Quebec court mulls Palestinian villagers' appeal

Quebec's highest court will review the case of Palestinian villagers in the West Bank who are trying to sue two Canadian companies under advisement.

Quebec's highest court will review the case of Palestinian villagers in the West Bank who are trying to sue two Canadian companies under advisement.

The Quebec Court of Appeal on Thursday decided to take the case under advisement. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will actually hear the case.

Palestinian residents of Bilin are seeking to sue the companies  — Green Park International Inc. and Green Mountain International — for allegedly violating international law by building condominiums for Israeli settlers in the area.

The residents argue Canadian courts should have jurisdiction on the case because the companies are based in Montreal.

Last fall, the case was rejected by the Quebec Superior Court.

In a judgment released Sept. 18, Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis-Paul Cullen ruled that the case was essentially a property dispute, rather than an issue of international law.

He said Israel's High Court of Justice "is the logical forum, and the authority in a better position to decide."

On Thursday, lawyers for the the residents argued that the previous court ruling had erred in its ruling.

By helping Israeli residents to settle in an occupied territory, the Palestinian residents alleged that the companies are in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

While that provision of the conventions is recognized under Canadian law, the residents said it is not incorporated into Israeli law and thus cannot be heard in that country.

Complex issue

The Palestinian residents of Bilin are also seeking $2 million in damages, and requested an injunction to demolish apartment buildings already built in Moddin Illit, a Jewish settlement northwest of Ramallah.

The case presents the court with a challenging issue, said McGill law professor René Provost.

"For the ... court in Montreal to make a finding as to the extent to which Israeli courts are going to be willing to apply directly the Geneva Conventions under Israeli law, this is a very complex issue," said Provost.

"It's very awkward for a Canadian judge to be asked to do that."

The apartment buildings are built on land that was part of a Palestinian village until Israel seized the West Bank from Jordanian control in the Six-Day War in 1967.

About 30 buildings with 250 apartments and condominiums were included in the lawsuit. Bilin, west of Ramallah, is home to about 1,700 people.