Palestinian village’s complaint against Canada registered with the UN Human Rights Committee
PRESS RELEASE Palestinian village’s complaint against Canada registered with the UN Human Rights Committee
"Enforce the law on corporations constructing settlements on our land" -Resident of Bil'in
(Bil’in, Palestine) The United Nations Human Rights Committee, which enforces the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has registered an Individual Complaint filed by the Bil’in Village Council against Canada for its failure to regulate and provide effective accountability and remedies for human rights violations in which two Canadian corporations are complicit.
The Bil’in Village Council, along with 11 village residents, lodged the complaint under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and allege that Canada failed to prevent human rights violations that were aided and abetted by two Canadian corporations, Greenpark International, Inc. and Greenmount International, Inc., for building Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine.
“We have spent years trying to protect our land from Israel and now we are forced to battle other countries and their companies too,” said Mohammed Khatib, village representative and Head of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee. “We hope the UN will give us the justice that we have not been able to get from either Israel or Canada.”
The illegal settlement of Modi’in Illit sits in part on confiscated Bil'in land. Customary international law prohibits Israel from transferring its civilians into the occupied State of Palestine and the erection of Israeli settlements in Palestine constitutes a violation of international law and may amount to a war crime. Both Canadian corporations are complicit in directly aiding and abetting this violation by constructing, marketing, and selling housing units for the East Mattityahu neighborhood of the Modi'in Illit settlement.
In 2008, the Bil'in complainants filed a lawsuit in Montreal, Canada against the two Quebec-registered companies, claiming violations of international and Canadian law pertaining to aiding and abetting the commission of a war crime. Both the trial and appellate courts refused to hear the case on the merits, claiming that the proper forum for the case is the Israeli courts. Given that the Canadian Supreme Court refused to review the Bil'in lawsuit, Canada has failed to provide an effective judicial remedy to the residents of Bil'in for violations of their human rights.
“The legal systems in both Israel and Canada have failed the people of Bil’in” said Bret Thiele, an attorney representing Bil’in village in their case. “A strong decision in favour of their case by the UN Committee will ensure some accountability and deter other companies from engaging in illegal practices in occupied Palestine.”
Canada now has six months to respond to the complaint and it is hoped that the Human Rights Committee will make a final decision in 2014. The decision could be groundbreaking both in terms of corporate accountability and with regard to the extra-territorial human rights obligations of countries to respect and to protect human rights abroad.
The Individual Complaint can be found HERE.