Sharon’s Lawyer makes weak case
8 August 2001
Palestine Media Center PMC
The lawyer Israel hired to represent the government in the case brought
against Ariel Sharon in Belgium is basing her case on purely technical
matters. Ariel Sharon stands accused of ordering the massacre of over 2,000
Palestinian civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut,
Lebanon during in September of 1982.
Ms. Michele Hirsch, who was hired by the State of Israel to defend the
sitting Prime Minister was part of the defense team for four Rwandans
convicted of war crimes in a Belgian court earlier this summer.
In a long interview with the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz, Ms. Hirsch
presented the arguments she will use in front of Patrick Colligon, the
Belgian Judge investigating the charges against Mr. Sharon.
In her interview, parts of which was published today 8 August, Ms. Hirsch
made it clear that as a lawyer, she supports the 1993 Belgian law permitting
the trial of war criminals in Belgium, no matter what their nationality or
Israel's lawyer justified her objection to trying Sharon by telling
Ha'aretz, "I support the international authority to punish violators of
human rights. They should not be allowed to get away with their crimes. But
not every state has to deal with the crimes in other states".
Ms. Hirsch explained that her argument would focus on the inadmissibility of
holding a trial for a sitting Prime Minister.
She will argue that the trial violates the judicial sovereignty of Israel;
"Israel is a democracy and its institutions have already judged the Sabra
and Shatila case through the Kahan Commission". Ms. Hirsch claims that the
Kahan Commission had the attributes of a judicial institutions. Therefore,
the lawyer claims that Belgium should adhere to the Rome Treaty, which
stipulates that courts can't deal with "matters addressed in the originating
country". Legal experts refute this argument by stressing that the Kahan
Commission was of an investigative nature and did not serve any indictments
following of its serious recommendations.
The lawyer also made the argument that the 1993 Belgian law allowing for
these kinds of proceedings can only apply to suspects in Belgium and to
crimes committed after 1993.
Ms. Hirsch argues that the Geneva Convention requires a state to arrest
suspects in its territory and then put them on trial. However, she skips the
fact that the same Convention does not forbid acting against suspects
residing in other countries.
As for the argument of retroactivity, the fact remains that there is no
statute of limitations on war crimes and genocide in international and
No where in her interview did Ms. Hirsch discuss a defense strategy stemming
from the argument that Ariel Sharon bears no responsibility to the
unspeakable horrors of that 1982 massacre. This may send alarming bells
ringing for many Israeli officials, many of whom could be implicated in this
and other war crimes.
Legal experts believe that despite all the creative arguments Ms. Hirsch
presented, the investigating judge may decide to proceed with indicting Ariel
Sharon all the same.