Nine months after Beirut massacre - no trials, no further investigation
Beirut — All Zuhair Youssef Muhammad has left of his family are faded and slightly fuzzy photographs, memories . . . and the bullet holes in the exterior walls of his house.
The Beirut massacre of Palestinian men, women, and children in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps last September initially elicited world condemnation and outraged pity. Today, nine months later, both the survivors and the victims are forgotten people.
And it now appears unlikely that anyone will be brought to court or be further investigated for organizing or participating in the three-day slaughter of an estimated 800 refugees.
Four months after completion of the Israeli inquiry and three months after its own deadline, the Lebanese chief prosecutor, Assad Germanos, has finally submitted his report on the Palestinian massacre to the government.
The inquiry holds Israel reponsible legally, since its forces were in full control of the camps, entrances, and surrounding area. But it does not specify who carried out the killings.
''Since no line could be drawn to separate military operations and individual acts that led to the massacre, we recommend a delay in judicial prosecution for the time being,'' the Germanos report concludes.
Israel's special Kahan Commission, which examined and reconstructed the events of the attack, blamed Phalange gunmen of the Christian ''Lebanese Forces'' militia, and named the commander who worked with Israelis on the outskirts of the camps.
Dozens of survivors confirmed they saw Lebanese Forces uniforms and insignia. Abdullah al-Awagegh saw them and heard their exchanges from his hiding place in a gum tree. He was never called to testify.
But the Germanos report absolves the Phalange. ''There is no evidence that the leadership of the Phalange Party or the commanders of the Lebanese Forces were aware in advance of what happened. The investigation did not establish that any of these two commands had issued orders to their fighters to support or take part in these operations,'' it says.
The report adds, ''Armed elements other than the Israeli Army's did the shooting,'' but the report suggests they were ''those harmed by Palestinian violations,'' and perhaps ''border elements,'' the latter an apparent reference to renegade forces under the control of Maj. Saad Haddad, whose headquarters are near the Israeli border.
A Western diplomat called the report ''a whitewash.'' And others agree.
The Lebanese have not publicly released their report - unlike the Israelis. There is some doubt the Lebanese ever will release the report.
The original news was leaked by the central news agency in Beirut. Mr. Germanos would only say the report was ''accurate,'' but refused to provide specifics, such as the number or nature of witnesses called.
The Germanos report is in the hands of President Amin Gemayel, a former Phalange official and son of the party's founder.
The results did not come as much of a surprise. Diplomats said last week they doubted the report would ever be made public, due to the delicacy of implicating and then prosecuting the militiamen.
Indeed it may be worse for the government now that it is out, since envoys and analysts agree that the report undermines the credibility of the Gemayel government, which apparently has done little or nothing to follow up on the key figures named in the Israeli report and in correspondents' dispatches last year.
It also serves to emphasize the strength of the Christian militias, who continue to operate openly in Lebanon, while Muslim militias were disarmed and disbanded nine months ago. The Christians continue to operate a state within a state. They collect their own taxes and refuse to disarm until all foreign forces withdraw from Lebanon.
That is why Muhammad Hamoud is still afraid. He lost his wife and two children, age 8 and 13, in Shatila. He had left to find bread during the shelling that accompanied the Israeli invasion of west Beirut, leaving them in what he thought was a safer place.
Now he fears there will be even more massacres after the multinational force leaves. When asked if he does not feel the Lebanese Army and government will protect him, he replies: ''They are the Phalange,'' a reference to the fact both are led and dominated by Christians. ''There is no justice.''