The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Dear Dirk, Just in between ..... While composing (late at night/early at morning MET) an answer to your latest message on CASI, just this has arrived on my desk which I think could be of interest for you and the list. Excerpt (full text below): "In a move that has provoked outrage from human-rights groups here, US Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked a federal appeals court in effect to nullify a 214-year-old law that has provided foreign victims of serious abuses access to US courts for redress." Now put this together with the Belgian war crime complaints against USUK. --> See also: Verhofstadt passes complaints onto/under US jurisdiction. And what will we have then ? The most predictable. Na goed, maar dit is helemal niet zo erg, denk ik. Dat hadden wij ook vroeger: Je weet: "Héél Gallië? Nee, een klein dorp bleef dapper weerstand bieden aan de overheersers en maakte het leven van de XXX in de omringende legerplaatsen bepaald niet gemakkelijk..." Keep ears pricked. Best Andreas ------------------------ Villagers vs oil giant: Ashcroft to the rescue By Jim Lobe 05/17/03: (Inter Press Service) WASHINGTON - In a move that has provoked outrage from human-rights groups here, US Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked a federal appeals court in effect to nullify a 214-year-old law that has provided foreign victims of serious abuses access to US courts for redress. Ashcroft's Justice Department has filed a "friend of the court" (amicus curiae) on behalf of California-based oil giant Unocal in a civil case brought by Myanmese villagers who claimed that the company was responsible for serious abuses committed by army troops who provided security for a company project. But the department's brief was not limited to defending the company against the plaintiffs. Instead, the document, which was submitted last week to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, asked the court to reinterpret the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) in a way that would deny victims the right to sue in US courts for abuses committed overseas. "This is a craven attempt to protect human-rights abusers at the expense of victims," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW). "The Bush administration is trying to overturn a long-standing judicial precedent that has been very important in the protection of human rights." Other rights activists agreed. "The brief is a broadside attack designed to wipe the law off the books," said Elisa Massimino, director of the Washington office of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (LCHR), while Terry Collingsworth, director of the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) and one of the lead lawyers in the Myanmar case, called the move "shocking". "They're not just saying a bunch of Burmese peasants can't sue a US oil company," said Tom Malinowski, director of HRW's Washington office. "They're saying Holocaust survivors were wrong to have sued German companies for enslavement during World War II, and that victims of genocide in Bosnia were wrong to try [Serb leader Radavan] Karadzic in US courts. I don't think this administration wants to be seen as denying victims rights in these cases." ATCA, which was enacted by the first US Congress as a tool for piracy on the high seas, permits non-citizens to sue foreign and domestic individuals or companies in the United States for abuses "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States". Since 1980, the act has been used successfully by victims of abuses committed by foreign governments and militaries overseas against individual defendants who were served with notice while living or visiting in the United States. The first case was brought by the father and sister of Joel Filartiga, a 17-year-old Paraguayan who was kidnapped and tortured to death by a Paraguayan police officer who subsequently came to the United States. In that case, another appeals court ruled that ATCA permitted victims to pursue claims based on violations of international human-rights law. Subsequent cases have been brought against national leaders, such as former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, and senior army officers from Guatemala, Indonesia, Argentina, Ethiopia and El Salvador, among other countries. While damages have been awarded in almost all those cases, they have rarely been collected, primarily because defendants fled the United States once they received legal notice. Lawyers began bringing cases against US and foreign corporations - usually involving, as in the Unocal case, alleged abuses committed by foreign armies or police that provided security for the companies - under ATCA in 1993. About 25 such cases have since been filed, although most of them have been dismissed by the courts. The most successful have been brought by survivors of the Nazi Holocaust against foreign companies and banks, which rejected their efforts at recovering their money or insurance claims after World War II. While the case was never fully tried, it helped induce Swiss banks to negotiate settlements worth more than US$1 billion. The Unocal case was originally filed in 1996. Last September, the Ninth Circuit Court overturned the dismissal of a trial-court judge and ruled that the company could be sued for such abuses as forced labor, rape and murder committed by Myanmese soldiers guarding the Yadana gas pipeline, if plaintiffs produced