***image1***The village of Bilâin has taken its popular struggle into international courts, as preliminary hearings against two Canadian firms will begin today, June 22. The Quebec Superior Court will decide whether or not to hear the villageâs case against Green Mount International and Green Park International, both of whom are involved in settlement construction on confiscated Bilâin land, and both of whom are registered corporations in Montreal.
Mohammed Khatib, who is a member of the Bilâinâs Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, and Emily Schaeffer, an Israeli lawyer helping to represent the village, began a cross-Canada tour at the beginning of June, speaking in cities from coast to coast to raise awareness about Bilâinâs struggle against occupation, and about the court hearing in Montreal.
The landmark lawsuit was filed in 2008 by Canadian lawyer Mark Arnold, and part of what the village is seeking is a clear ruling from the courts about the illegality of settlement construction under international law. If successful, it will set an extremely important legal precedent for villages throughout the West Bank, so many of which are suffering from the ongoing colonization and land confiscation at the hands of settlements.
The suit is being filed under the Canadian Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes statute. This federal law incorporates both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which declare that an occupying power that relocates part of its civilian population into the occupied territory a war crime. The Canadian statute states that any legal person, including a corporation, that aids and abets a country in violating the international law is itself complicit in the commission of the war crime.
A ruling in favour of the village will mean that Green Park and Green Mount will be ordered to destroy the buildings that they have already constructed – they are involved in constructing 16 buildings in the Mattityahu East settlement – and also pay the village for punitive damages.
Some 60% of Bilâin land has been annexed for the construction of the Wall and settlements. Mattityahu East and Modin Illit are the settlements that are being built on land belonging to Bilâin and its four neighbouring villages, Nilâin, Kharbata, Deir Qadis and Saffa. Since 2005, the residents of these communities have been engaging in weekly popular protests against the Wall, the settlements, and the overall infrastructure of apartheid.
Mohammed and Emilyâs tour has successfully generated extensive media coverage, exposing a national audience to the crimes of the Occupation. It has also raised awareness and support for the Palestinian struggle as a whole. The tour will culminates on June 22, with the beginning of the court hearing. Supporters are invited to a demonstration outside the Quebec Superior Court at noon on the 22nd, and to attend the duration of the hearings on the 22nd, 23rd, and 25th of June.