U.S. sends stern warning to Belgium on war crimes case

Source Say, 19/03/2003

"The U.S. has warned Belgian authorities about the effects of legislation that allows suits against foreign leaders on what Washington considers to be politically motivated charges, Colin Powell said on Tuesday. If such prosecutions proliferate, it could be difficult for senior officials to visit Belgium, which hosts NATO headquarters, he told a group of reporters.

The families of victims of a U.S. attack on a Baghdad shelter in the 1991 Gulf War plan to file a complaint in Belgium against Powell, former U.S. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and former U.S. commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. The complaint would be under a law enabling its courts to hear human rights cases. Powell joked that the next NATO ministerial meeting might be short because of the prosecution threat. He added: "It's a serious problem. The Belgian legislature continues to pass laws and modify them over time, which permits these kinds of suits, and it's the same kind of law that affected Prime Minister Sharon." "We have cautioned our Belgian colleagues that they need to be very careful about this kind of effort, this kind of legislation, because it makes it hard for us to go places that put you at such easy risk," he added. "If you show up, next thing you know you're being... Who knows?"

U.S. pilots attacked the Amiriyah air raid shelter in a residential suburb of Baghdad on Feb. 12, 1991. More than 400 people died, including 261 women and 52 children. The most prominent case so far under the Belgian law was a complaint against Sharon for his role in the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut."


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