"Milosevic lost the war and was removed from office as president of Yugoslavia, but this did not prevent his extradition to the court in The Hague. The Kahan commission conclusions need to be translated into criminal law action, and it would be wrong to leave them in the political sphere," says Luc Waulleyn, one of three lawyers representing 23 survivors of the 1982 massacre in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, in Lebanon.
Waulleyn has been involved in Human Rights and racism cases for over twenty years, including cases against Belgian army officers for crimes committed in Africa. He held a press conference on Monday, in Israel, together with survivors from the massacre, medical personnel who were in the camps at the time, Palestinian human rights organizations, and Israeli lawyer Leah Tsemel, who helps him in his contact with the Israeli judicial system. Jerusalem Weekly Magazine Kol Ha'ir reports in today's issue that Waulleyn visited Israel seeking help from Palestinian and Israeli lawyers, and others, in gathering evidence against Sharon. He is touring the Middle East on his way to Durban, South Africa where he will participate in the UN Conference against racism.
In June, a Belgian judge admitted these survivors complaint against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, for his responsibility to the massacre. For three days, starting September 16, 1982, Palestinian refugees were killed in the two camps, under siege by the Israeli army. The immediate killers were members of a fascist Lebanese militia, but the Israeli army, under then Minister of Security Ariel Sharon, assisted them by lighting up the area at night, and blocked out victims who tried to escape. An official Israeli commission of enquiry found Sharon responsible for the massacre and forced him to resign his position.
Waulleyn: "The procedure is currently limited to Belgium, but one should bear in mind that in other cases of crimes against humanity, such as Rwanda and other places, proceedings continued for years until the appropriate evidence was found and the accused were brought to trial."
Kol Ha'ir: Israel claims you launched a media lynch on Sharon.
"My concept of justice does not include a media lynch. Sharon's responsibility and that of others needs to be based on the evidence. So far there is evidence that he ran the war in Lebanon and was involved in all the moves. It is clear that there are elements of his [Sharon's] personal responsibility, but there were others too."
KH: How does Sharon's position as Prime Minister affect the case?
"Obviously timing is important, but I can tell you that this fact does not simplify matters for the victims. It's a long kind of process, which can mature for years after the complaint is filed, if we are to learn from other cases. This may come to court after Sharon completes his term in office."
KH: How do you view the Belgian Government's initiative to change the law to exclude presiding heads of state?
"In Belgium there is separation between the judicial power and the executing power. Clearly, this is not the first time a judicial investigation causes political problems, nor is it the last."
KH: Do you hope for cooperation with Israeli authorities?
"There is a n agreement on judicial cooperation between the two states, but the main thing is that in Israel, since the 1950's, exists the most elaborate system of laws regarding war crimes."
KH: Sharon's lawyers will claim he's already been trialed for this, they will say that the Kahan commission is a judicial procedure.
"This question has already been raised in preliminary discussions in Belgium, and has not been resolved. I hope the examining judge will officially, or unofficially, receive the evidence and the Kahan commission's secret appendixes. I have no doubt that this evidence, together with other evidence, such as materials from the government of Lebanon, and from the PLO, will reach the judge."
Attorney Leah Tsemel the lawsuit's importance is primarily in "the message it sends to soldiers, army officers, and members of the other security organizations. They have to understand that there are legal aspects to every action they take against the Palestinian population. A day will come when the people they uproot from their homes, the people they torture, will require legal aid from international courts."