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Case filed over Gaza assault
Belgian prosecutor to decide on merit of war-crimes charges against 14 Israeli officials.
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2010 20:36 GMT
Livni, left, and Olmert are among 14 Israeli officials named in the war crimes petition [AFP]

A war-crimes complaint has been filed in a Belgian court against 14 Israeli officials including Ehud Barak, the defence minister.

The complaint seeks charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during Israel's war on Gaza in January 2009, Georges-Henri Beauthier, lawyer for the group filing the complaint, said on Wednesday.

Ehud Olmert, who headed the government at the time, and Tzipi Livni, his foreign minister, are also named in the document along with other military and intelligence officials.

The prosecutor should decide on the merit of the case by the end of August under Belgium's law of universal jurisdiction, which allows Belgians to file such complaints, Beauthier said.

Anouar El Okka, a Belgian doctor of Palestinian origin, is one of the 14 plaintiffs that Beauthier is representing.

Okka claims that his olive grove in Gaza was bombarded and then set of fire with phosphorous by Israeli forces.

War crimes

The complaint also cites the bombing of the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque,near the refugee camp of Jabaliya, in which 16 civilians including children were killed.

More than 200 people were inside the mosque praying when it was struck.

The other 13 plaintiffs are all Palestinians who were wounded or lost a relative in the attack which results in about 1,400 deaths of mainly Palestinian civilians.

The 70-page complaint also refers to the conclusions of a UN-commissioned report which accused Israelis and Palestinians of war crimes in Gaza.

The plaintiffs said that they did not trust the Israeli court system, "because it is not independent, reliable, or honest according to the criteria of international law".

Legal history

It is not the first time such legal action has been taken in Belgium.

In 2001, a complaint was filed against Ariel Sharon, a former prime minister, over massacres at refugee camps two decades earlier.

That legal move caused a diplomatic spat between Israel and Belgium and led Brussels to change its universal jurisdiction law, allowing it to apply only in cases that involved Belgian nationals.

Last week, Israeli media reported that Barak cancelled an official visit to Paris after French passengers of the Gaza aid flotillathreatened to file a case against him over a deadly raid that killed nine activists.

The passengers, together with three members of the French parliament, threatened to file cases against Barak both in France and in the International Criminal Court, in the Hague.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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