Sharon lawyers to study Belgium's jurisdiction
By Constant Brand
BRUSSELS -- A Belgian court agreed Wednesday to delay a hearing into whether Belgium has jurisdiction to investigate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for alleged war crimes.
The hearing was postponed until Nov. 28 to give Sharon's new legal team time to study the case, court officials said. Sharon's lawyers had requested the delay.
Lawyers for 23 Palestinian survivors of a 1982 massacre in Lebanon lodged a complaint with a Belgian judge in June demanding Sharon's indictment on war crimes charges.
In the massacre, a Lebanese Christian militia allied with the Israelis killed at least 800 Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps. Israeli inquiries into the massacre found Sharon--who was defense minister at the time--indirectly responsible, prompting his resignation as defense minister.
A 1993 Belgian law gives Belgian courts jurisdiction over violations of the Geneva war crimes convention and allows claimants to pursue cases against foreigners suspected of war crimes no matter where they occurred.
Magistrate Patrick Collignon agreed to open an investigation into Sharon in July after ruling that two complaints filed against the Israeli leader might warrant prosecution.
But Sharon's lawyers questioned the legality of the 1993 law, and Collignon asked an appeals court last month to decide whether he had jurisdiction in the case.
If the appeals court rules that the case can proceed, and Collignon decides to press charges, Sharon could technically be arrested if he enters Belgium.
In the first case to be tried under the Belgian law, four Rwandans were sentenced this year to prison terms from 12 to 20 years for their role in the 1994 genocide of the country's Tutsi ethnic minority.
A Cuban-American group, Brothers to the Rescue, said it plans to launch a case Thursday in Belgium against Cuban President Fidel Castro for crimes against humanity.
The Miami-based Cuban exile group gained international attention when Cuban fighter jets shot down two civilian planes in 1996, killing four of its members.
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