Belgian Court to Rule on Whether Sharon Can Be Tried for War Crimes
A Belgian court will rule in late November on whether Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon can be tried in Belgium for war crimes committed in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacres in Lebanon in 1982, AFP reported Wednesday, citing the Brussels prosecutor's office.
Estimates of the number of Palestinian men, women and children killed when Israel's Phalangist militia allies rampaged through the camps in 1982 range from hundreds to nearly 2,000.
A Brussels appellate court grand jury convened for the first time Wednesday to begin studying the propriety of the proceedings begun last July into whether the Belgian investigating magistrate had legal jurisdiction in the case, the news agency said.
That jurisdiction was challenged by Sharon's Belgian lawyer, resulting in suspension of the investigation pending the current inquiry.
Two lawsuits are pending against Sharon, alleging that he was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps. They were brought last June by victims of the massacres and their families.
Suspension of the investigation was in response to a motion by Michele Hirsch, a Belgian lawyer retained by the Israeli government to represent the 73-year-old premier.
She contended in July that Belgian investigations of Sharon "violate the judicial sovereignty of the state of Israel," and that the investigating magistrate had no authority in the matter.
Patrick Collignon, the investigating magistrate appointed to prepare a possible case against Sharon, ruled in July that his office was competent to investigate the cases.
Sharon is accused of instructing Christian Lebanese militiamen, then under the leadership of former Lebanese Forces intelligence chief Elie Hobeika, to enter the camps and cleanse them of “terrorists.”
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Souad Srour, who still lives in the Shatila refugee camp, demands that Hobeika should also be prosecuted in the case.
Hobeika is accused of heading the militiamen, although he has denied any involvement in the killings.
In June, 28 survivors of the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps filed the lawsuit in a Belgian court charging Sharon with war crimes.
A 1993 Belgian law giving local courts jurisdiction over violations of the Geneva war crimes convention allows claimants to seek cases against foreigners suspected of war crimes no matter where they occurred – Albawaba.com
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