Posted Thursday, March 7, 2002

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Irish Times

March 6, 2002

Belgian court considers Sharon war crimes inquiry

A BELGIAN court is deciding whether to resume a war crimes investigation against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, even though the World Court has ruled that he has immunity as a head of state.

SharonThe court was expected to rule today on whether an investigation into Mr Sharon's role in Israeli attacks inside Lebanon by Belgian prosecutors could resume after their investigation was suspended last September.

However, last month's World Court ruling upholding the immunity of government officials has prompted lawyers for those seeking war crimes charges against Mr Sharon to request a delay.

The court is considering the request on the same day as judges at the war crimes trial of Mr Slobodan Milosevic have denied the ex-Yugoslav president's request for provisional release.

The lawyers for the 23 survivors of a 1982 massacre in two Palestinian refugee camps are demanding the court hold off on any decision until they introduce new arguments in light of the World Court ruling.

Mr Michael Verhaeghe, a lawyer representing the survivors, said yesterday that it was "absolutely necessary to have another hearing".

"We are sure the court will accept our request ... that we have a hearing to argue the repercussions," Mr Verhaeghe said.

While court officials in Brussels said a delay was possible, Mr Sharon's lawyers were expected to tell the appeals court that the case should be thrown out.

Following the February 14th ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, on a similar war crimes case, Mr Sharon's lawyer, Ms Adrien Masset, said he was confident the case against his client would be dropped.

The tribunal ruled illegal an April 2000 international arrest warrant sought by Belgium, which wanted to try Mr Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi, then Congo's foreign minister, in connection with the killing of hundreds of minority Tutsis in 1998.

The court said he cannot be tried in Belgium for allegedly urging the slaughter of Tutsis since he was foreign minister at the time.

The decision dealt a blow to Belgium's 1993 war crimes law, which enables anyone to bring a war crimes case against any world leader.

About 40 similar claims now before Belgian courts were thrown into question as result.

Besides Sharon, criminal proceedings have also been brought against Palestinian leader Mr Yasser Arafat, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran among others.

Mr Verhaeghe has said he would argue to the court that a 1948 international convention on genocide, which Israel signed, supersedes all other international law in the Sharon case.




World Court ruling curbs human rights cases: Ariel Sharon off "war crimes" hook in Belgium?
Crucial massacre witness killed in Beirut car bombing: Sharon tied to killing
Israel "harvests" the vital organs of Palestinian children killed by their Army
Israeli medical association: OK to break fingers of Palestinian prisoners during interrogation


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