28 June 2002
Sharon’s Case Dismissed by Belgian Courts
The Court of Appeal of Brussels has declared inadmissible a case brought against Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon for his role in the war crimes committed in the refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila in 1982. IHRC is shocked and saddened by what appears to be a politically motivated decision.
The case was brought against him in June 2001 by 23 survivors of the massacre in which an estimated 900 – 1500 people were killed by a Lebanese Christian militia connected to the then defence minister Ariel Sharon. An Israeli inquiry into the massacres held at that time found Ariel Sharon indirectly responsible and lead to his resignation.
The Court dismissed the case on the basis that the Belgian courts did not have jurisdiction over suspects who were not within its borders. This is contrary to its 1993 laws (and 1999 amendments), upon which the cases are based, which give Belgian courts universal jurisdiction of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, regardless of where they took place or the nationality or residence of either the victims or the accused. Contrary to the decision by the Court, it does not require the presence of the alleged perpetrator to be present within the borders of the country.
Furthermore, the grounds for dismissal are also inconsistent with international law which allows any state to investigate allegations of serious breaches of humanitarian law regardless of the suspect’s location, and to seek their extradition with a view to exercising universal jurisdiction without any requirement that the suspects had to be on their soil to be investigated and tried.
The next course of action available to the victims is to appeal to the Court of Cassation.
A spokesperson for the IHRC said,
“The failure of the Belgian Court to uphold its own law as well as international law and to allow the prosecution of someone suspected of such heinous crimes sends out discouraging messages. On the one hand it gives Sharon the green light to continue to pursue his genocidal policies in Palestine with impunity, free in the knowledge that the international community will remain silent. On the other hand those seeking justice within the boundaries of the law are increasingly frustrated, strengthening the credibility of those that want to take direct physical action.”
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