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Al Haq: Substantial grounds for holding Italian firm Pizzarotti responsible for war crimes

July 9, 2013
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The Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq has issued a legal opinion regarding Italian firm Pizzarotti’s involvement in the construction of Tel Aviv - Jerusalem high-speed train crossing the occupied Palestinian territories. Italy has an obligation under International law to act. According to the legal opinion published by Al Haq, the noted Palestinian organization dedicated to protecting human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, there are “substantial grounds on which to determine that Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A.

The Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq has issued a legal opinion regarding Italian firm Pizzarotti’s involvement in the construction of Tel Aviv - Jerusalem high-speed train crossing the occupied Palestinian territories. Italy has an obligation under International law to act.

According to the legal opinion published by Al Haq, the noted Palestinian organization dedicated to protecting human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, there are “substantial grounds on which to determine that Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A. could be held responsible … in acts that can amount to serious violations of international law such as the war crimes of pillage and of destruction and appropriation of property” according to both the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC ).

Pizzarotti was contracted by Israel Railways for the excavation of two tunnels as part of the new high-speed rail line that will link Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, crossing, for over 6.5 km, the occupied Palestinian territories. The construction of these tunnels, one of which will be the longest in Israel, has already led to the illegal confiscation of Palestinian land in the villages of Beit Iksa, Beit Surik and Yalu. The company is therefore being targeted by the lobbying campaign of the Italian Coalition Stop That Train[1] until it ceases to operate in violation of international law.

In the legal opinion, Tunnelling Activities and War Crimes: Why Pizzarotti Could Be Found Responsible for Grave Violations of International Law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,[2] Al Haq notes that the "property was appropriated to provide a more effective transportation system for Israeli citizens and for the economic interests of the contractors involved in the mining activities." The appropriation of property amounting to war crimes includes not only land but also “the mined material which will be exploited from the tunnelling activities,” which, contrary to the norms of international law, is be extracted for the exclusive benefit of the Occupying Power and the companies involved.

According to Al Haq, "[t]he new infrastructure will in fact be detrimental for the interests of the local Palestinian population, who will lose a considerable part of their land as a result of the construction." It should be noted that Israel has already confiscated large tracts of land belonging to the Palestinian villages of Beit Iksa and Beit Surik, whose inhabitants are for the most part refugees from 1948, for the construction of settlements and the Wall.

Al Haq notes that "Pizzarotti has demonstrated to be perfectly aware of the problematic character of the Project under international law." In fact, Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway company, withdrew from the project precisely due to its problematic character under international law.[3]

The legal opinion stresses that Italy, as a State Party to the International Criminal Court, "has a duty to exercise criminal jurisdiction over actions committed by its nationals(in this case the members of Pizzarotti Board of Directors and high level executives) that could amount to crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court." In addition, Al Haq underscored that "all States are under a customary international law obligation to investigate and prosecute alleged perpetrators of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

Al Haq welcomed the resolutions condemning Pizzarotti approved by municipal councils of Rho, Naples, Vomero-Arenella, Corchiano and Sasso Marconi as part of the Stop That Train campaign and "encourages other Italian municipalities and public authorities to follow these examples."

Stop That Train commits to continue with determination in the campaign to convince Pizzarotti to withdraw from the project. Stop That Train calls on the Italian government to meet its obligations, as established under international law, to investigate and prosecute Pizzarotti. Stop That Train renews its call, echoed by Al Haq, for local administrations, in accordance with Italian Public Contracts Law regarding those subjects "guilty of grave professional misconduct,"[4] to exclude Pizzarotti  from tenders for public works.

Stop That Train
[email protected]

Notes:

[1] The Italian Coalition Stop That Train, http://bdsitalia.org/index.php/english-menu/429-pizzarotti-call
Stop That Train is a campaign of BDS Italy, a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, made up of associations and groups throughout Italy endorsing the 2005 call by Palestinian civil society promoting BDS campaigns and initiatives on the local and national level.

[2] http://www.alhaq.org/images/stories/PDF/2012/Al-Haq_-_legal_brief_on_Pizzarotti_SpA_-_08_July_2013.pdf

[3] Statement of the German Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs.http://www.bds-kampagne.de/assets/77/110314_FM%20Transport%20to%20MP%20Hoeger.pdf

[4] Italian Law 163/2006, Article 38, comma 1, letter f  http://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/deleghe/testi/06163dl.htm

July 9, 2013
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