Tags: Belgium: | Sanctioning | the | Legal | Stoning | Her | NATO

Belgium: Sanctioning the Legal Stoning of Her NATO Allies

Wednesday, 18 June 2003 12:00 AM

When NATO awarded a contract earlier this year to build its new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, NATO's secretary-general, Lord Robertson, proclaimed, "I have no doubt that NATO's new headquarters will stand as a landmark of Brussels' architectural landscape."

Well, apologies to Lord Robertson, but there might not be a new headquarters in Brussels. Not if Belgium intends to keep a law on the books to permit prosecution of foreign soldiers and leaders for crimes committed during war.

Who has been the target of such lawsuits?

It's not just Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein, the usual and deserving suspects.

It's also former President George H.W. Bush, retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney.

It's Gen. Tommy Franks.

Talk about cases for a believe-it-or-not book. But in this era of political correctness where black is white and white is black, what was once the stuff of bad dreams becomes reality.

That's the case with Belgium, which took it upon itself in the mid-1990s to place a law on the books to become a country with "universal jurisdiction," which means the leaders and military of democratic countries and thuggish dictatorial states alike could one day find themselves facing charges of war crimes. It's a values-neutral law that ignores the sovereignty of other nations.

So Iraqis, assisted by a Belgian lawyer who has taken ambulance-chasing to a new level, can file suit against former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Powell for the casualties inflicted by the bombing of a Baghdad bunker in 1991.

The commander of this year's action in Iraq, Gen. Franks, is the target of a complaint filed by a member of the Maoist party Resist.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expressed righteous indignation at the targeting of Franks when he was in Belgium last week.

"The suits are absurd. Indeed, I would submit that there is no general in history who has gone to greater lengths than General Franks and his superb team to avoid civilian casualties," Rumsfeld said.

Belgium argues that the law has been amended to send such outrageous cases as the ones filed against Franks back to our country, the thinking being that they will be dismissed in quick fashion.

That's just not good enough.

Not only do United States officials worry that cases referred to the United States could be overturned on appeal. But what can be done by the Belgian parliament in the so-called reforms of the original law can just as easily be undone with a vote on new legislative measures.

Credit Secretary Rumsfeld for standing up for American interests: "By passing this law, Belgium has turned its legal system into a platform for divisive, politicized lawsuits against her NATO allies."

That's not all he had to say, either. "If the civilian and military leaders of member states cannot come to Belgium without fear of harassment by Belgian courts enforcing spurious charges by politiicized prosecutors, then it calls into question Belgium's attitude about its responsibilities as a host nation for NATO and Allied forces."

Secretary Rumsfeld made the point that our country respects Belgium's sovereignty, but we wish Belgium would respect the sovereignty of other countries.

While we cannot tell Belgium what laws it can pass, once a law like this war crimes law can have such possible repercussions, then there will be consequences.

Secretary Rumsfeld has threatened to freeze U.S. funding for the new headquarters until that law is wiped off the books and we know Belgium will be a safe place for our troops and leaders and those of our allies to do business. Let's hope the secretary stands his ground and does not give in to political correctness.

If we had cowered from invading Europe in World War II, Belgium might still be under the rule of Germany's National Socialists. Then young Belgians might have learned by personal experience what real war crimes are all about. But they were spared that experience thanks to our efforts and those of Britain and other Allied troops who liberated their country from the German National Socialist conquerors.

The leaders of the country that will house NATO's new steel and glass headquarters shouldn't have a legal system that sanctions the throwing of stones ... at those who lead the armed forces of her allies.

That Belgium should even allow the filing of lawsuits alleging that the American leaders who liberated Iraq and Kuwait are war criminals has done much more than just damage a few reputations.

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When NATO awarded a contract earlier this year to build its new headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, NATO's secretary-general, Lord Robertson, proclaimed, "I have no doubt that NATO's new headquarters will stand as a landmark of Brussels' architectural landscape." Well,...
Wednesday, 18 June 2003 12:00 AM
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