In Brussels, 14 Gaza-born Palestinians – one of them a Belgian citizen – have filed a criminal complaint against 14 current and former Israeli leaders for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against Humanity during the 2008/09 Gaza war. The list includes Defense Minister Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Foreign Minister and current leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni.
Two Belgian attorneys representing the plaintiffs said the charges would be brought using the principle of universal jurisdiction and would focus on Israel’s bombing of a mosque in Gaza and the alleged use of phosphorus, during Israeli bombardments in January 2009. The controversial Goldstone report is used to back up the case against Israel. The plaintiffs said that they did not trust the Israeli court system, saying it was “not independent, reliable, or honest according to the criteria of international law”. A decision by the Belgian prosecutor on whether to pursue this case is expected in September.
Belgium’s law states that there must be a connection between the crimes and a Belgian citizen in order for the issue to be dealt with by Belgian courts. The law was changed after in 2001 a criminal complaint was lodged against then-Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon for his role in the 1982 massacre at the Shabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.
Recently, Tzipi Livni came close to being arrested in Britain after Palestinian campaigners filed a request for an arrest warrant in a court in London. The British government pledged to changed the law allowing for universal jurisdiction in certain cases. Fears of facing legal action in Belgium also made Livni refrain from traveling there in 2009 when she was foreign minister.