International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila: Lawyers for Sabra and Shatila Plaintiffs Ask to Re-open Debate before Belgian Court following ICJ Ruling of 14 February

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a case lodged in Belgium last June accusing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israelis and Lebanese with war crimes related to the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps today made a formal request to re-open the legal debate about the admissibility of the case and Belgium's competence to judge the case under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction.

The lawyers wish to debate before the Belgian Court the exact meaning and import of a 14 February ruling rendered against Belgium by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. That ruling condemned a Belgian judge's issuance of an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister Yerodia Ndombasi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In principle, the 14 February ICJ ruling should have no influence or bearing on the case lodged against Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and others by 23 survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Not only are there fundamental differences between the Congolese case and the case against Sharon and others, but the Statute of the ICJ explicitly states that its decisions apply only to the parties involved in the case. The State of Israel, unlike the Democratic Republic of Congo, has not made any statements regarding the competence of the ICJ. Furthermore, the Belgian courts have never issued any arrest warrants for Mr. Sharon or the others named in the Complaint lodged by the massacre survivors.

Mr. Jan Devadder, Director of Legal Affairs at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made a rash statement at the Hague on the day of the ICJ's ruling in the Congo v. Belgium case, the implications of which exceeded his official status and capacities. As soon as the ruling became public, Devadder declared that the ICJ's ruling meant that "the case against Sharon is now closed." Such a far-reaching declaration can only be rendered by the judges of the Court of Appeal in Brussels who are now carefully considering the admissibility of this case. The judges will render their ruling on 6 March 2002.

The plaintiffs have no intention whatsoever of "closing the case" against Mr. Sharon and others charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. They consider Mr. Devadder's statement, perhaps made in an unreflective moment, to be tantamount to interference by a government representative in the judicial process during a crucial period of the case's deliberation.

The ICJ ruling and Mr. Devadder's statements have caused considerable confusion for all concerned with the case. Therefore, the survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre welcome a reopening of debate on this important case, one that has relevance not only for Lebanese and Palestinians, but also for the global campaign against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE DES AVOCATS DES PARTIES CIVILES

Les avocats des parties civiles dans la cause relative au massacre commis  Sabra et Chatila, dans laquelle la Chambre des Mises en Accusation de la Cour d'Appel de Bruxelles prononcera un arrt le 6 mars prochain, ont dpos aujourd'hui une requte en rouverture des dbats.

Ils veulent en effet dbattre devant la Cour la porte exacte de l'arrt qui a t prononc par la Cour Internationale de Justice de La Haye le 14 fvrier, condamnant la Belgique  cause du fait qu'un Juge d'Instruction belge avait dlivr un mandat d'arrt international contre le Ministre des Affaires trangres de la Rpublique Dmocratique du Congo.

En principe, cette dcision ne devrait pas influencer le litige impliquant le Premier Ministre isralien. Non seulement, il y a des diffrences fondamentales entre les deux situations mais le Statut de la Cour Internationale de Justice prvoit explicitement que ses dcisions ne s'appliquent qu'entre parties, alors que l'Etat d'Isral, contrairement au Congo, n'a pas fait de dclaration relative  la comptence de la Cour Internationale.

Monsieur Jan DEVADDER, Directeur des Affaires juridiques au Ministre des Affaires trangres, a fait  La Haye une dclaration qui va beaucoup plus loin que l'arrt lui-mme (a fortiori que l'avis du juge ad hoc belge), en dclarant publiquement que "l'affaire Sharon sera abandonne".

Les parties civiles, qui n'ont nullement l'intention d'  abandonner cette affaire , considrent que cette dclaration, peut-tre faite d'une faon irrflchie, apparat comme une tentative d'ingrence d'un reprsentant du gouvernement dans une procdure judiciaire, de surcrot  un moment o l'affaire est en dlibr.

C'est notamment  cause de la confusion cre autour de cette affaire que les parties civiles souhaitent une rouverture des dbats.

Bruxelles, le 1er mars 2002

Chibli Mallat Luc Walleyn Michael Verhaeghe

CONTACT: Dr. Laurie King-Irani, North American Coordinator, International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila

FOR MORE INFORMATION: http://www.indictsharon.net

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