Iraqi Victims Sue U.S. Leaders for Alleged Atrocities in Gulf War of 1991 As Belgium Parliament Amends War-Crimes Law

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Sunday, June 1, 2003
Bruce Zagaris
On March 18, 2003, victims of alleged atrocities in connection with the bombing of a civilian shelter in Baghdad that killed 403 in the Gulf War of 1991 filed an action in Belgium, charging George Bush, the prior U.S. President, Dick Cheney, the current vice president, Colin Powell, the current U.S. Secretary of State, and H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Meanwhile, on April 6, 2003, the Belgian Senate approved a measure to make such suits more difficult to maintain. The victims filed the suit under a Belgian law that provides for “universal jurisdiction” to try the perpetrators. According to Raymond Counmont, president of an anti-war group called Meetings for Peace, which field suit with the Iraqis, the goal of the Iraqi families, who together lost four or five children in the bombing, was directed at the responsibility for their losses. He explained that the suit was connected with the most recent U.S. military invasion of Iraq. On April 6, 2003, the Belgian Senate approved a bill that provides “filters”, permitting the Belgian judiciary to reject complaints in which no victims of Belgian nationality exist or in which the plaintiffs have lives in Belgium for less than three years. The bill will also enable the Belgian Government to reject cases in which the issue could be brought in the courts of the accused person and if these are democracies with a record of judicial fairness.