In August 2009, Corporate Watch reported on a lawsuit being brought in Canada by residents of the Palestinian village of Bil’in against construction company Green Park, which has been building condominiums on the villagers’ land to sell to Israeli settlers. A Quebec judge has now ruled that the case could, in theory, be pursued, although in Israel rather than Quebec. Green Park is registered in Quebec, which Israeli developers claim is for tax reasons. The heirs of the owner of land expropriated for development by Green Park, Mr Yassin, brought a suit against Green Park’s director, Annette Laroche, a resident of Quebec, for damages of $2,000 000 in July 2008. As the sole director, the claimants argued that Ms Laroche was the “controlling mind” of the company and was, therefore, responsible for its actions in Palestine. It was further argued that the construction of the condominiums is prohibited by Canadian domestic law and international humanitarian law, which do not permit the “transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Green Park and Ms Laroche were alleged to have aided and abetted such an offence. The judge in the case, Judge Cullen, accepted that the suit could, in theory, be brought in Quebec and that Annette Laroche could potentially be sued and the descendants of Mr Yassin, none of whom are resident in Quebec, could pursue the case in Quebec. He also ruled, however, that the Israeli High Court of Justice, the Bagatz, was a “more appropriate” tribunal for the case. It is not hard, of course, to guess what the response from the Israeli High Court of Justice might be, bearing in mind the fact that murders of Palestinians by settlers have gone unprosecuted by the Israeli court system for years. Green Park also claimed immunity on the basis that it was acting as an “agent of the state of Israel”, an assertion that was rejected by the judge.
Although Judge Cullen ruled out dealing with the claim in Quebec, the case is an important step toward establishing a precedent that companies can be sued for breaches of international humanitarian law that occur in other countries.
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