Court: Sharon case inadmissible
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will not have to face trial in Belgium for alleged war crimes at two Palestinian refugee camps in 1982, a court has ruled.
A Belgian appeals court said on Wednesday that such a case was "inadmissible." The three-judge panel said a case could not proceed against a person who is not in Belgium.
"If a person is not found on the territory, we find it inadmissible," the court said in its 22-page ruling.
Sharon had faced prosecution under Belgium's unique 1993 law for his alleged role in the massacre of Palestinians at two refugee camps, Sabra and Chatilla.
The decision, which had been delayed since May, throws into question Belgium's law which allows crimes which have been committed elsewhere to be judged in its courts.
The case had been brought against Sharon last year by 23 survivors of the massacre in which 800 people were killed by a Lebanese Christian militia allied to Israel.
The survivors alleged that Sharon, who was defence minister at the time, was responsible for the massacre in the refugee camps near Beirut.
Sharon had faced an investigation and a possible arrest warrant and trial if the appeals court decision had gone against him.
He still faces the possibility of an appeal by the plaintiffs. Both sides had said they would appeal if the ruling went against them.
Mohalhel Fakih, a journalist in Beirut told CNN, he had spoken to one of the plaintiffs attending the ruling in Belgium.
"She was devastated," Sakih added.
The plaintiff deemed the ruling unfair and intended to pursue a prosecution, Sakih said.
Daniel Shek of the Israeli foreign affairs department welcomed the decision.
He was quoted by The Associated Press outside the courtroom: "A trial that began with more politics than law happily ends with more law than politics.
"We from the beginning trusted the Belgian courts, and I am happy that we were not disappointed."
The decision on whether the Belgian court has jurisdiction had been thrown in doubt after a ruling by the International Court of Justice, known as the World Court, in The Hague, the Netherlands, in February.
Sharon's lawyers had argued the case should be thrown out following that ruling, which came in a separate case involving a former Congolese foreign minister.
The World Court ruled that Belgium could not try Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi for allegedly killing hundreds of minority Tutsis in 1998 because of his diplomatic immunity.
An Israeli inquiry at the time of the Palestinian killings found Sharon indirectly responsible, prompting his resignation.
Other world leaders face prosecution, including Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.
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