February 12, 2003


Belgium asserts right to try Sharon (Ian Black, February 13, 2003, The Guardian)
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, can be tried for genocide in Belgium once he has left office, the Belgian appeal court ruled last night.

The judgment opens the way for survivors of a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut to press their case against the Likud leader when his retirement loses him his immunity from prosecution. [...]

Last month the Belgian senate amended the 1993 "universal jurisdiction" law to let prosecutors to investigate suspected war criminals even if they do not live in Belgium, removing the restriction which has so far prevented them investigating cases abroad.

There have been attempts to bring similar cases against other world leaders, including the Cuban president, Fidel Castro, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and the former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Just for the sake of form--so that their opposition to the Iraq war doesn't seem mostly driven by anti-Semitism and so they seem mildly concerned about the plight of the Iraqi people--couldn't they indict Saddam instead? Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2003 11:20 PM

The real danger is that the Belgians will indict George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, etc. Beligum will end up making Saddam the equivalent of a Chevalier (or as the Delmore Schwartz character in a Saul Bellow's Humboldt's Giftl would call it: a "Shoveleer") in the Belgium Legion d'Honneur - if there is a Belgian word for "Honneur."

Posted by: lester j. czukor at February 13, 2003 7:44 AM

Word has it that the indictments against every British and American government official are already prepared. What this kind of universal judicial arrogance amounts to, is the medieval practice of taking each other's heads of state hostage (and demanding ransom for their release). That wasn't exactly a recipe for peace and the diplomatic conventions were developed in reaction to this kind of practices.

There is no way that Belgium will be able to arrest anyone of real importance, but this law has been a major source of inspiration for the ICC. While I don't believe the ICC will ever lay its hands on G.W. Bush (or any other American official), Tony Blair is most definitely in accute danger of ending up in a cell with Milosevic. Britain will be obliged to extradite him if the ICC asks for it (which it no doubt will). I don't know what the House of Commons is going to do with that hot potato.

For all the vile dictators of the world, the Belgian law and the ICC will be a incitement never to step down and not to shy away from any brutality. Dying of old age while still signing death warrants against all your foes is going to be the only way to escape emprisonment in the culinary dessert known as The Hague. No dictator will ever think of a Pinochet (peaceful transition to democracy) or a Duvalier (exile) scenario again. It will be the Hitler, Saddam or Ceausescu way for all of them.

Posted by: Peter at February 13, 2003 8:08 AM

I'd love to see some country tell Belgium that this effort to impose its law on the whole world is imperialism and an act of war, and if they actually follow through on it by trying someone, war it will be.

Posted by: pj at February 13, 2003 8:20 AM

Lester: One man's danger is another's high comedy.

PJ: As I understand it, that's the US position, whether its W or a GI.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 13, 2003 9:16 AM


We'd be perfectly happy to free Tony Blair from a European prison.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2003 10:01 AM

Somebody ought to bring Sharon to book. I'd rather see it done in this world.

But it ought to be either the Israeli government or, if it had one, the Lebanese government.

Posted by: Harry at February 13, 2003 1:15 PM


For what? Letting others do to Muslims what you want done?

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2003 7:40 PM

Yeah, Life's funny sometimes.

Posted by: Harry at February 14, 2003 2:24 PM