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
22 April 2013

G4S feels the heat of international boycott campaign [Israel & Palestine]

Author: Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada

[Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited G4S to respond. G4S referred us to a previous statement] G4S...reacted to a wave of protest by rehashing claims that it will eventually quit its Israeli contracts in the occupied West Bank. But in fact G4S staff will “continue to service security systems in commercial and government sites inside Israel, including jails housing Palestinian inmates” and continue to protect businesses in the settlements...G4S told the Financial Times it would quit a number of contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, prisons and police stations in the West Bank by 2015...But in March 2011, after fierce criticism in the Danish press, G4S made a very similar announcement...If G4S is serious about business ethics, it should never had entered into contracts which contribute to the oppression of Palestinians. If G4S really considers its contracts in the West Bank unethical, is should exit these contracts today. [refers to Veolia, Group4Falck, Securicor, Hashmira]

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Company response
19 June 2012

Veolia Environnement response re article alleging it is complicit in Israel's violations of international law

Author: Veolia Environnement

First, regarding the Jerusalem Light Rail Tramway, it is worth remembering that the tramway project came into being following the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, when there was a prospect of a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and was regarded as a “peace tramway”...-We do not seek to service the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories or to pursue business activity in the territories, and our limited activities are in the process of being reduced (sale of the Tovlan landfill).-No recognized French or international court has ruled that our activities were in breach of international law...and we eagerly await the decision of the Versailles Court of Appeals. -We believe that our company is indeed acting in a socially responsible way, and doing its best to provide essential services to all populations, Jews and Arabs alike, even in the difficult context of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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Article
27 June 2011

French court decision on Jerusalem light rail must be challenged

Author: Daniel Machover & Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada

[T]he High Court of Nanterre dismissed a petition by the France-Palestine Solidarity Association...to nullify under French law contracts signed by…Veolia and Alstom for building a light rail system in Jerusalem…AFPS asserted that the…project will connect West Jerusalem with Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, normalizing the illegal situation on the ground…[T]he line has been explicitly designed to avoid servicing parts of Jerusalem with a Palestinian majority…AFPS claims that Veolia violated its own code of ethics, which refers to the principles in the UN Global Compact…Veolia…claim[ed] that “the code of ethics is not a contract and…has no legal effect.”…The court found that Veolia had only expressed its intention to comply with the obligations contained in the code of ethics, instead of committing itself to respecting these obligations…

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Article
29 January 2010

Palestinians irate over new Jerusalem tram

Author: Karin Laub, Associated Press

Jerusalem's first light rail starts test runs this spring,…promising to relieve the perpetual congestion. But Palestinians see no reason to celebrate. They hope to derail the $1 billion tram because they fear it will further entrench Israeli control over east Jerusalem, the part of the city they want as a capital. They've asked a French court to force…Veolia and Alstom out of the project and are urging Arab countries to cancel contracts with the two companies…Veolia officials in Israel told AP the company is in the process of transferring its 5 percent share in the Jerusalem rail project to Israel's Dan bus company…Alstom, which is providing the rail cars, defended the project.

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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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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
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
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
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
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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