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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
New 'evidence' in Sharon trial
The BBC's Tim Sebastian and Belgian lawyer Michael Verhaeghe
The BBC's Tim Sebastian met Belgian lawyer Michael Verhaeghe
A lawyer trying to prosecute Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, for alleged war crimes says that he has compelling evidence against two of his top generals.

Belgian lawyer, Michael Verhaeghe, says he has documents showing that the men tried to cover up the massacres in 1982 at refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila. Mr Sharon was defence minister at the time.

Over 800 civilians were slaughtered by the Christian Phalangist militia, allied to Israel, at the two camps almost 20 years ago.

Mr Sharon is accused in a civil prosecution - currently suspended - of being responsible for their deaths. It is alleged that he allowed Christian militias to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and commit the massacres.

Evidence

Mr Verhaeghe told BBC HARDtalk programme that one document - dated 19 September - revealed how the two Israeli generals colluded with Christian militiamen who took part in the murder of over 800 Palestinians.

He said: "In that document, if it is genuine, you have the two top Israeli generals explaining to the Phalangists how they have to explain the massacre."

Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon was Defence Minister at the time of the massacres
" 'You have to tell this, you have to tell that, you have to say that there was armed resistance in the camps'."

Although Mr Verhaeghe said he believed that the documents are genuine, he acknowledged that he could not guarantee their authenticity.

Accused

Twenty three survivors of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila have brought a civil action against Mr Sharon and others, accusing them of crimes against humanity.

The Israeli prime minister has described the case as: "An attempt to try the state of Israel and the Jewish people."

In 1993 a change to the law in Belgium meant that suspects could be tried for war crimes no matter where they happened and regardless of the nationality of the victims or the accused.

The case is currently suspended while an appeal court decides whether Belgium has jurisdiction in this case. A ruling is expected in June.

Mr Sharon was forced to resign as defence minister after an Israeli inquiry found Mr Sharon indirectly but "personally" responsible for the massacres.

Mr Verhaeghe says the inquiry did not go far enough and the real truth had still to come out.

"They were never allowed to have the victims present at the hearings," he said. "They never took into account the number of documents that apparently shed a completely different light on the issue.

"The best we can get is to get a contribution to the historical truth of what really happened in Sabra and Shatila. A lot of things happened there that are still unknown."

He added "The only thing I can say is that we have to take it step by step. First the investigation and then the trial."

See also:

06 Jun 01 | Middle East
Belgian court might try Sharon
28 Nov 01 | Middle East
Court postpones Sharon ruling
24 Jan 02 | Middle East
Flashback: Sabra and Shatila massacres
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