Belgian Judge: Sharon’s Indictment for War Crimes Likely

Published July 1st, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

A Belgian judge has ruled that a complaint against Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accusing him of crimes against humanity would be admissible in a Brussels court, said Reuters, quoting a Belgian newspaper on Saturday. 

The court will now launch an investigation into events surrounding the killing of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, Le Soir said. 

A spokesman for the Brussels Public Prosecutor's Office could not immediately be reached for comment when contacted by the agency.  

The complaint was filed under a 1993 law allowing Belgian courts to prosecute foreign officials for human rights violations committed outside Belgium. 

A 1983 Israeli state inquiry found Sharon, then the defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killing of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. 

The Israeli army allowed Israeli-backed Christian Phalangist militiamen to enter the camp, ostensibly to search for Palestinian gunmen, after the assassination of Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, the Lebanese president-elect. 

In Beirut, Chibli Mallat, a leading Lebanese lawyer representing the survivors of the massacre, hailed the Belgian judge's reported decision.  

"It is an important day for the victims of Sabra and Shatilla. We trust that justice will take its course to the full, despite the rumors of attempts to change the law ad hominem," he said.  

"We will every possible way with witnesses and testimony. This is a large file." 

Last week, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri indicated that his country was mulling a lawsuit against Israel for the Jewish state's occupation of south Lebanon, which ended in May 2000 after 22 years.  

"We ... are studying at the present moment the possibility of filing a suit against Israel to claim damages."  

"We are examining at present this possibility in all aspects, of jurisdiction and others, to sound out the chances of winning a trial," he said.  

Hariri stressed the importance of a careful decision on the matter.  

"To lose this trial would signify absolution for Israel and that is a very dangerous business," he said.  

Israel first entered south Lebanon in 1978, and then orchestrated a full invasion all the way to Beirut in 1982, before scaling back its occupation over a two-year period to a security zone in south Lebanon, which it evacuated only last year.  

Hariri pointed, as a legal precedent, to the ongoing court hearings in Belgium to determine whether Ariel Sharon could be tried there for his role during the massacre.  

Within the same context, the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper has reported that chief military prosecutor Nasri Lahoud is planning to re-open an investigation into the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre, with the findings possibly being used to help prosecute Sharon.  

However, the investigation is not expected to go beyond Sharon's complicity in the massacre. Former MP Elie Hobeika, the commander of the Phalange militia forces in Sabra and Shatilla, and individual militiamen who carried out the killings will not be questioned nor face prosecution, according to a source at the military court –  






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