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

Court Québec Superior Court, Canada
Case number 500-17-044030-081
Decision title Judgment
Decision date 18 September 2009
  • 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 war crimes, corporate responsibility, 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. Still, the judge did recognise that a person committing a war crime could be liable under civil law, for example a person who ‘knowingly participates in a foreign country in the unlawful transfer by an occupying power of a portion of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies’.

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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 Defence 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, it 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. 

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Related developments

The complainants appealed to the Court of Appeal, but the Court affirmed the Superior Court’s decision on 11 August 2010. 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

  • Are the defendants are agents of Israel (thus: are they entitled to immunity)?
  • Since the High Court of Justice of Israel (HCJ) had already rendered judgments on the substance of the Action, is the current Court still entitled to rule on the matter?
  • Do the plaintiffs have a sufficient legal interest in bringing the Action against the defendants?
  • Does the Action have a legal basis in case the facts alleged were true?
  • In case the Superior Court would have jurisdiction over the Action, would the Israeli HCJ not be in a better position to decide?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Section 3(1) of the State Immunity Act.
  • Articles 785, 1457, 2848, 3081, 3135, 3155 of the Civil Code of Québec (CCQ).
  • 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.
  • Article 85(4)(a) of the Geneva Conventions Act.
  • Section 6(1)(c), 6(3) and 6(4) of the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act.
  • Section 6 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

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Court's holding and analysis

The Court held that the companies and the Director of these companies, are acting on their own behalf and therefore not agents of Israel. Thereby, they are not entitled to state immunity (paras. 20-31).

The Court also held that earlier judgments rendered by the High Court of Justice in Israel did not prevent the Court in Québec from assessing the case because, most importantly, the causes were not identical (paras. 107-112).

It assessed that the heirs of Mr. Yassin had a sufficient legal interest in the case, contrary to the council of Bi’nin, as the latter ‘merely’ had municipal jurisdiction over the land (para. 139). 

Also, the Court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the Action. It applied Québec law and found if the allegations would be true, the defendants would be liable for ‘knowingly favoring a breach’ of international law, most importantly the Fourth Geneva Convention (para. 205).

Still, the Court stated ‘the plaintiffs have selected a forum having little connection with the Action in order to inappropriately gain a juridical advantage over the Defendants’. Therefore, jurisdiction was declined, as the court considered the Israeli judicial system in a better position to decide on the Action (para. 335). 

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

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