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Global Elite Rethinking Definition of War Crimes

  • Plutocrats are reevaluating whether an international war crimes court is a good idea after a number of suits were filed against favored leaders.
By Fred C. Blahut

A flow of embarrassing lawsuits deluged Belgium's war crimes court on June 18, after a case was lodged against Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon. The charge is commission of war crimes.

Is the mas murder of civilians a war crime? Apparently it depends on who you are.

Belgium immediately announced it is planning to "tighten" its war crimes law to nip the effort to apply the sauce to both goose and gander in the bud.

The Brussels government fears that Belgian courts will be flooded with international war crimes cases that will damage its diplomatic relations.

"The law was designed against former dictators, not serving leaders," said Foreign Ministry spokesman. "It is a good law but it can cause embarrassment."

There are several options under study, and we could change the law by the end of the year."


A group of 23 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon accused Sharon of acts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the massacre of up to 2,000 Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps by Israel's Phalangist allies during the 1982 Lebanon war.

Sharon, Israeli defense minister at the time, was forced to resign by stayed in the cabinet after an Israeli commission found him "indecently responsible" for the murders carried out by Lebanese Christian militia.

The Palestinian plaintiffs, including a 36-year-old paralyzed woman who traveled from Lebanon to plead her case in Bussels, say Sharon bears criminal responsibility for the massacre.

The case is the most prominent in a series brought under a 1993 law giving Belgian courts jurisdiction over war crimes committed anywhere in the world, even when they do not involve Belgians.

Also in June, two Rwandan nuns were given prison sentences of from 12 to 15 years for their part in the massacre of 7,000 ethnic Tutsis who had sought refuge in their convent during the genocide of 1994.

Other cases in the Belgian courts include suits against the former dictator of Chad, Hissene Habre; Iran's former president, Hasbemi Rafsanjani; the remnant of Cambodia's former Khmer Rouge regime; Guatemalan generals, and the former Moroccan interior minister, Driss Basri.