As the Bush administration gives the leadership in occupied Iraq a face lift, Iraqi civilians are preparing to sue Gen. Tommy Franks and other U.S. military officials for war crimes in Iraq.
Lawyer Jan Fermon says the complaint will be presented in a Belgian court next week. It will state that coalition forces are responsible for the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians, the bombing of a marketplace in Baghdad that killed scores, the shooting of an ambulance, and failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals.
Meanwhile, the BBC has uncovered evidence that US troops not only failed to prevent mass looting in Iraq, but encouraged it. Eyewitnesses told the BBC US troops encouraged looters to storm the campus of Nasiriya’s Technical Institute. The institute’s acting dean, Dr Khalid Majeed, said he appealed to US troops to prevent the looting. They refused. When his colleague manage to rouse some Americans based near the local fire station, they arrived in five vehicles and fired several dozen rounds at the college’s south wall. Now the college of higher education is a shell, its laboratories and lecture rooms charred almost beyond recognition.
Washington has reacted angrily to the lawsuit. The US State Department has told Belgium not to allow its laws to be used for "political ends". A senior Bush administration official warned there will be "diplomatic consequences" for Belgium if the complaint is taken up by a court.
- Jan Fermon, Belgian lawyer who is filing a complaint against General Tommy Franks on behalf of 19 Iraqis who say he committed war crimes in Iraq.