- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2001

JERUSALEM Israel is examining which countries may be unsafe for its past and present security chiefs and political leaders to visit in the light of developments in two European countries.

A Belgian judge for weeks has been probing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's responsibility for a massacre in Lebanon in 1982, and last week Denmark's justice minister warned that the new ambassador-designate to his country could be arrested for use of torture when he headed Israel's security services.

In response, the foreign ministry has begun drawing up a list of countries with "universal jurisdiction," under which they claim the right to prosecute non-citizens for crimes committed on foreign territory.

"We have to know where we stand," said the ministry's legal adviser, Alan Barker. "This has all come about because of the regrettable tendency to globalize criminal law and then politically abuse it against us."

A Belgian investigative judge last week began hearing testimony in a lawsuit filed against Mr. Sharon by survivors of the massacre in Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut in 1982.

Although the killings were admittedly carried out by a Christian Lebanese militia, the Palestinians maintain that Mr. Sharon, then Israel's defense minister, sent the militiamen into the camps when the Israeli army besieged Beirut.

Israel initially ignored the judicial investigation, but last week it acknowledged the potential gravity of the situation by hiring a Belgian lawyer to ward off possible legal consequences. These could include war crimes charges being filed against Mr. Sharon in Belgium.

Israel is simultaneously attempting to deal with a crisis created by the appointment of Carmi Gillon, former head of Israel's Shin Bet, or Security Services, as ambassador to Denmark.

In an interview with a Danish newspaper before taking up his post, Mr. Gillon acknowledged the Shin Bet had used "moderate physical pressure" on prisoners in its battle against terror during his tenure and that Israel might have to do so again.

The remark touched off a storm in Denmark, which leads international lobbying efforts against torture and for the rehabilitation of torture victims.

Although the appointment of Mr. Gillon was accepted by the Danish government before the interview Danish Justice Minister Frank Jensen warned last week that the Israeli could face arrest in Denmark for violating a U.N. convention against torture.

Mr. Jensen subsequently amended that statement, noting that Mr. Gillon would enjoy diplomatic immunity. However, legal experts say that Danish courts could rule that the U.N. Treaty Against Torture overrides diplomatic immunity.

Israeli courts have in the past ruled that "moderate physical pressure," such as shaking a suspect back and forth, in the questioning of terror suspects is permissible in cases involving a "ticking bomb" that is, when a potential terrorist may have knowledge about an imminent attack.

The current intifada has seen numerous suicide bombings in populated areas, but security officials say they have been able to prevent many more by their "timely actions." They do not elaborate on how the information for the anticipated attacks has been obtained.

Israel army radio says Israel has received reports that foreign lawsuits like the one against Mr. Sharon could soon be filed against army Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz and his air force commander, Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz, accusing them of human rights violations tied to Israeli operations during the Palestinian uprising that began 10 months ago.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav termed Denmark's action "astonishing."

"To my regret, Denmark did not protest when Palestinian terrorists were blowing up crowded shopping centers, discotheques and railway stations in which dozens of civilians were killed," he said.

"I did not hear that Denmark undertook any international initiative when Palestinian terrorists used stones to smash the skulls of two 14-year-old boys."

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said that Israel had "clear indications" that the wave of lawsuits in progress or planned against Israeli officials is part of a premeditated campaign "involving people with clear political interests."

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