dimanche 25 octobre 2009

The Suit Against Sharon in Belgium: A Case Analysis

Source: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

The Suit Against Sharon in Belgium: A Case Analysis (2007)
Interview with Irit Kohn (interview by Manfred Gerstenfeld)

"In 1982 during the Lebanon War, Lebanese Christian militias murdered hundreds of Palestinians in refugee camps in Sabra and Shatilah. In June 2001, several survivors and family members of the victims submitted a complaint in a Belgian court that was not directed against the murderers, many of whom were known. The claim instead named as defendants Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, the Israeli chief of staff in 1982 Rafael Eitan, and the then head of Northern Command, General Amos Yaron."

Irit Kohn at the time was head of the International Department of the Israeli Ministry of Justice. This department is responsible for, among other things, extradition issues and legal assistance. She headed the Israeli defense team.

"At the time of the submission Belgian law had universal jurisdiction as far as crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide were concerned. It did not require any connection to the country involved. Any private citizen, in Belgium or elsewhere in the world, could submit a complaint against anybody to the Belgian court system that could serve as a claim for criminal prosecution there."

A Political Act
"After the complaint, a committee of Israeli experts was formed. It included Danny Shek, who was director of the Western Europe section at the Foreign Ministry, Daniel Saada, a lawyer and Israeli diplomat in Belgium, Allon Geilert, a lawyer from the Prime Minister's Office, and myself. We worked together very well, and nothing was leaked of our deliberations. After some time Efraim Halevy also joined us. He had been Israeli ambassador to the EU in Brussels and had many contacts there.

"Nineteen years had passed since the mass murders by the Lebanese Christian militias. The complaint seemed a politically motivated act. The complainants waited until Sharon became prime minister of Israel. They wanted him to be subject to a criminal prosecution for alleged war crimes. They saw him as responsible for the murders by Israel's Christian allies in the two refugee camps. They claimed that as Sharon was Israeli defense minister in 1982 and collaborated with these militias, he should have known that if they came to these camps there would be a massacre."

Kohn says there was a major discussion among Israeli government lawyers as to whether Israel should relate to the complaint or not. "Some experts from the attorney general's office initially recommended that Israel should not react. Also some executives from the Prime Minister's Office said we should not relate to those who brought the complaint against us."

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