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Iraqis To Sue Over War Crimes

Iraqis To Sue Over War Crimes

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- A group of Iraqis will file a war crimes case against the commander of U.S.-led forces in Iraq, Gen. Tommy Franks, their lawyer said Tuesday.

"There are 19 victims of the war so far that have come forward to back the case," lawyer Jan Fermon said.

He said the claim, to be filed May 13, would name Franks and other unspecified American troops.

Fermon claimed there were 17 "specific incidents" in which U.S. soldiers and commanders violated the 1993 Belgian war crimes law, a unique measure that allowed prosecution of war crimes around the world until it was amended this month. Now, Belgium can refer foreigners facing war crimes charges to their own governments, if they are democracies with a record of fairness in justice.

The alleged atrocities in the case include the failure of U.S. troops to prevent the looting of hospitals in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Another claim involves the alleged U.S. bombing in late March of a crowded market in northwest Baghdad, which Iraqi officials claimed killed more than 60 people.

After the claim is filed, a Brussels investigative magistrate will study the allegations to decide whether a case can be opened against Franks and others.

Fermon said he was optimistic his claim would be accepted.

"We have a very specific case, with specific evidence," said Fermon. "I do not see how they can reject it."

Evidence in the claim, including video footage and interviews, was gathered by two Belgian doctors stationed in Baghdad.

U.S. Central Command said it had no comment at this point on the case.

On Monday, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington that the Bush administration was concerned about how the law was being applied.

"We're pleased that the Belgian government has taken action to change the law, but we believe the Belgian government needs to be diligent in taking steps to prevent abuse of the legal system for political ends," he said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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