View Full Version : US pressure on Belgium mounting
The last couple of days, US pressure on Belgium has fiercly grown as spokespersons of the US Ministery of Defense and the State Departement have issued declarations in which they call on the Belgium government to get rid of genocide law installed in Belgium law since 1993.
The initial genocide law has been irritating the Bush governement for a long time, yet only recently when President Bush.Sr and Norman Scharzwkopff were indicted for war crimes, the US governement stepped up efforts to see this law abolished. A couple of weeks ago, the Belgian governement undertook steps to alter the initial law, by reserving itself the right, in case a complaint on the basis of this law would be filed, to transfer the case to the governement of the indicted national. By adopting the law in this respect, the Belgian government thought it could reassure it's transatlantic partners and deflect US unease. At first the US governement seemed to be satisfied with these steps, but as the last four days have shown, the atmosphere seems to have completely changed. It leaves no doubt that the recent indiction of President Bush himself and Tony Blair for a Belgian court are in part responsible for this change in attitude on behalf of the US governement. So suddenly, Belgium saw itself threatened with the loss of the NATO headquarters, which would bring a major blow to the Brussels economy, but which importantly would also totally counter the Belgian strategy of 'putting this country back on the map'. Instead of putting Belgium on the map, this strategy would bring about a dramatic loss in diplomatic influence, in case the US would decide to shift NATO headquarters to another country.
The interesting part is of course that you now see how the Belgian governement is crawling under US pressure. Clearly, it had not expected that the recent adaptations in the genocide law would keep the US disgrunted. After recuperating on anti-US sentiment and even fueling them before the elections, I would like to see how morality upholds in politics. I reckon..not that good. Probably, we will see this genocide law be burried under additional rules that will make it totally disfunctional..
D J 1 3 8
06-20-2003, 02:57 PM
So are you saying that Bush and Blair have been legally indicted with a charge of genocide?
Seems a bit much. I'm no Bush supporter but genocide? Now, you can charge peolpe like Kissinger with that for Cambodia, no problemo.
06-20-2003, 03:47 PM
Hello Lyot, I'm a little confused by this. Is the indictment mearly for show, how can the Belgium govt bring Pres Bush and Prime Minister Blair to stand trial and how can the sentence them as a private country and not by a NATO tribrunal(sp?).
06-20-2003, 03:57 PM
Belgians fear US threat to move Nato's base
The view from ... Brussels
Friday June 20, 2003
America's threat to move Nato's headquarters out of Belgium in order to punish the tiny country for a multitude of perceived sins had the Belgian press all of a flutter this week.
The threat, made by the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was widely interpreted as Washington's revenge for Belgium's quirky universal war crimes law, which has seen high-profile cases brought and then dropped against such luminaries as the first President George Bush, General Tommy Franks, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Nor did Belgium's anti-war rhetoric during the Iraq conflict do the country any favours in Washington.
The fact that Belgium has amended the war crimes law to give the offending cases no chance of success is obviously not enough to appease the US.
Knack magazine quoted Willy Claes, a former Nato secretary general, who was not optimistic about the chances of rapprochement. "We have a choice between an idealistic, ethical position and a pragmatic, realistic one," he said. "For some time I have argued in favour of the second because at certain times a small country has to submit to indisputable balances of power."
It may be too late for pragmatism, Mr Claes said. "The circle is complete. The Americans clearly intend teaching the Belgians a lesson by scrapping Brussels as the headquarters of Nato."
The daily De Morgen was equally gloomy, saying the US move "could have serious economic consequences. It would be a catastrophe for the entire Brussels economy". According to the English-language weekly the Bulletin, 55,000 jobs and up to €6bn (£4bn) are on the line. . .
[ June 20, 2003, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: Orion ]
06-20-2003, 04:01 PM
Belgium may sidestep war crimes law
Michel: Strengthening immunity removes the problem
The Belgian Government is said to be considering granting diplomatic immunity to all foreign officials visiting Belgium-based international organisations.
Leading Belgian newspapers said the move was aimed at protecting foreign officials from a Belgian law which allows prosecution for war crimes and violations of human rights, wherever they were committed.
Last week, the American Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, warned that Washington would block further spending on Nato's headquarters in Belgium until the legal threat against American leaders was withdrawn.
The remarks were made after a Belgian court filed a lawsuit against the US commander in Iraq, Tommy Franks, alleging human rights violations.
"We will have to seriously consider whether we can allow our civilian and military officials to come to Belgium," Mr Rumsfeld said at the time.
In response, Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel said he would consider providing immunity to officials on visits to Nato or one of the European institutions in Brussels.
"If immunity is... strengthened, then there is no longer a problem," he told VRT radio.
Le Soir en Ligne newspaper quoted senior officials as saying that the law itself, known as the law of universal competence, would not be further modified.
Some changes have already been made, allowing for cases to be sent to the defendants' country of origin, as was done in the case of General Franks.
Another amendment says only cases that are linked to Belgium can go directly to the courts.
This means that a number of other cases, such as those against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former US president George Bush Senior, are likely to be dropped.
06-20-2003, 04:03 PM
This is from a week ago. (The last one was from today).
