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Veolia & Alstom lawsuit (re Jerusalem rail project)

Jerusalem Light Rail, Credit: Matanya, Creative CommonsPour la version française de ce profil, cliquez ici.

In October 2007, Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) filed a lawsuit against Alstom and Veolia in the Tribunal de Grande Instance (Nanterre, France).  The plaintiffs alleged that the companies’ involvement in a consortium which contracted with the Israeli Government in July 2005 to construct and operate a light rail project in Jerusalem violated international law.  City-Pass Consortium was made up of Alstom, Alstom Transport, Veolia, and four Israeli companies.

The plaintiffs claimed the companies’ involvement in the light rail project contravenes international law by allegedly aiding and abetting Israel’s occupation and commission of war crimes, in relation to West Jerusalem.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants’ actions violate international humanitarian law and certain sections of the French Civil Code.  The plaintiffs sought an injunction to cancel the contract and halt construction of the light rail project.  In October 2007, the corporate defendants moved to dismiss the case and questioned the admissibility of AFPS’ requests to nullify the contract, arguing that it was outside the scope of French jurisdiction.

In April 2009, without reaching the merits of the case, the Nanterre Tribunal ruled that it was within its jurisdiction to hear the case.  It also ruled that the PLO could not be accepted as a co-plaintiff.  The Tribunal underlined that the defendants were not in a position to plead immunity, as corporate entities are not included as subjects of sovereign immunity.

Alstom and its subsidiary Alstom Transport, appealed the decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance in November 2009.  Veolia did not contest the ruling; it sold its shares in the City Pass Consortium to Dan Bus Company in September 2009.

In December 2009, the Appeals Court upheld the rulings of the Tribunal de Grande Instance; emphasising that it had jurisdiction to hear the case.  In February 2010, Alstom appealed this decision (particularly, the jurisdiction of the French courts) to the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation).  In February 2011, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal.

In May 2011, the Nanterre Tribunal ruled on the merits and rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments to cancel the contract.  AFPS and PLO appealed the decision.  The Appeals Court decision of 22 March 2013 declared that PLO could be accepted as co-plaintiff, but ruled the suit was inadmissible.  The court found that the international agreements in question create obligations between states, and could not be used to hold two private companies liable.  The court ordered AFPS and PLO to pay € 30,000 to each of the three companies to cover their expenses during the lawsuit.

The construction work of the tram has already been completed, and the tram started to operate in summer 2011.

- [FR] “Alstom: conforté par la justice pour le tramway de Jérusalem" Cercle Finance, 27 mars 2013
- [FR] “La décision du tribunal français sur le tramway de Jérusalem ne doit pas être acceptée”, Daniel Machover & Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 29 juin 2011
“French firm contests ruling on rail project in Occupied Jerusalem”, Abbas Al Lawati, Gulf News, 13 Feb 2010
- “Jerusalem’s first light rail is test case in Palestinian boycott campaign”
, Karin Laub, Canadian Press, 29 Jan 2010
“French Court to Hear Israeli Tram Case”, David Gauthier–Villars, Wall Street Journal, 17 Apr 2009
“PLO disputes Jerusalem rail plan”, Rory McCarthy, Angelique Chrisafis, Guardian, 26 Oct 2007

 - Alstom:
- [FR] “Tramway de Jérusalem: la Cour d’Appel de Versailles tranche en faveur d’Alstom”, 27 mars 2013
- “Jerusalem tramway: French justice rules out the legal action against Alstom”, 27 Mar 2013

- Veolia : [FR] Dossier sur le projet de tramway de Jérusalem

- Association France Palestine Solidarité:
- [FR] Tramway colonial : un jugement incompréhensible de la cour d’appel, 25 Mar 2013
- [FR] L’état des procédures engagées sur le tramway de Jérusalem, 4 Dec 2012
- [FR] L’état des pro­cé­dures engagées par l’AFPS et l’OLP concernant le tramway de Jérusalem, 19 Sep 2012
- [FR] L’AFPS et l’OLP font appel du jugement du TGI de Nanterre du 30 mai 2011, 11 Jul 2011
- [FR] Tramway de Jéru­salem : le dossier peut être jugé sur le fond au Tri­bunal de grande ins­tance de Nanterre, 9 Feb 2010
- [FR] Action en justice de l’Afps (et de l’OLP) contre la construction et l’exploitation d’un tramway à Jérusalem-Est : suite à l’audience du 9 novembre 2009, 3 Dec 2009

