In many cases of alleged war crimes, a civil action may be an attractive alternative to criminal proceedings, for political, logistical or other reasons. This is particularly so with respect to corporate conduct, where the mens rea requirements and custodial penal sentences that are hallmarks of typical criminal justice systems transpose poorly to the corporate context. However, while the universality principle is by now well-established with respect to criminal prosecutions in national courts, the picture with respect to civil claims in one country for war crimes committed in another is substantially less clear. In this spirit, the author analyses the recent Superior Court of Quebec decision in the case of Bil’in (Village Council) v. Green Park International Ltd. There, the plaintiffs sought to claim against two Quebec corporations and their sole director for participating in war crimes allegedly committed in the West Bank. After a careful examination of the decision, it becomes apparent that such claims may face significant legal and practical hurdles in Canada.
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