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June 25, 2001
'Sharon Inquiry' Press Release

By Chibli Mallat


'Sharon Inquiry' Press Release
From Chibli Mallat

On Monday June 18 2001, at 9.30 am three lawyers filed before an investigating judge (Madame le juge d'instruction Sophie Huguet), in Brussels, Belgium, a complaint on behalf of of 28 plaintiffs and witnesses, all survivors of the Sabra/Shatila massacres. With this act, a case has been formally opened against Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, on counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Under recent Belgian legislation, introduced in 1993 and modified in 1999, the possibility of bringing war criminals to account was extended both in terms of citizenship and time. Using established legal concepts of universal customary law, Belgian legislators have set aside limitations of time, citizenship and status: foreign heads of state can be held accountable for crimes committed before the recent evolution of international law.

It is worth remembering that Israel invoked universal customary law when it tried Eichman for war crimes, and this case, and that of Demjanjuk in the US, and others, are cited at length in the complaint. As Minister of Defence, Sharon planned and directed the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. When Bashir Gemayel was assassinated on September 14, it was Sharon who ordered the Israeli Army to penetrate West Beirut and surround the Sabra/Shatila area. It was Sharon who gave the order for the Lebanese militias to enter the camps. The complaint is filed againt Ariel Sharon, Amos Yaron and any Israeli or Lebanese person responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that happened between the 16th and 18th of September, including the killing, torture, rape and "disappearance" of from 1000 to 3500 civilians - children and women as well as men, Lebanese as well as Palestinians.

The complaint is based on jus cogens, international and Belgian law. The full text of the complaint (in French) can be read on www.mallat.com. Even though the Kahan Commission judged Sharon "personally responsible "for the massacre no further legal actions arose from this judgment. With Sharon's resignation from Defense, Israeli and world public opinion soon forgot the massacre and its victims. The 23 plaintiffs and 5 witnesses (the distinction is made for mere procedural reasons under Belgian law) now accusing Sharon represent a far larger number of people who have never been recognized as victims nor indemnified for loss. All the plaintiffs lost close family members, in some cases mother and father as well as siblings. Reading their testimonials brings back the horrific scale and character of a massacre that ranks among the worst of the 20th century.

The plaintiffs are represented by three lawyers: Luc Walleyn, Michael Verhaeghe, and Chibli Mallat. The day following the formal lodging of the complaint, Patrick Collignon was formally appointed juge d'instruction to carry out the inquiry. He will conduct the proceedings, and the inquiry has officially started. For the first time in history, the Sabra and Shatila victims and survivors have had their day in court.

Beirut, June 22, 2001