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Palestinian village sends pair to sue Quebec companies

CBC Canada

2 June 2009

Two representatives of a small West Bank Palestinian village will tour Canada this month, as they prepare a lawsuit against two Quebec-based companies for allegedly violating international law by building Israeli settlements on occupied territory.

Mohammed Khatib is a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall in the town of Bil’in, west of Ramallah. He will hold a news conference on June 4 at Quebec Superior Court, along with Israeli lawyer Emily Schaeffer, who represents Bil’in.

The town’s claim was filed July 9 against sister companies Green Park International and Green Mount International. It also asks the Quebec Superior Court for an injunction to stop further construction and demolish apartment buildings already erected in Moddin Illit, a Jewish settlement northwest of Ramallah.

Bil’in alleges both companies committed war crimes by building housing in the settlement, Israel’s largest in the West Bank. The lawsuit also names Annette Laroche, who is named as the director of both companies.

The apartment buildings are built on land that was part of a Palestinian village until Israel seized the West Bank from Jordanian control in the Six-Day War in 1967.

The village is home to about 1,700 people.

In the lawsuit, the village’s municipal council and chief Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin allege Green Park and Green Mount acted as “agents of Israel” by building the housing.

The lawsuit asks the court to rule whether the construction violates the Fourth Geneva Convention, which deals with the protection of civilians in times of war and occupation; Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act; the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms; and the Civil Code of Quebec.

The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from transferring its own civilians into occupied territory.

In a news release Tuesday, Lynn Worrell, a spokeswoman for the town of Bil’in, said preliminary court proceedings are scheduled to be held in Montreal June 22.