US Troops Face War Crimes Allegations
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Lawyer: US Troops Face War Crimes Allegations
By 0aConstant Brand
Wednesday 30 April 2003
BRUSSELS -- A group of Iraqis will file a war crimes case against the 0acommander of US-led forces in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, their lawyer said 0ayesterday.
"There are 19 victims of the war so far that have come forward to back 0athe case," lawyer Jan Fermon said.
He said the claim, to be filed May 13, would name Franks and 0aunspecified American troops.
Fermon claimed there were 17 "specific incidents" in which US soldiers 0aand commanders violated the 1993 Belgian war crimes law, a measure that allowed 0aprosecution of war crimes around the world until it was amended this month. Now, 0aBelgium can refer foreigners facing war crimes charges to their own governments, 0aif they are democracies with a record of fairness in justice.
The case includes allegations that US troops failed to prevent the 0alooting of hospitals in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. 0aAnother claim involves the alleged US bombing in late March of a crowded market 0ain northwest Baghdad, which, according to Iraqi officials, killed more than 60 0apeople.
After the claim is filed, a Brussels investigative magistrate will 0astudy the allegations to decide whether a case can be opened against Franks and 0aothers.
Fermon said he was optimistic his claim would be accepted. "We have a 0avery specific case, with specific evidence," he said. "I do not see how they can 0areject it."
Evidence in the claim, including video footage and interviews, was 0agathered by two Belgian doctors stationed in Baghdad.
US Central Command said it had no comment on the case.
On Monday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in 0aWashington that the Bush administration was concerned about how the law was 0abeing applied.
"We're pleased that the Belgian government has taken action to change 0athe law," he said. "But we believe the Belgian government needs to be diligent 0ain taking steps to prevent abuse of the legal system for political ends."
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