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BELGIAN JURISDICTION OVER WAR CRIMES

Last updated: 2003-02-24

In a letter to the Belgian Ambassador, the Board of Deputies has expressed its concern over the recent decision of Belgium’s High Court to assume universal jurisdiction over allegations of war crimes.

The decision appears to be directed against Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in respect of massacres carried out by Christian Phalangists in 1982. Belgium has assumed a moral right to try Israeli leaders and members of the Israel Defence Force, even though Israel is a democracy and espouses a rule of law which can stand comparison with that of any other Western country. It is particularly surprising that the jurisdiction claimed by Belgium could have retrospective effect, and could be exercised even though such accusations may already have been dealt with in the country best equipped to exercise such jurisdiction.

In his letter to the Ambassador, Director General Neville Nagler urged the Belgian government to review its position: “Israel has been a victim of terrorism since its creation in 1948 and any other country in a similar situation is granted the right to self-defence under international law. Under these extenuating circumstances, the Israeli Defence Force has acted with the utmost restraint, according to international law and basic human morality. If Belgium wants to play a serious role in bringing peace to the Middle East, it must recognise the terrorist threat in this area and do everything it can to ensure that these terrorist organisations are no longer able to function. The High Court’s decision to try citizens of Israel can only do further damage to both sides in this conflict.”