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Bil’in vs. Green Park

Corporate Watch

24 July 2009

The Green Park construction company is engaged in building illegal settlements in the West Bank, notably, the settlements of Mattiyahu East and Modi’in Illit, which have been built on land annexed from the Palestinian village of Bil’in, by the Israeli apartheid wall.

The village of Bil’in has been struggling against the construction of the wall for over five years, holding weekly demonstrations, first at the construction site and then at the gate in the apartheid wall separating the villagers from their land. The Israeli army has often responded by attacking demonstrations with water cannons, sound bombs, plastic bullets and live ammunition. Bil’in has also been used as a testing site for new weapons. Demonstrators have been subjected to high-pitched screeching and doused with nerve agents, blue dye and, most recently, a foul-smelling ‘skunk’ weapon. In March 2009, an American activist, Tristan Anderson, was critically injured after a new brand of tear gas canister was fired at his head. He remains in a coma. In April 2009, Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmah was killed by a plastic coated bullet while demonstrating against the wall. Despite this weekly demonstrations continue unabated and have been successful in saving some of the village’s land.

For years international campaigners from all over the world have been attending the weekly demonstrations in Bil’in. Three international conferences on non-violent resistance to the wall and the occupation have been held in the village. The residents of Bil’in have brought several cases to the Israeli supreme court against the seizure of their land for the construction of the wall. Now the village is extending its resistance from the contractors building the wall and the soldiers protecting it to the international companies profiting from the building of the settlements the wall is designed to benefit.

Last year Bil’in’s village committee, with the help of Israeli human rights group Yesh Din (‘There is Law’ in Hebrew), began work on a case against two Canadian companies linked to Green Park. Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc. are both registered companies in the Province of Quebec. Lawyers for the village claim both companies are involved in building residential and non-residential units for settlers on land belonging to the village. They further claim that the village is due the protection of the Geneva conventions as it is based in territory subject to military occupation.

In what appears to be a deliberate attempt to evade restriction of its business, Green Park has nominally registered itself in Canada. Green Park has a token Canadian director who has little to do with the company’s operations in Palestine.

The Bil’in committee claims that Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc. have violated international law and Canadian domestic law and that the village has a right to protection under the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Both statutes prohibit an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into territory that it has occupied as a result of war. Bil’in also relies on the Canadian Geneva Conventions Act and the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which contain the same prohibition. The acts have jurisdiction over Canadians regardless of where in the world the offence has taken place.

Lawyers for Bil’in are claiming damages as well as attempting to obtain an order for settlement construction to cease. If successful, they plan to try to force the Israeli supreme court to enforce the Canadian court’s order.

Green Park International Inc. and Green Mount International Inc have lodged motions in the court for the claims to be thrown out on the grounds that the court did not have jurisdiction. Bil’in’s Canadian lawyers argue that, as the companies are registered in Canada, the court does have jurisdiction. The judge’s decision is likely to come after September 2009.

The case of Bil’in vs Green Park is similar to the case lodged by the Association France Palestine Solidaritie against Veolia and Alstom, two French companies engaged in building a tramway on illegally occupied territory (see Corporate Watch Newsletter 43 – www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3400). In that case, it was accepted that the French court did have jurisdiction to hear the case.