- [FR] Cour d’appel de Versailles, France, [PDF],Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), L’Organisation de Libération de la Palestine (OLP) c. S.A. Alstom, S.A. Alstom Transport, S.A. Veolia , 22 mars 2013
- [FR] Tribunal de Grande Instance, Nanterre, France [PDF]Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), L’Organisation de Libération de la Palestine (OLP) c. S.A. Alstom, S.A. Alstom Transport, S.A. Veolia, 30 mai 2011

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Article
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Author: Benjamin Barthe, Le Monde

L'Organisation de libération de la Palestine (OLP) hausse le ton contre les entreprises françaises Alstom et Veolia-Connex impliquées dans la construction du tramway de Jérusalem, dont la légalité est fortement contestée...Arguant du fait que le tramway est "hors la loi" parce qu'il relie au centre de la ville sainte trois colonies de Jérusalem-Est que le droit international considère comme illégales, l'AFPS [l'Association France-Palestine Solidarité] appelle la justice à annuler le contrat...Informé par Le Monde de la démarche de l'OLP, un porte-parole d'Alstom, qui assure la fourniture des rames, s'est contenté de déclarer que "le contrat a été signé avec une société de droit privée" et que "le tracé prévoit de desservir des quartiers palestiniens". Pour sa part, le service de communication de Veolia-Connex, en charge de l'exploitation du tramway, n'a pas souhaité réagir. Les experts des deux sociétés se réservent peut-être pour un éventuel procès.

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Article
26 October 2007

PLO disputes Jerusalem rail plan

Author: Rory McCarthy & Angelique Chrisafis, Guardian [UK]

The Palestinians have begun legal action against two prominent French companies [Alstom, which will provide the train carriages, and Veolia Transport, the public transport operator] in an attempt to stop work on a contested light-railway project in Jerusalem...the Palestine Liberation Organisation...argues that the railway will breach the fourth Geneva convention by providing infrastructure to Jewish settlements on occupied land..."This tram will constitute at least an element in the expansion of the colonisation of East Jerusalem by the state of Israel," the Palestinian delegation said in a statement...Spokesmen for Alstom and Veolia said yesterday that they had no comment.

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Article
20 November 2007

PLO takes Veolia Transport and Alstom to court in France

Author: Adri Nieuwhof and Maria Lherm, The Electronic Intifada

[In]...October 2007...Veolia Transport, and Alstom were taken to court by Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), because of their involvement in the Israeli light rail...that is planned to link West Jerusalem with the ring of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank...Now the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO)...has joined AFPS in the legal action...[The] Tramway project violates international [the Geneva Convention of 1949] and French law...Amnesty International in France invited Veolia to discuss the tramway in December 2005. The company refused the invitation...Alstom and Veolia...dispute the competence of the court to judge the case...[and]...state that also the Palestinians would benefit from the tramway.

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Article
6 June 2008

Dutch bank agrees: Jerusalem tramway is illegal

Author: Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada

...the managing director of SNS Asset Management, a division of the Dutch SNS Bank, sent me a letter explaining the bank's position on divesting from Veolia...[who is] build[ing] a tramway on...Palestinian land...constructed in open violation of international law...SNS Bank stated that "the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is not consistent with international law. However, the bank does not consider the construction of the tramway as a direct, grave violation of human rights. Therefore excluding Veolia is considered disproportionate. Nevertheless, we see the activities as unwanted within the framework of a responsible peace process, and we will call upon Veolia not to engage with similar future projects..." The Bank added that it may still decide to divest in such a "trajectory of engagement," in case Veolia does not produce a satisfactory response...[also refers to ASN Bank, Alstom, Sarasin Bank (owned by Rabo Bank)]

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Article
17 April 2009

French Court to Hear Israeli Tram Case

Author: David Gauthier-Villars, Wall Street Journal

Palestinian lobby groups that contest Israel's authority over East Jerusalem have found they might be helped via an unexpected route: a French court. The court decided to take up the case against French companies contracted by Israel to build a tram line that runs deep into East Jerusalem from West Jerusalem…The group, Association France-Palestine Solidarité, filed the complaint against Alstom SA and Veolia Environnement SA two years ago, arguing that the 8.3-mile project violates international law because East Jerusalem isn't sovereign Israeli territory…Veolia and Alstom quickly responded to the complaint by saying that the Nanterre court had no jurisdiction over the case and that the association's claims were groundless. An official of the tribunal of Nanterre near Paris said the court ruled…that it does have jurisdiction in the case.

