Lebanese Belgians file suit against Israel

Sunday, July 30, 2006 |  by Staff Writer
A group of Belgian citizens of Lebanese background have filed a lawsuit for alleged war crimes to the federal public prosecutor in Belgium against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz.

The lawsuit was filed in Brussels based on the revised universal authority law allowing the filing of lawsuits for war crimes against foreign heads of state, providing that the plaintiffs have a connection to Belgium. The plaintiffs, who live in southern Beirut, claim that the fact they are duel citizens of Belgium and Lebanon gives them the proper legal linkage obligating the Belgian prosecution to deliberate in the matter.

The citizens claim that their homes were intentionally bombed by Israeli warplanes, an act which goes against international humanitarian law forbidding intentional firing on civilian targets. In addition, the prosecution is referring to other humanitarian offenses such as: premeditated killing, severe harm to the health of a civilian population; intentional damage to civil infrastructure; instilling fear in the civilian population by a foreign country (the plaintiffs claim Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets calling for civilians to leave the area).

As soon as the suit is filed the federal prosecutor must determine its admissibility. On the face of it, it seems that once the Belgian prosecution will determine if the suit is admissible, it will be handed over to a magistrate judge. However, law experts believe that the lawsuit against PM Olmert will be dropped, because international law provides immunity to current heads of state. This immunity, however, does not apply to defense ministers and military commanders.

Theoretically, if the prosecution reaches a magistrate judge, he will have the power to summon the accused parties and/or conduct any other coercive action against them including issuing international arrest warrants through Interpol.

Two of the plaintiffs, Ali Abd Aster and his wife Farkad al Husseini, said they arrived at Beirut for their summer vacation with their children. “We found ourselves caught in the middle of a hellish nightmare when Israel started bombing apartment buildings, including our own apartment which was completely destroyed.”

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