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Belgian Court Opens Way for Israeli General Trial

Belgian Court Opens Way for Trial of Israeli General Involved in Massacre

A Belgian court ruled on Tuesday that a case against an Israeli general, who was involved in carrying out war crimes, can go ahead.

The Brussels Court of Appeals said that a lawsuit filed by 23 survivors of the brutal massacres perpetrated at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982 can go ahead against General Amos Yaron, who was the army commander at the time.

The “Universal Competence” law allows Belgian courts to try those responsible for carrying out crimes against humanity and genocide no matter where they were perpetrated.

Accordingly, Yaron can be tried even if he is not on Belgian soil.

''It's an important victory. The path has now been cleared for the investigation to continue,'' Luc Walleyn, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, told Reuters.

Israel’s Premier Ariel Sharon—who was “defense” Minister at the time—was also named in the original lawsuit, raising Israeli fears that he could be indicted for war crimes.

In February, Belgium’s Supreme Court said that Sharon, the prime target of the complaint, and Yaron could not be prosecuted over the camp’s massacres because they were not living in Belgium.

But it also said the lawsuit against Sharon can in fact resume once he no longer had diplomatic immunity in his capacity as a head of government.

Walleyn says that the court can now start interviewing witnesses, who survived one of the bloodiest massacres in history, wherein possibly thousands were killed.

On 16 September 1982, Israeli-allied Phalangist Christian militiamen entered the refugee camps, which Israeli soldiers—occupying Beirut then—surrounded the area and prevented anyone from leaving.

The results were devastating. Thousands were killed in a 3-day spree of mass murder, mutilation and rape.

Sharon was found “personally” responsible for the massacres by an independent Israeli commission and he was forced to resign.

Yaron, who is now director-general at the Israeli defense ministry, could technically be arrested and tried (if he enters Belgium) for his involvement in the massacres if a judge decides to press charges.

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