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Article
30 May 2009

Palestine urges withdrawal of rail contract

Author: Abbas Al Lawati, Gulfnews.com

Palestinian officials have intensified diplomatic efforts to persuade Saudi Arabia to withdraw a multibillion dollar rail contract awarded to a firm alleged to be complicit in Israel's expansion in Occupied East Jerusalem...The light rail project will link Occupied West Jerusalem to Occupied East Jerusalem [critics accused it of violating international law]...[it] will be partly built by...Alstom. Alstom is part of a consortium awarded a $1.8 billion...contract...for the Makkah-Madinah railway, the Haramain Express...Alstom, Alstom Transport and Veolia are also facing a lawsuit in France for their involvement in the Occupied Jerusalem project...Eric Lenoir...[from] Alstom Transport said Gulf officials had not cited the Occupied Jerusalem project as a concern...[also refers to ASN Bank (part of SNS Reaal) and the Swedish national pension fund]

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Article
8 June 2009

Jerusalem rail operator jumps ship, Tel Aviv group isn't even responding

Author: Haaretz [Israel]

In a body-blow to the future Jerusalem light rail, the French company Veolia, which was supposed to run the train system after its construction, is abandoning the project...Veolia not only wants out of running the future train; it's trying to sell its 5% stake in Citypass, the light rail consortium...Veolia has had to contend not only with...delays and difficulties...but with political pressure at home as well. Two months ago a French court heard a lawsuit by a pro-Palestinian group, demanding that the light rail project be halted. The organization based itself on an article in French law that allows the court to void business agreements, signed by French companies, that violate international law.

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Article
24 November 2009

Veolia and Alstom continue to abet Israel's rights violations

Author: Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada

Despite mounting pressure to withdraw from the light rail project in Jerusalem designed to serve the needs of Israel's illegal settlements…Veolia is set to be highly involved in the project for the next five years…to support its new Israeli partner, the Dan Bus Company … Veolia has been pressured to end its involvement…by several financial institutions…because the rail will normalize the illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem … Veolia recently attempted to pacify concerns …expressing the company's commitment to operate the Jerusalem light rail on "a clear, non-discriminatory policy based on free access for all parts of the population”… statements made by a City Pass spokesperson reveal that Veolia is aware that the light rail service will be discriminatory… legal action in France…against Alstom and Alstom Transport continues. [also refers to Connex, part of Veolia]

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Article
1 December 2009

[PDF] Principles and Mechanisms to Hold Business Accountable for Human Rights Abuses: Potential Avenues to Challenge Corporate Involvement in Israel's Oppression of the Palestinian People

Author: Yasmine Gado, BADIL Resource Center

One of the most important legal challenges today is the battle to hold transnational corporations (TNCs) accountable for their involvement in human rights violations. Efforts are currently being made by a variety of actors in what is referred to as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement…While the resources of these companies are vast and they are largely immune to democratic processes, gains are being made as corporate management responds to the cumulative impact of these efforts…This article summarizes the latest developments in each of these areas. The discussion on domestic law will cover U.S. law; however, several recent surveys compare the laws of different domestic legal systems in the area of corporate accountability for human rights violations. [refers to Ahava, Alstom, Caterpillar, Chevron, Connex (part of Veolia), Dexia, Drummond, Elbit Systems, Fidelty Investments, General Motors, Lev Leviev, Motorola, Shell, Talisman, Unocal (part of Chevron), Veolia, Yahoo!]

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Article
25 December 2009

Alstom, Veolia in legal muddle

Author: Abbas Al Lawati, Gulf News

Two French transport giants Veolia and Alstom could face trial in France over their involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail project…Campaigners against the two companies have won a major step in a legal battle in France...Alstom was unsuccessful in preventing a Nanterre court from hearing the case against the companies when the Appeals Court of Versailles ruled on December 17 that the Nanterre court, where the case was first filed, had the jurisdiction to hear it. A spokesperson for Alstom however told Gulf News that the company is now "considering to appeal to the French supreme court", the Cour de cassation, in Paris.

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