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Sunday, November 14, 1999

Yaron is hounded as a 'war criminal'

Sabra and Shatila chief's appointment as Defense DG meets with protests

By Nitzan Horowitz, Ha'aretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - Arab organizations and legal experts in the United States who campaigned against Amos Yaron when he was Israel's military attache in Washington have renewed their struggle against him in the wake of his appointment as director-general of the Defense Ministry, Ha'aretz has learned.

Members of the organizations told Ha'aretz that they intend to pursue Yaron no matter where he is and to ask that he be arrested and put on trial as a war criminal - using Chile's former President Augusto Pinochet as a precedent - for his part in the massacres at the 1982 Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, as determined by the Cohen Commission.

Standing at the forefront of the renewed effort are The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, in Washington, and Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign.

In a document published in Washington on Friday, Boyle and the center claim that, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, "Yaron is a war criminal because of his responsibility for the murder of some 2,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians during the 1982 Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacre in Beirut."

According to the document, there is no statute of limitations for war crimes. Therefore, Professor Boyle writes, if Yaron attempts to re-enter the United States, the government will be asked to put him on trial.

The organizations are also calling on the United States to suspend military aid to Israel over the affair. "Under basic principles of international law, the U.S. government must be concerned about directing billions of U.S. tax dollars to the Israeli ministry of which an acknowledged war criminal is director-general. Accordingly, the U.S. government should discontinue all military aid to Israel if Yaron's appointment is confirmed."

The Cohen Commission, which was formed to investigate the Sabra and Shatila massacre, advised that Yaron, a division commander in Beirut at the time, should have his career advancement in the IDF frozen for three years. Since then, Yaron has been appointed to several senior positions, including those of head of the IDF's personnel division and military attache in Washington. Yaron has also been elevated to the rank of major general.

According to Boyle, when Yaron was sent as a military attache to the United States and Canada in 1986, an effort against Boyle was organized, resulting in the delay of the presentation of his credentials to the U.S. government by three months. Canada, on the other hand, refused to accept Yaron's credentials. Yaron served in the position for only one year.

In May 1987 a civil suit was filed against Yaron in U.S. federal court by three Palestinians whose relatives had been murdered at Sabra and Shatila. They were represented by Boyle. The suit claimed that Yaron bore responsibility for the massacre, even though others carried it out, because the area where it occurred was under Israeli control. The State Department determined that Yaron enjoyed diplomatic immunity, and this was accepted by the court. According to Boyle, however, the defense establishment in the United States is now refraining from all ties with Yaron, and sees his recent appointment as a grave mistake on Barak's part.

Yaron, whose appointment was approved by the government two weeks ago, did not mention the Cohen Commission's recommendations in the questionnaire he filled out for the position, but both the attorney general and a government service commissioner determined that Yaron had not intended to hide the matter, and that it did not affect the approval process.

(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved



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