A survivor of a massacre committed during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon left for Belgium with her lawyer yesterday to try to have Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged there for crimes against humanity.

A 1993 law allows Belgian courts to prosecute foreign officials for human rights violations, including genocide, committed outside Belgium.

"I am going to Brussels on behalf of a whole people. I hope Sharon is tried and hanged for what he did," Souad Srour Al Mere'eh told Reuters as she prepared to leave her shanty home in Shatila camp.

Pro-Israeli Lebanese militiamen entered the camp in the summer of 1982, raped Mere'eh, then aged 14, and killed most of her family. Mere'eh survived handicapped with a bullet still lodged in her spine.

Israel's Kahan commission named Sharon in 1983 as the Israeli commander who sent Lebanese Christian militia to the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps, where they massacred hundreds of unarmed civilians.

The operation was part of Israel's invasion of west Beirut after Israeli-allied Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated. The Israeli army delegated "searching and mopping up" of the camps to the Phalangist militia and Lebanese Army.

Sharon was defence minister at the time in the Likud government of the late prime minister Menachem Begin. Mere'eh, representing 28 plaintiffs and witnesses to the massacre, will present a complaint in Brussels this week to a Belgian examining magistrate, who will then decide whether it is admissible under Belgian law.

Their written testimony says Israeli troops surrounded the camp and turned back refugees who tried to flee after the militias entered and started killing. Their case is separate from a similar one presented to a Belgian magistrate by two Arabs earlier this month.

The magistrate has not yet ruled on that complaint. The wall in front of the Mere'eh house is still riddled with bullet holes. "The history of Kosovo and elsewhere has shown what 'mopping up' means," said Chibli Mallat, a leading Lebanese lawyer acting for Mere'eh and her fellow-plaintiffs. Mallat said his clients were seeking retribution.

"This is the era of global justice. Sabra and Shatila is a scar in the collective memory of the 20th century," he said. The Kahan report said Sharon bore personal responsibility for disregarding "the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed" by the militiamen when he decided to have them enter the camps.

But it said "the atrocities in the refugee camps were perpetrated by members of the Phalangists, and...absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acted in its behalf".

Israeli officials last week denounced a BBC television programme, which examines the possibility of putting Sharon on trial, as biased and anti-Semitic. The programme was scheduled to go on the air yesterday.

Sabra and Shatila was one of the bloodiest episodes of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, in which thousands of civilians died. Sharon quit as defence minister amid heavy public pressure to resign after the report said he should "draw the appropriate personal conclusions" and "if necessary, that the prime minister consider" whether to remove him from office.

He remained active in politics and was elected Israel's prime minister this year. Mallat cited a Belgian court verdict earlier this month finding four Rwandans guilty of war crimes.

"We are expecting the Belgian judiciary to react, an inquiry to begin and trial to ensue," he said.