evidence showing that the company knew about and benefited directly from the troops' conduct. In its brief, the Justice Department was far less concerned about the specific case than about all litigation under ATCA, which, it said, "has been commandeered and transformed into a font of causes of action permitting aliens to bring human rights claims in United States courts, even when the disputes are wholly between foreign nationals and when the alleged injuries occurred in a foreign country, often with no connection whatsoever with the United States". The brief said that ATCA could not be used as a basis to file civil cases and that victims should sue under other laws; that the "law of nations" covered by the act did not include international human-rights treaties; and that abuses committed outside the United States should not be covered by the law. "Although [ATCA] is somewhat of a historical relic today, that is no basis for transforming it into an untethered grant of authority to the courts to establish and enforce (through money damage actions) precepts of international law regarding disputes arising in foreign countries," the brief said. Moreover, it warned, the use of the act "bears serious implications for our current war against terrorism, and permits [ATCA] claims to be easily asserted against our allies in that war". In that respect, it "raises significant potential for serious interference with important foreign-policy interests". But human-rights activists pointed out that if US foreign-policy interests were at risk, the State Department always has the option of intervening in an ATCA case - as it did last summer when it asked a judge to dismiss a case brought by plaintiffs from the Indonesian province of Aceh against oil giant ExxonMobil. Indeed, the State Department was explicitly asked to comment on the foreign-policy implications of the Myanmar case and reportedly prepared a letter that said it had no problems with the action proceeding. But the Justice Department, which represents the rest of the government, failed to deliver the letter and instead filed its own brief, which makes no reference to a State Department position. "I don't think this has anything to do with the war on terror," said Malinowski. "I think this is motivated by a very hardcore ideological resistance within the Justice Department to the whole concept of international law being enforced. The notion that international norms are enforceable by anyone is repugnant to some in the Justice Department." Collingsworth agreed that the move contradicted the avowed aim of the administration of President George W Bush to end terrorism. "Particularly today, with all this talk of the war on terror, to remove one of the few tools we have to address human-rights violations is the epitome of hypocrisy," he said, adding that he thought the Ninth Circuit Court would reject Ashcroft's arguments. "The Department of Justice filed the almost identical brief in the Marcos case in the late 1980s, and it was rejected." (Inter Press Service) ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dirk Adriaensens" <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Sonntag, 18. Mai 2003 23:53 Subject: [casi] Appeal [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Dear Andreas, thank you very much for your message. We are launching an international appeal to put pressure on the Belgian Government to not hand over the Franks-case to the US authorities. You can read it in the attached file. I didn't post it on the CASI-list yet. The Belgian Government is afraid of the US, that's quite clear. We really hope (but it's idle hope, I fear) that Franks could be tried in Belgium. If you want to read the whole complaint of 60 pages, you can find it in French here: http://belgium.indymedia.org/news/2003/05/63321.php , www.stopUSA.be and www.irak.be . And that's why I haven't posted the complaint to CASI: most of the members don't understand French. It really should be translated in English, so that international organisations can make use of it. I see you speak and understand many languages. Do you know someone who could translate this complaint? I thing it is very important that not only the "victors" of this war write the history. The world should never forget that this war was not clean at all. This is a very short answer, I know. But if you have any further questions, please feel free to write me. Greetings. Dirk. Justice for the victims of the US Army : Please get a signature urgently ! 18 Iraqis and 2 Jordanians just introduced a case in Brussels against general Franks, head of the US Army in Iraq. Based on the law of "universal jurisdiction", characteristic of the Belgian law concerning genocide and war crimes. This action provoked great enthusiasm among the international public opinion. Hundreds of messages are sent to Stop USA Brussels, coordinator of the case. But next week, immediately after the local elections, the Belgian government is preparing to send the case to... Washington, pretending that US Justice would be equitable ! Bush would be the judge of Bush! This would mean assassinate the victims twice. This only chance to save this case is to organize immediately a strong international pressure. So we ask to each of you to mobilize and get urgently one big personality signing this Appeal below : artists, intellectuals, sportsmen, academicians, politicians, humanitarians, every sort of well known personalities. Defending Justice against the powerful = also defend