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What To Do Against Belgium

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) recommends that Israel try Belgian leaders for their participation in war crimes committed by Belgium during its conquest of the Congo up til 1960.



The Israel Law Center "Shurat Hadin" has gone one step further. It has asked Attorney-General Rubenstein to file a criminal indictment against several specific former Belgian officials who were responsible
First Publish: 2/13/2003, 7:16 PM

MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) recommends that Israel try Belgian leaders for their participation in war crimes committed by Belgium during its conquest of the Congo up til 1960. "This will enable the world to see the Belgians' chutzpah and hypocrisy," Hendel said. It is estimated that between 1880 and 1920, ten million Africans in the Belgian Congo were the victims of murder, starvation, exhaustion induced by over-work, and disease. Well-documented claims allege that women were systematically raped and that the local populace endured kidnapping, looting and village burnings. An article in the London-based Guardian last year stated, "The instrument of Belgian repression was the chicotte - a whip made from sun-dried hippo hide. [King] Leopold's fortune - which he ploughed back into monumental buildings in Brussels - was made on the proceeds of Congolese rubber and ivory. Locals were forced to collect the sap required to produce rubber or, it is alleged, have their hands or feet, or those of their children, cut off." Israel already has on its books a law enabling foreigners to be tried for war crimes, though it has never been implemented.

The Israel Law Center "Shurat Hadin" has gone one step further. It has asked Attorney-General Rubenstein to file a criminal indictment against several specific former Belgian officials who were responsible for the assassination of the leader of the Republic of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961. Shurat Hadin director Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner states that section 16 of Israel's Penal Code - mentioned above - vests Israel with universal jurisdiction over offenses against the "law of nations," including crimes perpetrated by non-Israeli citizens and those committed beyond Israel's borders.

The Israel Law Center notes that Lumumba was elected as the Congo's first Prime Minister after having pledged full economic and political independence from its former occupier, Belgium. "Fearful of losing its lucrative investments in Africa," the Law Center notes, "Belgium decided to eliminate Lumumba and other officials of his party." In fact, on January 17, 1961, Lumumba was brutally tortured by Belgian police officials, brought before a police firing squad and executed. "Recently, Belgian historian Ludo de Witte discovered documents sent by then-Belgian Minister for African Affairs Harold Aspermont Lynen ordering the assassination of the Congo leader." A Brussels-appointed commission in fact found that Belgium had been responsible for the killing, and the government "apologized" to the Lumumba family. Shurat Hadin also names other Belgian officials alleged to have been involved in the murder: Pierre Wigny, Gerard Soete, Franz Verscheure, and others.

Dr. Yaffa Zilbershats, senior lecturer in Bar Ilan University's Law Faculty and an international law expert, recommends that Israel not threaten to try Belgian war criminals - "because that would grant legitimacy to the approach [of trying others]" - but rather to try another track: "We should take Belgium to the International Tribunal in The Hague. Belgium agreed that it could be tried there in the past when the Congo sued it, thereby acknowledging its subservience to that body. Israel could claim that Belgium has no right to sue persons who are not on its territory, and this might lead the Court to agree that Belgium has unreasonably expanded its right to try others..."

Several organizations, led by the Victims of Arab Terror, have called for an Israeli and Jewish boycott of Belgian goods.