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
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.
A Brussels prosecutor will rule within a month on whether there
are grounds for an investigation and whether the case can be tried
in the Belgian courts.