the next countries threatened by Bush. Concretely, please send as soon as possible the signature (s) of the personality (ies) that you can get to : Stop USA International Secretariat email@example.com Full text of the accusation on: www.stopusa.be * * * Court case against General Franks in Brussels No impunity for war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq Twenty victims of war crimes committed by U.S. troops during the recent war against Iraq are filing charges before the federal prosecutor of Belgium for violations of International Humanitarian Law. The complaint is directed against soldiers - who are not identified at this stage - who have committed war crimes. It mentions General Tommy Franks in particular for ordering war crimes and for not preventing others from committing them or for providing protection to the perpetrators. The plaintiffs have been seriously injured or have lost relatives as the result of: * the use of cluster bombs * attacks on the civilian population including journalists * acts of aggression against health services and other Iraqi infrastructure * looting protected by or under orders from the U.S. army. The plaintiffs and their relatives likewise have reason to fear the devastating effects of depleted uranium munitions used by the U.S. army. Their effects have already been highlighted in the previous wars against Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Millions of demonstrators throughout the world have voiced their opposition to the war on Iraq. Opinion polls showed that everywhere, between 70 and 80% of the population condemned this war of aggression. In defiance of the people's will, the Bush administration violated international law by attacking Iraq without the permission of the Security Council and refusing to respect the ban on the use of force included in the UN Charter. In the field, U.S. troops also committed many war crimes, as attested by many sources. The plaintiffs demand an independent inquiry to identify those responsible for the war crimes of which they were victims. They are also asking for those guilty to be brought to justice. The complaint was filed in Brussels on the basis of the Belgian law on "universal jurisdiction" as amended on May 7, 2003. The law, as amended, gives the Belgian government the option of filing a case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or forwarding it to the country of origin of the accused. The United States, however, has not ratified the Statutes of the ICC, thus rendering a transfer to this court impossible. As for referring the case to the courts of the country of origin, the law demands that the latter afford guarantees of impartiality. That is not the case with American law courts for the moment for a number of reasons: 1. As soon as the possibility of filing charges was announced, the spokesperson of the State Department demanded the intervention of the Belgian government to prevent the judiciary from investigating the case. 2. The attitude of the Bush administration clearly shows there is no guarantee that the United States executive would not exercise the same type of pressure on the courts of the country. It should be recalled that this same administration refuses the prisoners detained in Guantanamo any kind of legal status, has set up special secret courts to try people accused of " terrorism " and detains hundreds of foreigners for unlimited periods and without due process. It has this shown its intention to intervene in judicial procedure and its total lack of respect for the most basic rights of the defens e. 3. Congressman Gary Ackerman of New York has introduced a bill to forbid all collaboration with any state trying to exercise universal jurisdiction, and in particular with Belgium. The victims' testimonies have been documented by doctor Colette Moulaert and doctor Geert Van Moorter, who were on a humanitarian mission for the NGO Medical Aid for the Third World and stayed in Baghdad throughout the offensive. The Coordination STOP USA, which was active against the war in Belgium, will support the plaintiffs and will provide information on the case worldwide. International appeal : No Impunity for War Crimes committed by U.S. Troops in Iraq! The undersigned consider: * That U.S. Armed Forces should not remain unpunished if they have committed crimes during the war on Iraq. * That it is important for an independent inquiry to investigate the facts mentioned by the plaintiffs, for civil and criminal responsibilities to be established and for the victims to receive a reasonable compensation. * That U.S. courts do not at the present time provide sufficient guarantees of impartiality in this case. * That an inquiry by the International Criminal Court is impossible, as the U.S. has not ratified its Statutes. * That consequently, the victims have no other option but to approach the jurisdiction of a third country, in this case Belgium. The undersigned call on the Belgian government not to give in to the diplomatic pressure of the U.S. and not to hinder the judicial process by forwarding the case to the U.S. I sign: In the name of my organisation: Organisation: Email: Country: On my own behalf: Name: Function: Email: Country: Please send your signature only to firstname.lastname@example.org This appeal is coordinated by STOP USA International 53 Chaussée de Haecht, 1210 Brussels. email@example.com Full text of the accusation on: http://stopusa.be _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk