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Belgian Says Gen. Franks Committed War Crimes

May 15, 2003|From Associated Press

BRUSSELS — A left-wing candidate in Belgium's parliamentary elections lodged a war crimes complaint Wednesday against Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of coalition forces in the Iraq war.

Lawyer Jan Fermon presented the complaint against Franks and a Marine officer he identified as Col. Brian P. McCoy to Belgium's federal prosecutors office despite recent changes in the country's war crimes law to prevent such charges against Americans.

Fermon said he was representing 17 Iraqi and two Jordanian civilians injured or bereaved by U.S. attacks, though he gave few details.

"This is not a symbolic action. My clients want an independent inquiry into what happened," Fermon said.

He said the accusations against Franks focused on the bombing of civilian areas, what he called indiscriminate shooting by U.S. troops when they entered Baghdad, and the failure to stop looting. He charged that McCoy ordered troops to fire on ambulances.

The case has provoked anger in Washington. America's most senior military officer suggested the allegations and earlier charges against other U.S. officials could jeopardize Belgium's role as a host for NATO and European Union meetings.

"It's looked upon by the U.S. government as a very, very serious situation," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday on a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

To head off such complaints, the government last month rushed through changes to a law introduced in the early 1990s that authorized Belgian courts to try genocide and other war crimes wherever they occurred.

Legal experts predicted that the case against Franks and McCoy would be thrown out by the prosecutors office.

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