BADIL Resource Center
For immediate release, 21-11-2001 (E/64/2001)


Belgian Appeals Court Set to Decide Next Steps in War Crimes Case
Against Ariel Sharon

The case against Ariel Sharon and several other Israeli officials,
including Amos Yaron, Director-General of the Defense Ministry,
concerning the massacre of several thousand Palestinian refugees in
Beirut in 1982 took another step forward yesterday with the
announcement that Sharon has been summoned to Brussels to appear
before a Court of Appeal on 28 November.

The Appeals Court will decide whether the Belgian judiciary has
jurisdiction to continue legal proceedings against Sharon who is
charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The
legal investigation was delayed in early September when lawyers
acting on behalf of Sharon asked the investigative judge to drop the
case on grounds that Sharon has already been the subject of a
judicial procedure in Israel - i.e., the Kahan Commission.

The legal team representing the more than 20 Palestinian plaintiffs,
including survivors of the massacre, rejects the arguments raised by
Sharon's lawyers on several grounds. First, Sharon has not been the
subject of a judicial procedure. The Kahan Commission was a
governmental commission of inquiry (much like the current Or
Commission investigating the killing of 13 Palestinian citizens of
Israel by Israeli police in October 2000), not a court, and therefore
not capable of imposing sanctions or issuing a conviction. Second,
the intervention by Sharon's lawyer who was acting on behalf of the
Israeli government was invalid as the complaint was issued against
Sharon as an individual and not the government of Israel. Only
parties to a complaint may request an appeal. Sharon has since hired
a team of personal lawyers.

According to the Belgian daily Le Soir, the Belgian Ambassador in
Israel, Wilfried Geens, delayed submission of the summons for Sharon
to appear at the hearing until an EU delegation led by Belgian Prime
Minister Guy Verhosftadt and Foreign Minister Louis Michel completed
its visit to Israel earlier this week. Since the case was filed in
June, Israeli officials in Belgium have been pressuring Belgian
authorities for an amendment to the 1993 law, which would reinstate
diplomatic immunity for sitting heads of state. Officials have been
trying to prevent the broadcast of BBC's Panorama investigative
report about the massacres on Belgian public television.

Despite efforts by Israeli officials to turn the case into a
political issue, both the government of Belgium and the legal team
for the plaintiffs, have made it clear that the issue is a legal one
and the process must respect the clear separation of powers between
the judicial and legislative branches of government. Israeli
officials have become increasingly frustrated by the case. Ehud
Olmert, the Israeli mayor of occupied Jerusalem, for example,
recently described the government of Belgium as a "government of
bastards" who should "go to hell." Still others have tried to de-
legitimize the legal proceedings by labeling them as anti-semitic.

Since the case was filed in June 2000 several international human
rights organizations have issued statements in support of the legal
process. Following an earlier statement by Human Rights Watch,
Amnesty International issued a statement in October, welcoming
"actions taken in accordance with international law to combat
impunity. "We support the judicial investigation into Ariel Sharon's
responsibility with regard to the Sabra and Shatila massacre."(AI
Press Release, 3/10/01)

If the Belgian Appeals Courts rules in favor of the plaintiffs it
will be the first time that a sitting head of state will face war
crimes while in office. The court recently found two nuns guilty of
abetting the genocide in Rwanda under the same law. According to the
legal team representing the plaintiffs, the Belgian court would be
able to try Sharon in absentia, but it would also be capable of
demanding his extradition. The hearing on 28 November, however,
requires neither the plaintiffs nor the defendants to attend.

For more information on the case, including copies of the complaint
(French, English, Arabic), see,; For information on
the Sabra and Shatila massacre and war crimes see the BADIL website,