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Tried for genocide

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Sharon could be tried for genocide
19.36PM GMT, 12 Feb 2003
Belgium's supreme appeals court has ruled that a genocide lawsuit against Ariel Sharon could go ahead once his term as prime minister of Israel ends.

The ruling opens the way for survivors of a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees to press their case against the Israeli leader, who they hold responsible for the deaths of hundreds of their kin in Israeli-occupied Beirut.

The survivors had appealed against a lower court ruling last June that Sharon could not be prosecuted for the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Beirut because he was not in Belgium.

But the plaintiffs are using a Belgian human rights law which claims universal jurisdiction allowing the country's courts to try crimes against humanity and genocide, no matter where they were committed.

An Israeli diplomatic source in Jerusalem said Israel would recall for consultations its ambassador from Belgium in protest at the decision.

Israel's Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also summon Belgium's ambassador in Israel to a meeting on Thursday to protest at the ruling, he said.

"This decision is a scandal and it legitimises terror and does not help those who fight terrorism. Belgium is not only hurting Israel but the entire free world and Israel will respond to it very severely," Netanyahu said in a statement.

Sharon was defence minister at the time of the massacre in 1982. The following year, an Israeli commission found him indirectly responsible but Sharon was never prosecuted.

Daniel Shek, the Israeli Foreign Ministry's director of European affairs, described the ruling as "very problematic".

"The Belgian legal system is trying to bite off more than it can swallow," he said.

The case has soured relations between Belgium and Israel for more than a year.

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Tried for genocide

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