Dutch tram company in breach of Geneva Convention

31 October 2008

Dutch tram company in breach of Geneva Convention

The 'Haagse Tramweg Maatschappij' (HTM – The Tram Company of The Hague) is in flagrant breach of the Geneva Convention in offering help to Israel in the construction of a light rail connection through occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinian area of the city. The Dutch government must put an immediate end to the publicly-owned company's involvement, says SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel. French companies which are also involved in the project will be brought before the courts next month. The Netherlands should not allow things to go that far, insists the SP's international affairs spokesman.

Harry van BommelVan Bommel points to Articles 53 and 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In Art.53 it is stated that an occupying power must not destroy any fixed property, except where military operations render such destruction necessary. “This is not the case here and therefore the construction of the line can only be considered an extension of the Israeli colonisation of East Jerusalem," says Van Bommel.. Article 49 of the Convention forbids an occupying power from installing any of its civilian population in the occupied territory. "That's what's happening here. Both articles play a central role in the trial in France. I'm convinced by this that the Geneva Convention has been breached in this instance." Van Bommel's analysis is supported by the Dutch human rights organisation ICCO, the authoritative Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq, and the PLO, which has brought the case in France. In addition, numerous international law experts have reached the same conclusion.

For Van Bommel, the construction of the line by Israel is also a huge political error. "This construction would make a political solution to the conflict over Jerusalem physically impossible," he says. "It is incomprehensible that a Dutch company, and one in the hands of a local authority, could commit such a political blunder. It would make history, but history of the worst kind.”

Van Bommel believes that the government must intervene directly to prevent any continued involvement of The Hague's tram company in this project. “The Geneva Convention is second only to the UN Charter in its importance as a treaty which guarantees human rights. The government claims that human rights form the fundamental principle of Dutch foreign policy, and our Constitution states that we must 'promote the international legal order.' So we can't simply hold our tongues and let this past."

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