War Criminals Welcome: Australia, a Sanctuary for fugitive war criminals since 1945
Black Inc., 34.95 pb, 657 pp
In early 2001, several Roman Catholic nuns stood trial in Brussels for crimes against humanity for their part in the genocide in Rwanda. Rwandan nationals, they were charged with violating new provisions of Belgian national law, which make participation in genocide and crimes against humanity anywhere in the world a violation of the law of that country. Unlike the case of Slobodan Milosevic, who awaits trial before an international tribunal in the Hague, or recent well-publicised proceedings in England against Augusto Pinochet, which were based on an extradition request from a Spanish judge investigating the former dictator for crimes against Spanish citizens in Chile, the Belgian law grants jurisdiction against anyone, who commits certain types of crimes against anyone regardless of citizenship, anywhere. In other words, the Belgian system has nationalised international crimes and international criminal law jurisdiction.
Of course, insofar as Rwanda is concerned, Belgium has a special interest. The history of Belgian colonialism in that part of Africa is the history of the creation of the Hutu/Tutsi racial taxonomy, which served as a basis for the Rwandan genocide. The accused had sought refuge in Belgium because of the continuing close relationship with the former colony. The expiation of the sins of the colonial past and present no doubt informed the Brussels trial. But the Belgian system does not end there. Palestinian refugees have filed a complaint, now being investigated by Belgian judges, against Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, for his alleged participation in the mass slaughter of civilians in Lebanese refugee camps when he was an Israeli military commander. During his recent trip to Europe to discuss the possibilities of peace in the Middle East, Sharon studiously avoided a trip to Brussels. His meeting with the Belgian foreign minister took place in Berlin.