Belgian Attorney Files War Crimes Suit Against U.S. General

| May 2003

A Belgian attorney and political candidate Wednesday filed a lawsuit charging U.S. General Tommy Franks with war crimes during the American invasion of Iraq.

Jan Fermon filed the suit against Franks and Colonel Bryan McCoy on behalf of 19 Iraqis killed by American troops in Baghdad, according to a report from Reuters. The action is permitted under a controversial Belgian law that allows its courts to try foreigners for war crimes.

?There is a lot of material that shows that the U.S. came into Baghdad and in the first two days they were firing at anything that was moving: women, children, elderly people,? Fermon said. ?The intent was to clear the streets, which is criminal in a case like this.?

Fermon alleges that Col. McCoy allowed trooops to open fire on ambulances suspected of carrying enemy forces.

Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel called the suit ?an attempt to abuse the law,? and said it would provide the courts with a test case of the law, which was recently amended to stem the tide of international human rights cases, which have included suits against President Bush and Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The amended law allows the Belgian courts to move certain war crimes cases to other countries.

The U.S. embassy would not comment on the action, but General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the suit could prevent NATO alliance members from meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and Washington has asked the Belgium government to limit such suits for ?political ends.? Fermon filed the suit four days before a general election in which he is running as a candidate for a small Maoist party.