According to Al-Haq for Human Rights, the Dutch Public Prosecutor announced the decision to dismiss the case against Lima Holding B.V., Riwal’s parent company, for involvement in Israeli war crimes. This was the first criminal case against corporate complicity in Europe that deals with Israel’s construction of the Annexation Wall and settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). According to the complaint, filed in 2010 in the Netherlands by Advocate Liesbeth Zegveld on behalf of Al-Haq, the Dutch company participated in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity by virtue of its contribution to Israel’s illegal practices in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
While Al-Haq is disappointed with the decision of the Prosecutor not to pursue criminal charges at this time, we welcome the important steps taken by the Prosecution in investigating the complaint for three years and in conducting searches of corporate premises and private homes of Riwal executives. Having established that the company and its directors contributed to the construction of the Annexation Wall and Israeli settlements in the OPT in at least the six incidents identified in the complaint, obstacles such as the lack of resources, the length of the proceedings and unlikely cooperation of Israel in obtaining further evidence should not justify dismissing the case.
General Director of Al-Haq Shawan Jabarin commented, “it is disappointing that the case did not result in a prosecution. The illegal construction by Riwal of the Wall and Ariel West settlement contributed to the fragmentation of Palestinian communities and led to the loss of privately-owned agricultural lands and olive groves upon which local Palestinians depend for income. Today’s decision provides nothing in the way of restitution for these victims, who remain isolated from their land and livelihood.”
In analyzing the company’s illegal conduct, the Prosecutor weighed Riwal’s contribution against the entire settlement enterprise including the Wall. Despite having affirmed that Dutch persons and legal entities are required to refrain from being involved in any manner with violations of international humanitarian law, the Prosecutor consequently deemed the contribution of the defendants minor.
The restructuring of the company, indicated in the decision as sufficient to terminate activities with Israel, does not provide an effective legal remedy for victims. Al-Haq will duly consider further course of action, as the rights of Palestinian victims of Israeli violations of international law must be upheld.
The investigation of the case against Riwal represents an initial warning to European companies involved in business with Israeli counterparts in the OPT. However, the unsatisfactory result illustrates the need for States to implement measures that ensure that private actors under their jurisdiction do not contribute in any way to violations of international law. In the Riwal case, two warnings from the Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs to the company were not adequate measures to that end. Lima Holding B.V. only cut its ties with Israel’s illegal activities after Al-Haq’s criminal complaint was lodged.
Therefore, Al-Haq strongly calls on States to adopt effective measures to prevent private actors from being involved in breaches of international law.
The correspondence informing the defendants of the dismissal of the case is available here.