BRUSSELS (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is being sued in a Belgian court, holding him responsible for the 1982 massacres of 800 to 2,000 Palestinian civilians in Lebanese refugee camps, the daily Le Soir reported Saturday.
The suit was filed under a unique 1993 law that allows Belgian courts to try persons here, regardless of their nationality, for genocide and other crimes against humanity committed abroad.
Sharon was due to visit Brussels next week, but Israeli television reported the prime minister had cancelled the trip in the wake of a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, which killed 18 people.
The newspaper said Belgian judicial authorities were studying whether the suit against him was admissible under terms of the law, which is currently being used to try four Rwandans in connection with the 1994 genocide in their central African country.
The plaintiffs in the suit against Sharon are a mix of Palestinians, Lebanese, Moroccans and Belgians grouped in an ad hoc committee.
They accuse Sharon of allowing Christian militias to slaughter between 800 and 2,000 Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Shatila camps located in an area of Lebanon controlled by the Israeli military after Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon when Sharon was defense minister.
An Israeli commission of enquiry in 1983 found Sharon indirectly responsible for the killings, a finding that forced him to resign his post.
And the United Nations has officially classified the Sabra and Shatila killings as acts of genocide, Eric David, international law professor at the Free University of Brussels, told Le Soir.
Last January, when he was campaigning for prime minister, Sharon expressed his regrets for the "terrible tragedy" of the 1982 massacres, but refused to apologise.
"What it was," he said in a press interview, "was an act of killing carried out by Arab Christians against Arab Muslims."
Arabs also blame Sharon for provoking the current intifada or Palestinian uprising with his visit to east Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, last September 28.