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Bil'in v. Green Park International and Green Mount International

Court Québec Court of Appeal, Canada
Case number 500-09-020084-091
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 11 August 2010
  • Bil’in (Village Council)
  • Heirs of the late Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin
  • Green Park International Inc.
  • Green Mount International Inc.
  • Annette Laroche
Categories War crimes
Keywords corporate responsibility, war crimes, West Bank
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The heirs of a Palestinian landowner and the council of a Palestinian town sue two Canadian companies in Québec, claiming that by carrying out Israeli construction orders, they are assisting Israel in war crimes. The Superior Court of Québec dismissed the claim, stating that the Israeli High Court of Justice would be a more suitable place to argue this case. The Court of Appeal confirmed this, most importantly stating that this case essentially revolved around citizens from the West Bank and corporations carrying out work in the West Bank. Therefore, the Court held, it would require ‘a great deal of imagination to claim that the action has a serious connection with Quebec’. 

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Procedural history

Before filing complaints before the Superior Court in Québec, the heirs of Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin filed complaints against the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces for the activities near Bil’in. To that end, four related petitions were submitted. In two of these petitions, Green Park and Green Mount were approved to be joined respondents. Although the Israeli government was ordered to present an alternative route for the security barrier (‘the wall’) that would be less harmful to the residents of Bil’in, the plaintiffs considered that Israel failed to provide an effective remedy.

Therefore, they issued a complaint against Green Mount and Green Park in Québec, where these companies are domiciled, on 9 July 2008. Most importantly, the plaintiffs held that Israel had breached the Fourth Geneva Convention by ‘transferring parts of it own civilian population onto the territory it occupies’. According to the plaintiffs, Green Park and Green Mount are assisting in this breach. The complaint was dismissed, as the Superior Court held that Israeli judicial authorities would be best suitable to rule on this case. 

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Related developments

An application for Leave to Appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada on 3 March 2011. On 28 February 2013, the defendants filed a petition with the UN Human Rights Committee against Canada, claiming that Canada had breached its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by failing to prevent Green Park and Green Mount from continuing its activities on the West Bank.

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Legally relevant facts

Bil’in is located on the West Bank in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Green Park International and Green Mount International are Quebec-registered corporations that has been involved in constructing residential buildings and other settlement infrastructure on Bil’in territory, most specifically on land owned by the late Ahmed Issa Abdallah Yassin.  

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Core legal questions

The Court of Appeal formulated that ‘the appeal does not seek to decide whether Green Park, Green Mount and Laroche behaved wrongfully toward Basem Ahmed Issa Yassin and others'. Rather, the questions at hand are:

  • Did the trial judge erred in the exercise of his discretion when granting the motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens (thus, on the ground that the Israeli judicial authorities are best suited to rule in this case), taking into account the fact that the High Court of Justice in Israel does not hear civil actions between private litigants, and jurisprudence raises the expectation that the Israeli Court will declare the facts of the suit non-justiciable?
  • Has the Superior Court mis-applied the doctrine of ‘forum non conveniens’?
  • Do the Appellants have interest in the case and do they have a legal basis for their action was lacking, in case the alleged facts would be taken as proven?
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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • Articles 8(2)(b)(viii) and 25(c) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • Articles 3081 and 3135 of the Criminal Code of Québec.

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Court's holding and analysis

The Court of Appeal confirmed the Superior Court’s judgment. It held that it was not up to a Canadian court to specify the exact court in which the plaintiffs should litigate, it should only determine whether any other court in Israel. The Superior Court had done this and the Court of Appeal affirmed this assessment (paras. 62 and 70).

The Superior Court was faced with two divergent expert opinions regarding the question whether the Israeli Court would recognise the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Superior Court had decided to rely on the opinion which held that application of the Fourth Geneva Convention was possible. The Court of Appeal considered that the appellants had not shown that the trial judge committed an error that would justify interference by a higher court (para. 79).

Overall, the Court held that it would require ‘a great deal of imagination to claim that the action has a serious connection with Quebec’, since ‘the dispute pits citizens of the West Bank against corporations carrying out work in the West Bank in compliance with the law applicable in the West Bank’ (para. 86).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

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