Friday, February 21, 2003

Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch writes that the virtuous Belgians are "increasingly aware of their own abusive history in Africa" and consequently "embraced the opportunity to play a role in the fight against the worst crimes" by invoking the principle of universal jurisdiction to prosecute Ariel Sharon for not preventing the Sabra and Shatila massacres 21 years ago.

It's nice that Brody thinks that the Belgian legislature/judiciary are angels and idealists - but in 1990, citing a 20-year statute of limitations, they declined to prosecute accused Nazi war criminals (living in Belgium) (report).

Brody notes that many countries, including Israel, have made use of universal jurisdiction. Disingenously, Brody ignors that Belgium's move is unique in that they are now trying cases that do not directly involve Belgian plaintiffs (more from Haaretz).

What's worse is Brody's characterization of Sharon's role in the massacres and the subsequent Israeli inquiry. Brody quotes only from the recommendations of the Kahan commission which says that Sharon "bears direct responsibility"; Brody then accuses Israel of not launching a prosecution of what a gov't commission seems to imply is a criminal offense (thus leaving the prosecution to the selfless Belgians). In actual fact, the commission terms Sharon's responsibility was "indirect", and recommends that he dismissed from his position of Defence Minister. What Brody calls "three-day rampage of killing and mutilation while Israeli forces failed to intervene" is more accurately described as 36 hrs. of progressively less murky reports of atrocities and repeated rounds of buck passing.

In a letter to Jpost (scroll down), someone personally familiar with the court proceedings in Belgium says that the prosecutors' motivations are political, but that the Belgian court system is not (but see here)

Here's an entry that I wrote a while back about Elie Hobeika (who personally directed the massacres and then spent many years as a Lebanese cabinet minister) and how Sharon has managed to rehabilitate his reputation in Israel since 1982.

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