(Note that the headline reflects
Klayman's position, not that of
the Belgian government which
was bad enough in deciding to
exempt Bush from its authority.)
War Crime Case Against Castro May Stand
By PAUL AMES
The Associated Press
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Changes to Belgium's war crime laws
to prevent complaints against President Bush and other U.S.
officials shouldn't derail a case against Fidel Castro, an
American group that filed charges against the Cuban leader
Under pressure from the United States, the Belgian
government has proposed altering the law that allows its
courts to try crimes against humanity anywhere in the world.
The government's proposal would change the law so that a
charge could be filed only if the victim is a citizen or
resident of Belgium or there is some other direct link to
Belgium's government proposed the changes after Washington
reacted with anger to complaints filed against American
officials including Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell
and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the Iraq war.
Judicial Watch, a Washington-based conservative legal group
said the changes would not stop its case filed on behalf of
exiled Cubans against Castro. The complaint accuses the
leader of false imprisonment, torture and persecution.
Because some of the plaintiffs live in Belgium, or have
Belgian citizenship, the complaint can proceed, said Larry
Klayman, chairman of Judicial Watch.
Another proposed change that would grant immunity to leaders
while in office also does not apply because Castro was not
elected and is not likely to be prosecuted at home.
``Castro will never leave office ... as a consequence he
should be subject to prosecution,'' said Klayman, who was in
Brussels as part of a European tour to lobby governments to
take a harder line against the Cuban leader.
He was accompanied by Alina Fernandez, Castro's exiled
daughter, and Blanca Rosa Gonzalez, whose son was recently
jailed in a crackdown on critics of the government.
Klayman expressed satisfaction that the European Union had
criticized Castro following the sentencing of 75 dissidents
to long prison terms and the firing-squad executions of
three men who hijacked a ferry.
``I believe the European Union is sincere and they want to
help us end the wave of repression,'' Klayman said. ``There
has been a marked shift.''
He hoped European nations, which have large investments and
trade ties with Cuba, would use their influence on Castro.
``Europe has a lot of leverage that the United States does
not have,'' he said.
Castro is among several international figures facing charges
under Belgium's war crime law introduced in 1993. Others
include Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, Iraq's fallen dictator Saddam Hussein
and Iranian former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
The Belgian government used recent changes in the law to
reject the Iraq-related complaints against Bush and other
07/01/03 15:13 EDT