RTX rejects Human Rights Assessment proposal

RTX recommends shareholders reject a proposal for better human rights assessments of weapons sales.

In its 2024 Proxy Statement to shareholders, issued ahead of the 2 May 2024 annual meeting, the RTX board of directors unanimously recommended shareholders vote against a proposal to prepare a report  “…omitting proprietary information, with the results of a Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA), examining Raytheon’s actual and potential human rights impacts associated with high-risk products and services, including those in conflict-affected areas and/or those violating international law.”

The proposal, submitted by the School Sisters of Notre Dame Cooperative Investment Fund, cited the “significant actual and potential adverse human rights risks” inherent to RTXs’ business:  “The use of its defense products and services may violate the rights to life, liberty, personal security, and privacy.” The proposal argued there was a lack of evidence that RTX was properly implementing its human rights obligations, while RTX products have clearly been used to cause harm to civilians and to commit crimes such as genocide.

Recommending the proposal be rejected, RTX directors recognised that “certain of our defense products, due to their capabilities, carry potential human rights risks” but argued the proposal was impractical and unnecessary because “our exports of military and security items outside of the US are subject to an exacting US government review and approval process, involving both the executive branch and Congress.”

RTX displaces the responsibility to avoid human rights violations onto the US Government. But a US Government Accountability Office report on US Military Support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,  found that the defence exports review,  approval, and end-use monitoring process – intended to prevent exports causing civilian harm in Yemen – was not exacting, and authorities “could not provide evidence that it investigated any incidents of potential unauthorized use of equipment transferred to Saudi Arabia or UAE”.

Further, nine years into the war on Yemen, the report found authorities “have not fully determined the extent to which U.S. military support has contributed to civilian harm in Yemen.”

In March 2023, a group of Yemeni nationals filed a lawsuit against RTX, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics alleging “”aiding and abetting war crimes and extrajudicial killings” through supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

The global weapons industry is well aware that its products are used to breach universal and inalienable human rights all around the world – and that states’ export systems are seriously flawed. It has no place in education.

“We recognize that certain of our defense products, due to their capabilities, carry potential human rights risks…”