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Iraqis target Gen. Franks for war crimes trial

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  • ummyakoub
    Iraqis target Gen. Franks for war crimes trial By Jeffrey T. Kuhner THE WASHINGTON TIMES Iraqi civilians are preparing a complaint to present in court in
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2003
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      Iraqis target Gen. Franks for war crimes trial

      By Jeffrey T. Kuhner

      Iraqi civilians are preparing a complaint to present in court in
      Belgium accusing allied commander Gen. Tommy Franks and
      other U.S. military officials of war crimes in Iraq, according to the
      attorney representing the plaintiffs.
      The complaint will state that coalition forces are responsible
      the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians, the bombing of a
      marketplace in Baghdad, the shooting of an ambulance, and
      failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals, said Jan Fermon, a
      Brussels-based lawyer. He is representing about 10 Iraqis who
      say they were victims of or eyewitnesses to atrocities committed
      during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
      Mr. Fermon said the complaint will ask an investigative
      magistrate to look into whether indictments should be issued
      against Gen. Franks. If an indictment is filed against the general
      and other U.S. officials, they could be convicted and sentenced
      by a Belgian court.
      "Belgium could issue international arrest warrants, but I don't
      think we will get to that point," Mr. Fermon said.
      If arrest warrants were issued, U.S. officials could be arrested
      on entering Belgium.
      The Bush administration has reacted angrily to the complaint.
      A senior administration official warned that "there will be
      diplomatic consequences for Belgium" if the complaint is taken
      up by a court there and Belgian authorities issue indictments
      against Gen. Franks and other U.S. officials.
      "The complaint will be filed stating that unknown American
      personnel are directly responsible for committing war crimes in
      Iraq," Mr. Fermon said.
      "On some of these questions there is an issue of command
      responsibility for atrocities committed on the ground, and that
      responsibility ends with Gen. Franks and those who are under
      him in the U.S. military line of command," he said.
      The administration official said the complaint highlights U.S.
      concerns that laws regarding war crimes and institutions such as
      the International Criminal Court (ICC) can be used to initiate
      politically motivated prosecutions against American officials.
      "This is obviously not a political case with the ICC, but it's
      typical of what we can expect in the future," the official said on
      the condition of anonymity.
      Mr. Fermon said that because under international law
      President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell cannot be
      prosecuted for war crimes while they are in office, the complaint
      will target Gen. Franks and other U.S. military officials.
      "U.S. military officials had the authority but did nothing to
      these war crimes from occurring," Mr. Fermon said. "A military
      commander is responsible for war crimes even if he did not
      commit or order them, but also if he fails to take all the necessary
      steps to prevent the atrocities from happening."
      Mr. Fermon said the complaint against U.S. officials is based
      on a 1993 Belgian law that gives a Belgian court authority to
      judge war crimes committed by noncitizens anywhere in the
      world. The plaintiffs sought to file the complaint with the recently
      inaugurated ICC, but "since the United States did not ratify the
      treaty to join the institution, we felt compelled to go to a court in
      Belgium," he said.
      He said Belgium's law of "universal jurisdiction" recently
      allowed indictments to be issued against Rwandan officials for
      war crimes. He said a similar process is expected to take place
      against Gen. Franks and other U.S. military officials.
      "The most realistic scenario for us is that a serious,
      independent inquiry is made, and then those U.S. officials with
      serious responsibilities for the atrocities that were committed in
      Iraq are subpoenaed to appear in court," he said. "If they do not
      show up in court, then a court case can proceed with them being
      absent. If the court finds them guilty, they will be convicted and
      The filing of the complaint threatens to heighten tensions
      between Brussels and Washington, which have been strained
      since Belgium joined France and Germany to lead European
      opposition to the war in Iraq.
      Earlier this month, Mr. Powell said Belgium's law threatened
      to hamper travel by U.S. officials to Brussels, where NATO
      headquarters are located.
      "It affects the ability of people to travel in Belgium without
      being subject to this kind of threat. For a place that is an
      international center, they should be a little bit concerned about
      this," Mr. Powell said, according to the Associated Press.
      Washington's concerns recently prompted Belgian lawmakers
      to approve amendments to the law, making it harder for cases to
      be filed against leaders of democratic nations.
      Complaints that have been filed against high-ranking leaders
      such as former President George Bush and Mr. Powell over the
      1991 Persian Gulf war are to be sent back to Washington.
      Under the amendments, the 10-year-old law only applies to
      war crimes committed in countries that lack democratic
      credentials and are unable to provide a fair trial.
      But international-law observers say the amendments still
      leave it up to the Belgian government to decide whether
      complaints can go forward against U.S. officials.
      "These amendments are a positive first step because they
      help to restore some control over the complaint process by giving
      the Belgian government the power to shape these kinds of
      proceedings against the United States, but they are not a
      panacea," said David Rivkin, a Washington-based lawyer and
      former official in the Reagan administration and first Bush
      administration. "They would not shield all possible defendants
      from these kind of complaints because it is not clear that the
      Belgian government can always be trusted to do the right thing."
      He also said because the amendments have not been tested, it
      is not clear whether U.S. military officials who are not political
      leaders, such as Gen. Franks, can be shielded from prosecution.
      The senior administration official said the complaint against
      Gen. Franks was deeply flawed. "There are serious problems
      with the principle of command responsibility being used in
      international law as the basis for indictments," the official
      said. "It
      goes well beyond what we could reasonably call criminal
      But Mr. Fermon said that the principle of "command
      responsibility" has been established in international law by the
      war-crimes tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia at
      The Hague.
      Mr. Fermon said the principle has been used especially
      effectively in indictments against generals in the former
      Yugoslavia, who have been charged not "for crimes that were
      committed or ordered, but for command responsibility."
      The most notable case has been that of Croatian Gen. Ante
      Gotovina, whose indictment on charges of command
      responsibility over a 1995 military operation has been criticized
      by many Hague tribunal observers. Gen. Gotovina has refused to
      hand himself over to the tribunal.
      Although the administration official declined to discuss the
      specifics of the Gotovina case, he said, "But I do think that the
      indictments issued by the Hague tribunal based on the theory of
      command responsibility risks establishing the principle in
      international law," which could be used against U.S. officials.
      Mr. Fermon said four Belgian doctors who were working in
      Iraq during the war came into contact with Iraqi civilians who
      said they were victims of war crimes by coalition forces. The
      doctors, who were part of an association called Medicine for the
      Third World, then told the Iraqis to submit their complaints to a
      court in Belgium.
      Mr. Fermon said that the plaintiffs number about 10 Iraqi
      civilians, all of whom say they were victims in the war or family
      members of victims.
      "We don't yet know the precise number of plaintiffs because
      complaints are still coming in," he said.
      But the complaint, which Mr. Fermon said will be officially
      filed in about two weeks, will accuse coalition forces of
      numerous atrocities in Iraq. Among them:
      *The failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals in
      Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
      *Eyewitness testimony of U.S. troops firing upon an
      *The indiscriminate shooting and wounding its driver by U.S.
      armored vehicles of civilians in Baghdad.
      *The bombing of a marketplace in Baghdad that killed scores
      of civilians.
      * The attack on a civilian bus with an "energy weapon" in the
      town of al-Hillah, killing at least 10 passengers.




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