JERUSALEM (Dec. 6)
The commission of inquiry into the Beirut refugee camps massacre has cleared Maj. Saad Haddad and his Christian militia of involvement in the mass killings of Palestinians September 16-18. Haddad, who testified before the panel on November 17, had requested that he or his representative be allowed to re-appear to examine evidence which might pertain to him.
The commission rejected that request stating that it had “not resolved that Maj. Haddad is liable to be harmed” by whatever conclusions are reached by its investigation. The commission also specifically dismissed suggestions that the term “Lebanese forces” which the Cabinet used in its official letter appointing the three-member panel last September had referred to Haddad’s militia.
The Cabinet’s letter held “Lebanese forces” responsible for the killings in the Sabra and Shatila camps. They are generally conceded to have been units of the Christian Phalangists, a faction long at odds with Haddad.
The commission created a stir in Israel and abroad on November 24 when it issued formal warnings to Premier Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and six other senior military and government officials that they “may be harmed” by conclusions reached as a result of their testimony before the panel.
In accordance with the 1968 Commissions of Inquiry Law, the men were given 15 days to reappear before the commission to present further testimony and examine witnesses and evidence. The 15 days will be up this Thursday.
BEGIN WON’T REAPPEAR BEFORE PANEL
Sources close to Begin have said repeatedly that he will not avail himself of the opportunity to reappear but would send a letter to the commission clarifying the original points of his testimony given on September 8. Shamir is expected to make the some response but Sharon will probably reappear before the panel in person or through a representative, according to a report in Haaretz today.
Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Dan Meridor who is on attorney is reportedly examining relevant evidence and other material before the commission on Begin’s behalf. The Premier apparently relies on Meridor for legal counsel although there is no formal lawyer-client relationship between them.
Most of the other officials warned by the commission have sought legal assistance. Some are consulting lawyers within the defense establishment and others have engaged outside attorneys. Under the law, the government pays part of the legal fees in such cases.
Amnon Goldenberg, a prominent Tel Aviv lawyer was reportedly hired by the chief of Mossad, the intelligence agency, whose identity is an official secret. Goldenberg, a leading figure in Begin’s Likud Party, was one of the strongest voices raised in favor of a judicial inquiry into the massacres when Begin and other government officials initially refused to authorize an investigation.
Gen. Yehoshua Soguy, chief of military intelligence, is represented by another Tel Aviv lawyer, David Libai. Libai was drafted into the army reserves for that purpose.