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1 17th July 10:04
faris jawad
External User
Posts: 1
Default Condemnation of Belgian Government's Decision

Below is the first official statement from the legal team representing the
Sabra and Shatila survivors. As soon as the final draft of the law is
available, we will share it and further comments from the lawyers.

Laurie King-Irani
North American Coordinator


FROM: Lawyers for the survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

DATE: 18 July 2003

Condemnation of Belgian Government's Decision to Abandon the Universal
Jurisdiction Law under Economic Pressures

FOR: Immediate Release

The Belgian government has decided to abandon the law on universal
jurisdiction. Henceforth, jurisdiction shall be limited to cases involving
Belgian victims, Belgian perpetrators, or perpetrators living on Belgian
soil. Fierce pressure from the United States of America and Israel, combined
with strategic and legal errors by the Belgian authorities concerning a
number of recent complaints, ultimately forced the government to take
this huge step backwards.

If the intentions of the government become law, it will of course
greatly affect the pending investigation of the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
The draft bill that will be proposed to parliament in fact contains a
transitory rule for such pending cases, specifying that only those cases
involving Belgian nationals at the time of the initiation of the case or
suspects yet arrested will be pursued further.

The draft bill not only constitutes a huge step backwards with respect to
the defence of human rights and international humanitarian law, but it also
discriminates against victims of international crimes in comparison with
victims of ordinary crimes. According to criminal law, a Belgian victim is
able to file a complaint for felonies committed abroad by a foreigner as
soon as the perpetrator sets foot on Belgian soil. The draft bill further
limits this possibility to complaints with an additional set of filters. We
appeal to all parliamentarians in Belgium not to accept this proposal.

In any case, we consider it inadmissible that a case such as ours, in which
the Belgian Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals had already, in a final
decision, decided must proceed to the stage of investigation, could be
cancelled by a government decision and a subsequent modification of the law.

This not only violates the principles of separation of powers within the
state, but also violates the rights of victims to a fair trial and effective
legal remedies, as are guaranteed by the European Convention on the
protection of Human Rights. Depending on the outcome of the actual
legislative procedure, we are considering seeking proper remedies for these
violations before the proper courts.

The proposal by the Belgian government is also a blow for all the victims
and survivors of the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila. After having been
welcomed by the Belgian state to file for an investigation that seemed
impossible for years, that same state now turns its back on them and their
overdue search for justice, for fear of economic sanctions. After having
been invited to re-live the dramatic events of the massacre, the proposal
about to be passed by Belgium's parliament irresponsibly and cruelly crushes
their hope of finally overcoming two decades of emotional stress
and difficulties.

Luc Walleyn
Michael Verhaeghe
Chibli Mallat

For more information, see
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