Belgian court rules against war crimes trial for Sharon
A Brussels appeals court threw out a lawsuit against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday, ruling he was immune from investigation over his alleged role in a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees.
"What the court decided is that the complaint against Sharon...is not admissible because of the principle of Belgian law that crimes committed in other countries cannot be prosecuted in Belgium unless the author or presumed author has been found in Belgium," a court spokesman said.
The ruling deals a major blow to Belgium's law giving the state's courts the right to try foreigners for serious human rights abuses wherever they were committed.
It was under this law that a group of Palestinian and Lebanese filed the complaint last year, accusing Sharon of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Lawyers for the 23 Palestinian survivors indicated they would appeal to the Supreme Court. "We are not satisfied with this, not at all," said attorney Michael Verhaeghe. "This completely undermines universal jurisdiction. We cannot accept the verdict."
The decision to throw out the case means Sharon can come to Belgium without fear of potential arrest, since a warrant can be issued only after an investigation, lawyers said.
Daniel Shek, an officials with Israel's Foreign Ministry who attended the proceedings, welcomed the decision. "A trial that began with more politics than law happily ends with more law than politics," Shek said outside the courtroom. "We from the beginning trusted the Belgian courts, and I am happy that we were not disappointed."
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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