AN OPEN LETTER TO MR. BINYAMIN NETANYAHU
Brussels, 13 February 2003
Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel
Dear Mr. Netanyahu,
Yesterday you declared that the Belgian Supreme court made “a scandalous decision, which legitimizes terror and harms those who fight it. This turns the tables — when those who fight terror turn into the accused and the terrorists are victorious.”
As counsels of the plaintiffs, 28 Palestinian and Lebanese survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, we cannot accept your language, tone, or characterization of yesterday’s landmark ruling.
Our clients are not “terrorists,” but ordinary people who were raped, tortured, and wounded; who were forced to witness — and relive everyday since — the slaughter of their children, parents, husbands and wives, or who had their close relatives “disappeared.” By calling these victimized survivors “terrorists,” after all that they have endured for over twenty years, you have brought shame upon yourself as Foreign Minister, and upon your country, which, to its great credit, acknowledged the responsibility of Israeli politicians and military in this crime against humanity two decades ago, yet has never gone one additional and crucial step further by legally prosecuting the perpetrators and compensating the victims.
As Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, you should not accuse the Belgian Supreme Court of legitimizing terrorism simply because it accepts the principle that Belgian courts have universal jurisdiction over perpetrators of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. Your country was the very first country in the world to endorse universal jurisdiction for such crimes in its national legislation. Israel arrested war criminals like Eichmann and Demanjuk in other countries, or sought to have suspects extradited.
Israel has failed, however, in respecting and discharging its clear obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to arrest and prosecute those responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, expressly qualified by the United Nations as an act of genocide and perpetrated in territory then under the control of the Israeli Defence Forces.
Your statement gratuitously inflicts additional pain and suffering on our clients. The Middle East has been plagued by violence and revenge for over half a century. Our clients’ legal action constitutes the very first attempt by victims of mass violence in the region to seek redress through non-violent legal action before an independent court, and we expect any decent person in the world to respect this choice.
We are issuing this public request that you apologize for your cruel remarks.
Luc Walleyn, Michael Verhaeghe, Chibli Mallat
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