Palestinian Village of Bil’in Seeks Justice in Canada

October 20th, 2009 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec
    October 20, 2009. Bil’in Popular Committee


Photo: Mary-Ellen Davis. Palestinian flag flying at popular protest in Palestine.

As part of the Village’s campaign against the construction of settlements on their lands, Bil’in has filed an unprecedented legal claim in Canada against two Canadian companies and their Canadian director. The claim arises from the construction of apartment buildings and the marketing and selling of residential units in the Modi’in Illit settlement which is built, in part, on the lands belonging to Bil’in. The lawsuit has been filed in the Canadian Province of Quebec where those companies and their director are registered and live.

The lawsuit is based on Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own population into the territory occupied. That Article expressly forms part of Canadian law under its Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act and Geneva Conventions Act. Bil’in has strongly submitted that Canadian courts are an appropriate forum to adjudicate on the conduct of Canadian companies in the Occupied West Bank under International humanitarian Law, including Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In June 2009, the Green Park Companies brought Preliminary Dismissal Motions before the Quebec Superior Court sitting in Montreal. In Reasons released on September 18, 2009, Justice Louis-Paul Cullen decided that the Israeli High Court of Justice was a more appropriate court to hear the case against these Canadian companies and their Canadian director on a legal principle known as “forum non conveniens”. Judge Cullen dismissed the case. In so doing however, the Quebec Court affirmed, for the first time in Canadian law, the principle of corporate civil liability for breaches of International Humanitarian law.

An appeal to the Quebec Court of Appeal from the decision of the Quebec Superior Court declining jurisdiction on the basis of forum non conveniens will be filed in Montreal by Bil’in’s Canadian Legal Counsel, Mark Arnold, on October 19, 2009. The appeal alleges that the Quebec Superior Court made grievous legal and factual errors in declining jurisdiction because Israeli courts have consistently ruled that the question of the legality of settlements under the Fourth Geneva Convention to be a matter of politics that the Israeli High Court of Justice will not hear. The appeal also alleges numerous other factual errors.

The Bil’in case raises major issues about the use of the legal system in Israel and internationally to achieve justice within the reality of the Occupation. In addition, and in light of the recent Goldstone report, which raises the question of impunity within the Israeli legal system, and the country’s accountability in international forums to center stage, this case is extremely important for Israeli, Palestinian and world jurisprudence with respect to the application of International humanitarian Law to conflicts arising from war.

— The Bil’in Popular Committee, Al Haq, Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

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