U.S. Commander Franks Faces Belgium 'Genocide' Case
Friday 18 April 2003
BRUSSELS -- US Allied Forces Commander, General Tommy Franks, and a second, unnamed party, could face trial in Belgium for war crimes under the country's amended genocide law after four Belgian doctors lodged a complaint in Brussels.
The four men, two of whom are still in Baghdad, work for the Belgian association Medicine for the Third World and were witnesses to the Allied invasion of the country.
Several events have already been cited by the doctors' lawyer, Jan Fermon, including an ambulance under fire from US troops, the bombing of a market, an attack on a civilian bus, random executions and inaction in the face of hospital pillaging.
This will be the first time Belgium's law of universal competence will be tested since its politico-diplomatic cleanup last month.
The so-called genocide law had given courts in Belgium universal jurisdiction to try cases of genocide, war crimes and human rights violations.
Several clauses were amended so as to avoid the law being used for political complaints in the current climate. It is feared by opponents to the changes however that the law is now left bereft of its previous clout.
The doctors' case is thought to be within the remit of the new law because it is filed on behalf of Iraqi doctors by their Belgian colleagues.
However, the complaint will still have to be vetted by the Belgian government and the country's highest court, the Court of Cassation, before it can go ahead.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the Belgian legislation a "serious problem" after joining Dick Cheney and George Bush Senior on a list of suspects in a lawsuit pertaining to alleged crimes committed during the last Gulf War.
General Franks is currently holding residence in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces in the Iraqi capital - a symbolic gesture heralding the close of the Iraqi conflict.
Editors Note | This report was published hours before U.S. and British forces invaded Iraq. - ma
Iraq War Illegal but Trial Unlikely, Lawyers Say
By Emma Thomasson
Wednesday 19 March 2003
BERLIN - President Bush and his allies are unlikely to face trial for war crimes although many nations and legal experts say a strike on Iraq without an explicit U.N. mandate breaches international law.
While judicial means to enforce international law are limited, the political costs of a war that is perceived as illegal could be high for all concerned and could set a dangerous precedent for other conflicts, lawyers say.
The U.N. Charter says: "All members shall refrain ... from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." It says force may only be used in self-defense or if approved by the Security Council.
Many leading legal experts have rejected attempts by Washington and London to justify a war with Iraq without a new resolution explicitly authorizing force.
"There is a danger that the ban on the use of force, which I see as one of the most significant cultural achievements of the last century, will become history again," said Michael Bothe, chairman of the German Society for International Law.
Washington and London have argued that U.N. resolution 1441 passed unanimously last year -- demanding Iraq disarm or face "serious consequences" -- gives sufficient legal cover.
Amid criticism that 1441 does not explicitly authorize war, they have also argued that military action is legitimized by two other resolutions passed before and after the 1991 Gulf War, although Russia has fiercely rejected this argument.
Bush has also said that a war would be a legitimate "pre-emptive" act of self-defense against any future attack.
The U.N. Charter says self-defense is only justified "if an armed attack occurs." When Israel tried to justify its 1981 strike on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor as an act of pre-emptive self-defense, the Security Council unanimously condemned it.
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