre-1967 borders for the sake of “peace in the Middle East”.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said at the time that there could not be peace in the Middle East if there was no recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“Although Caterpillar has shown itself willing to engage in dialogue with KLP, the answers gave little credibility that they have taken good measures to reduce the risk of complicity in violations of human rights in war and conflict situations, as well as international law,” Aziz said.

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