Will Sharon be Flown to the Hague?

The once powerful man of Yugoslavia is now in detention, broken and powerless. Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic's victims and associates never expected that the butcher of Bosnia and Kosovo would ever see his day in court. Times have apparently changed, but by how much?

It is true that Milosevic's delivery to the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Netherlands is an unprecedented and groundbreaking event in the history of international law, for he is the first head of state to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But does international law apply to everyone, including Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon?

In theory, international law embodies a clear text that is sufficient to indict war criminals, including numerous individuals in the current, as well as past Israeli governments.

It is according to the Nuremberg Charter designed to try Nazi war criminals, that Israeli leaders could easily find themselves locked in dark prisons for many years to come, for many of them have committed "Crimes Against Peace."

According to the charter, Crimes Against Peace include:

A. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war or aggression in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.

B. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (I).

The Nuremberg Charter leaves no room for doubt that many Israeli leaders, both current and past, have committed crimes against peace and have for years acted in flagrant violation of international law.

But Israel's acts of aggression were hardly confined to its initiation of wars. They went beyond the battlefield to include the savage killing of civilians.

The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 provide an abundance of text that is enough to indict Israeli leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity as well.

Several cases filed at a Belgium court are testing the decency of international law, as representatives of 28 survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre are striving to indict Ariel Sharon as a war criminal.

The efforts of these courageous individuals received a moral and public boost when TV reporter Fergal Keane exposed Sharon's role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in a BBC segment titled "the Accused" on June, 17.

International law experts, plenty of evidence and eyewitness accounts lead to the simple conclusion that Sharon is perhaps a more vile war criminal than Milosevic ever was; for the latter's career in war crimes is relatively short. Sharon, on other hand, spent the greater bulk of his life committing well documented atrocities, to the point that his own government condemned him on several occasions; most notably was his indictment by the Knesset Kahan Commission for his "indirect respon,sibility" for the massacre at Sabra and Shatila.

Unlike a deceptive image propagated by his popular autobiography of 1989 the "Warrior", Sharon was not a heroic warrior, but an indecent war criminal, who calculated his military moves and based his war strategy on the savage killing of defenseless men, women and children.

While historians narrate two bloody stories of his past, the Qibiya massacre of 1953 and Sabra and Shatila nearly 30 years later, the man's crimes amount to many, many more.

When Sharon reportedly lead his infamous 101 Unit to locate and destroy Arab "terrorists", he ravaged villages and refugee camps throughout Palestine. He was on a mission aimed at terrorizing the refugees, breaking their will, shattering their spirit and massacring those who stood defiant.

Al Bureig refugee camp, located on the eastern part of the Gaza Strip, was a place that blossomed with defiance. Refugees who were driven out of their villages in the southern part of Palestine in 1948 were never inclined to submit to the Israeli occupation. In August of 1953, Sharon decided to put an end to their contempt.

UN commander Major General Vagan Bennike who witnessed the massacre committed by Sharon's unit in the refugee camp described an abhorrent scene.

"Bombs were thrown through the windows of huts in which the refugees were sleeping and, as they fled they were attacked by small arms and automatic weapons.," he said.

The results of 101 Unit's full day at the camp resulted in the killing of 50 refugees, acc,ording to modest estimates.

The warrior continued to play a dirty game of war during the 1956 aggression on Egypt. Israeli forces that were led by Sharon and Rafael Eytan were found responsible 40 years later for the massacre of 270 Egyptian and Sudanese war prisoners. The Daily Telegraph reported on the findings on August 16, 1995, as Israeli soldiers and generals involved in the slaughter spoke openly of the Sinai killing fields.

In August of 1971, in the Gaza Beach refugee camp, Sharon truly earned his title as "the Bulldozer" when he destroyed some 2,000 houses, uprooted, displaced and deported 16,000 Palestinian refugees and killed an unknown number of civilians and Palestinian fighters.

With these events added to many others, some documented and others left to only be shared among Palestinian refugees, Sharon's expertise in war crimes culminated in the bloody Sabra and Shatila massacre.

The extent of the massacre, orchestrated and clearly ordered by Sharon, was carried out by the Christian phalangists. Up to 3,000 defenseless people were slaughtered between 6 p.m., September 16, 1982 and 8 a.m., September 18, 1982.

The two camps located in West Beirut, which fell under Sharon's command, were surrounded by Israeli troops who sent back refugees trying to escape the horror of the massacres.

It is indisputable that the international laws which applied to Milosevic are suited for Sharon. However, the political circumstances are different. For example, two days before Milosevic was flown to the Hague tribunal, Sharon received warm and tender embraces from Tony Blair and George Bush. The same two leaders of the first world congratulated the Yugoslav government on extraditing Milosevic.

In reality, Sharon is more dangerous than Milosevic who has been confined to a prison cell since April. Sharon, however, is in command of Israel, and his war machine is on the move, as Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza con,tinue to count their dead, victims of the Israeli army and special assassin units.

Yet despite the bleak political circumstances, the legal battle to indict Ariel Sharon must go on. After all, Milosevic never thought that his day in court would be realized, and neither does Sharon. Even if efforts to bring Sharon to justice will fail, at least Israel's "warrior" will think twice before embarking on another killing spree.


Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance columnist living in Seattle, Washington.

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