From Beirut to Brussels: Universal Jurisdiction, Statelessness and the Sabra and Chatila Massacres

Yearbook of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, Vol. 11, pp. 32-82, 2004-2005

50 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2007


This paper re-examines the massacres which took place in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila twenty-five years ago, by analysing the findings of the five separate commissions of inquiry established to look into those events: Namely, The Kahan Commission of Inquiry, the Jermanos Commission of Inquiry, the MacBride Commission of Inquiry, the Oslo Inquiry and the International People's Tribunal at Tokyo. The author points out that none of these commissions were judicial bodies and that no one has ever been prosecuted for the crimes committed in those camps in September 1982 in which approximately 800 - 3,500 unarmed men, women and children were killed. He argues that despite the misgiving scholars have on the nature and the extent of the principle of universal jurisdiction in international law, it is an appropriate basis of jurisdiction for the Palestinian people who are precluded from prescribing or enforcing jurisdiction due to their lack of statehood. This is because the Palestinians cannot at present use the courts in Israel or in the Lebanon to prosecute those persons responsible for the Sabra and Chatila massacres. Consequently, jurisdiction for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Lebanon cannot be invoked on the basis of the territorial, national, protective or passive personality principles of jurisdiction.

Keywords: universal jurisdiction, Palestinians, war crimes, statelessness, Lebanon,

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Kattan, Victor Matthew, From Beirut to Brussels: Universal Jurisdiction, Statelessness and the Sabra and Chatila Massacres. Available at SSRN:

Victor Matthew Kattan (Contact Author)


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