Bil’in action in Quebec under Canada’s war crimes statute 21Dec09 December 22, 2009
The villagers of Bil’in have taken legal action against the corporations that are building settler housing on Bil’in lands in occupied territory. Â The court action is brought in Quebec, Canada, because the corporations are registered in Quebec, and because Canada has a “Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act”. Â This statute incorporates relevant provisions of the “4th Geneva Convention” and the “Rome Statute” into Canadian law (including “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” and “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/en/C-45.9/FullText.html )
The claim also relies on the Advisory Opinion of the World Court on “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?p1=3&p2=4&k=5a&case=131&code=mwp&p3=4
What is unusual is that Canadian prosecutors are not prosecuting the Quebec corporations for alleged war crimes, and so the victims — the Bil’in villagers — are asking the Quebec court to give civil remedies that will effectively stop the construction.
The Quebec corporations brought a motion to the Quebec court asking the court to dismiss the action without need for a trial. Â The Quebec corporations argued that Canadian courts do not have jurisdiction to hear such claims, and in any event that the corporations are entitled to “state immunity”, and, in any event, that Israeli courts are in a better position to hear the action.
The Quebec court accepted the latter argument, and so its decision is being appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeal. Â But, most importantly, the Quebec court found that Canadian courts DO have jurisdiction in such cases, that it IS possible to maintain civil lawsuits under Canada’s war crimes statute, and that the defendants CANNOT rely on “state immunity” to protect them from liability.
These determinations of law will be important in future cases in Canada, and in all countries that have war crimes legislation.
The decision of the Quebec court is not “light” reading, but it is important, and should be comprehensible to anyone with an interest in this issue.
Download decision Bil’in & Green Park Int’l CANADA