UPDATE: War Crimes Suit against Ariel Sharon - 15 May 2002 Hearing at the Court of Appeals, Brussels (Fwd. from: North American Coordinator, International Campaign for Justice for the Victims of Sabra and Shatila)

RE: Statement by Lawyers for the Survivors of Sabra and Shatila following the Final Pre-Trial Hearing on the Admissibility of the Case Lodged against Sharon and others for Trial in Belgium under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction for War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, and Genocide

BRUSSELS--Following a reopening of debate about the admissibility of this case for trial, made at our request and at the request of the Attorney-General in the wake of the International Court of Justice's 14 February decision in the Congo v. Belgium case, we had an extensive session of hearings this morning at the Court of Appeals in Brussels.

We are satisfied with a number of developments, especially after widely announced statements that these proceedings had been frustrated by the Congo v. Belgium decisions. The Attorney-General confirmed this morning his support for our position on the full jurisdiction of the Belgian courts under the Belgian 1993 Statute Law and rejected the interpretation of other judges in the Congo v. Belgium (Yerodia) case in Brussels.

On immunity, the Attorney-General, while recognising personal and temporal immunity for Mr. Sharon as a sitting prime minister, confirmed the need for the investigation to proceed in this case.

On our part, we insisted that immunities cannot be recognised for the crime of genocide, since the 1948 Genocide Convention expressly rules out such immunities. This issue was not raised in the Congo v. Belgium case, and therefore immunity could not be deemed relevant for the case lodged against Sharon and others in the matter of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre.

Secondly, we have insisted on the need to restrict immunity to the simple issuance and delivery of an arrest warrant, in accordance with the actual decision of the International Court of Justice in the Congo v. Belgium case. [See the 15 February press communiqu on www.indictsharon.net for more details.]

Another positive development has been the strong and immediate public reaction in various countries in opposition to recent attempts to restrict the 1993 Statute Law too narrowly. We are pleased with the joint initiative of victims of crimes committed in Rwanda, Guatemala, and Chad, with whom we met in Brussels yesterday and who have mobilised NGOs throughout the world in support of an effective protection of the Belgium's Universal Jurisdiction law.

We particularly welcome the thorough study issued by Amnesty International yesterday, entitled “Belgian court has jurisdiction in the Sharon case to investigate Sabra and Shatila killings." We formally deposited this study at the court hearing this morning.

Mrs. Samiha Hijazi, one of the 28 original plaintiffs on whose behalf we lodged the complaint on 18 June 2001, came from Sabra and Shatila to attend the hearing in Brussels. Mrs. Samiha Hijazi lost her 10-year-old son and her newlywed 17-year old daughter in the massacre.

We are confident that the decision of the court, announced for 26 June 2002, will finally open the road to justice to the victims of one of the greatest unpunished crimes of the 20th century.

Luc Walleyn
Michal Verhaeghe
Chibli Mallat

For more information and updates about this war crimes suit against Ariel Sharon see: www.indictsharon.net