belgian d i c k h e a d s

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    Belgium close to deal to amend controversial war crimes law

    By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

    Negotiators are close to reaching an agreement to
    amend Belgium's genocide law, restricting it to
    lawsuits with a link to Belgium, for example if
    the victim or the perpetrators were Belgian.

    The controversial law led to a suit against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and an investigation into Major
    General (Ret.) Amos Yaron for their alleged involvement in the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and
    Chatila refugee camps in Beirut.

    Belgium has been sharply criticized, especially
    by the United States, for the law, which
    empowers its courts to try foreigners for war
    and human rights crimes, no matter where

    Belgian radio VRT reported that the country's
    Liberal and Socialist parties, which are
    currently putting together a new government,
    are close to reaching an agreement through
    which the law would be amended.

    This week a lawsuit was filed against Belgium's
    Foreign Minister Louis Michel, under Belgium's
    war crimes law
    . (heh heh heh.... turning around and biting themselves on the bum....I love it..........Snooker)

    A small nationalist party from Belgium's Dutch-speaking community filed the suit against Michel asserting that a sale of 5,500 machine guns to Nepal that he authorized
    last year had made him an accomplice in human
    rights abuses committed by the Nepalese Army
    against Maoist rebels.

    A group of Palestinian plaintiffs is using a
    Belgian law that claims universal jurisdiction,
    allowing the country's courts to try people for
    crimes against humanity and genocide no matter
    where they were committed. The law was enacted
    in 1994 in an effort to facilitate the
    prosecution of those responsible for the
    genocide in Rwanda.

    Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Belgian
    Foreign Ministry said Brussels would refer to
    Israel a war crimes investigation into Yaron's
    role in the massacre.

    After Yaron's case is transferred to Israel, it
    will be reviewed by the Justice Ministry and is
    expected to be rejected out of hand, because
    the former officer's conduct in this affair was
    already reviewed by the Kahan Commission in

    According to the 1983 judicial inquiry, Yaron,
    as commander of the Israel Defense Forces in
    Beirut at the time, had shown "insensitivity to
    the dangers of massacre in the camps" after he
    received reports of killings there by Lebanese
    Christian militiamen allied to Israel. He was
    relieved of his command, but went on to serve
    in other top army posts and is now the director
    general of the Defense Ministry.

    The decision to transfer Yaron's case to Israel
    should ease fears of a new diplomatic spat
    between Belgium and Israel. Relations have been
    strained since the lawsuit was brought against

    Sharon was defense minister at the time of the
    massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and
    Chatila camps. The Kahan Commission found him
    indirectly responsible for the killings and he
    resigned, but was never prosecuted.

    A Brussels court earlier this week ruled the
    complaint against Yaron admissible. The
    complaint had been dissociated from a frozen
    lawsuit against Sharon, who enjoys immunity.

    A recent amendment allows Belgium to send a
    lawsuit to the defendant's country if that
    country has a legal system that guarantees
    proper handling of the complaint.
    (What's poor Arafat going to do? (1). He has no country and (2) whatever he does have cannot demonstrate it has a legal system that guarantees proper handling of the complaint..........Snooker

    The law was changed to stem a flood of
    complaints against foreign political figures
    which threatened to clog Belgium's courts and
    compromise its foreign relations.

    The law has angered Washington, with U.S.
    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld vowing to
    block spending on NATO's new Brussels
    headquarters as long as the law stands.

    Lawsuits have also been brought against Tommy
    Franks, the U.S. military commander in the Iraq
    war, former President George Bush and U.S.
    Secretary of State Colin Powell, and
    Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

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