US attacks Belgium war crimes law
The United States has renewed controversy within Nato over Belgian legislation which makes foreigners vulnerable to prosecution for alleged war crimes.
American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that Washington would block further funding for Nato's new headquarters in Belgium until the legal threat was withdrawn.
US authorities have been outraged by complaints brought against General Tommy Franks - who commanded US forces in the Iraq war - and other officials under laws that allow Belgian courts to try war crimes wherever they are committed around the world.
In another development on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council granted US peacekeepers another year of immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) by 12 votes to none.
Speaking after a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, Mr Rumsfeld said it did not "make much sense to make a new headquarters if you can't come here for meetings".
According to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus in Brussels, it was an unusual and blistering attack upon one of America's Nato allies - a sign that there are still some serious tensions that from time to time break through to the surface.
The case against General Franks was filed by a left-wing lawyer on behalf of a group of Iraqis injured or bereaved in the war.
It followed similar complaints brought against former President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell for their role in the first Gulf War.
Reacting to the US outcry, the Belgian Government rushed changes to the laws through parliament which mean any such complaints can be transferred to the country of the accused if that nation has a fair and democratic legal system.
Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt referred the General Franks case back to the US last month, although the attorney Jan Fermon is appealing on behalf of the 19 Iraqis bringing the case.
Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut said he was surprised by Mr Rumsfeld's warning, insisting the General Franks case had been rejected by his country.
Mr Rumsfeld has said American military and civilian officials need assurances they could come to Brussels without facing "harassment" from the Belgian courts.
The US itself put forward the UN Security Council resolution which extends the immunity of states which have not ratified the ICC's founding statute from its jurisdiction for a second year from 1 July.
The extension was approved grudgingly as almost every speaker in the debate highlighted the unlikelihood of US peacekeepers ever being in a position where they were prosecuted by the court.
Three of the 15 Security Council members - France, Germany and Syria - demonstrated their disapproval by abstaining.
Earlier, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that the legitimacy of peacekeepers would be undermined by recurrent extensions to their immunity from the jurisdiction of the ICC - the world's first war crimes court.
America is also currently drawing up agreements with individual governments which bar them from surrendering US nationals to the court and has signed nearly 40 such agreements to date.
The deputy US Ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, welcomed the approval of his resolution but added that, "like any compromise, [it] does not address all our concerns".
Germany, a principal proponent of the court, said its abstention was "a matter of principle".
Even the UK indicated it had differences with one of its closest allies over the issue.
"Whilst we understand US concerns about the International Criminal Court, we do not share them," said its Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
Reach of ICC
90 countries have ratified the Rome treaty that established the court
139 countries are signatories to the treaty
Originally posted by djklas:
Hello Lyot, I'm a little confused by this. Is the indictment mearly for show, how can the Belgium govt bring Pres Bush and Prime Minister Blair to stand trial and how can the sentence them as a private country and not by a NATO tribrunal(sp?). hey Klas,
sorry for not getting back to you yet in the first place.. I have accidently deleted the mail you sent me, but I will get back to you this weekend.
The complaint against BushCo has been filed by Iraqi people, by means of some Belgian lawyers. The Belgium governement merely created the law, and is of course not responsible for these complaints. On the contrary, or government is rather embarressed, yet doesn't want to loose face and just abolish the law (the Belgian government stood very much by the French government in it's anti-war policy).
The law provides that people who themselves are party to a conflict can file a complaint before a Belgian court, because one of the main features of this law is it's universal character. No matter what country the purpatror comes from, he can be tried for a Belgian court, and Belgium justice is in the end and as a result compelled to issue a international warrant in case of a possible condemnation.
Of course, this will never happen, as it would totally destroy diplomatic relations between Belgium and the US. That's why they already amended the law. This means that the Belgian governement can transfer the case to a court of the country of the indicted citizen, if it deems that there's a functioning judicial system.(?!) So, the US could jugde it's own people in fact. Nor Tony Blair, nor G.Bush will ever be tried before a Belgian court, of course..
But it seems that even the possibility of 'handing over the case' has satisfied the US governement, who seeks the total abolishement of the law. I think that this is what is going to happen, but what strikes me is the tremenduous pressure the US government can set on a country. And how powerless you are as a small country. Bend or burst is the device so I think I already know what the outcome is gonna be.
06-20-2003, 06:57 PM
Hello Lyot, Thanks for clearing that up. I didn't realize that it was the Iraqi people who brought these charges.
PS. hit me up soon, we need to finish up that Chaplin Band trade, I've got some good stuff right now, but it's just sitting so I need to trade or sell it soon.
[ June 20, 2003, 08:01 PM: Message edited by: djklas ]
06-20-2003, 07:14 PM
Have you heard of political comedian from the UK called Mark Thomas.
I saw him live about 6months ago, He and group of various organisations actually served papers to Number 10, re. war crimes ( not sure what came of it ), they raised a ton of money selling white peace bows at the marches and raised a substantional amount to take blair and his cronies to court...
Check his site.... http://www.mtcp.co.uk/ i think you'll find him amusing...oh and check Joe Clausell remix of Nina Simone
[ June 20, 2003, 08:16 PM: Message edited by: Rob.J ]
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