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U.S. Hit with War Crimes Charges in Belgium

by Mick Kelly |
June 1, 2003
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U.S General Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. and British forces during the war on Iraq, has been named in a war crimes case, filed in a Belgian court. Belgian law allows cases to be brought before its courts in response to violations of International Humanitarian Law.

The complaint, filed on behalf of 20 victims of the U.S.-led war, was brought before the court by Jan Fermon, of the Workers Party of Belgium. The Workers Party of Belgium played a pivotal role in building the anti-war movement in that country.

The war crimes charges are directed against yet-to-be-identified U.S. soldiers, and cite Franks in particular for ordering the crimes, for not preventing troops from committing them and for providing protection to the perpetrators.

The victims were seriously injured or lost family members as a result of the use of cluster bombs, attacks on the civilian population (including journalists), acts of aggression against health services and other Iraqi infrastructure and looting protected by or under orders from the U.S. army.

One of the victims was being transported to a Baghdad hospital along with his pregnant wife and another woman close to giving birth. When they reached an American checkpoint, troops opened fire. The victim was shot in both legs, which later had to be amputated. The women, who remained in the ambulance, were burned alive when the vehicle caught fire.

The case against Gen. Franks has enraged Pentagon officials. Defense Secretary Rumsfield raised the possibility that U.S. military leaders might stop traveling to NATO headquarters in Brussels, and that unless Belgium changes its laws to suit Washington, NATO headquarters should be moved to some other country.

The Belgium-based coordination, Stop USA, has been working to build support for the case domestically and internationally.

U.S. organizations that have expressed support for the case include the Colombia Action Network, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Iraq Peace Action Coalition, the International Action Center and the Colombia Solidarity Committee.