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[casi] News, 14-21/05/03 (4)

News, 14-21/05/03 (4)


*  Use of cluster bombs in Iraq criticised
*  US used new missile in Iraq: Rumsfeld
*  Baghdad's Death Toll Assessed
*  At least 1,700 civilians died in Baghdad battle
* Remains of toxic bullets litter Iraq
*  Belgium: government seeks to block war crimes case against US General
Tommy Franks
*  War crimes case against General Franks: Interview with Belgian lawyer Jan
*  Let's hear it for Belgium
*  The future of the Mujahideen Khalq
*  Six Iraqi children die while playing with bomb
*  German lawyers sue Bush over war in Iraq


by Frances Williams in Geneva
Financial Times, 15th May

Human rights groups said on Thursday that the widespread use of cluster
bombs in Iraq, including in urban centres, had created a humanitarian
problem of huge proportions, causing many casualties especially among
children and hindering aid and reconstruction efforts.

Stephen Goose of the US-based Human Rights Watch said US and UK forces had
acknowledged far wider deployment of cluster bombs than in Afghanistan where
the US military air-dropped some 1,200 sub-munitions.

UK forces had admitted using 600 air-dropped bombs and 2,100 launched from
surface systems, Mr Goose said. The US had air-dropped 1,500 cluster bombs,
but had refused to release a tally for ground-launched weapons, which were
likely to have been far more numerous.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented use of cluster bombs in heavily
populated areas, including the cities of Baghdad, Nasiriya and Basra. "This
dramatically escalates the danger and the horrific impact cluster munitions
have, and is highly likely to cause excessive civilian casualties", Mr Goose

Human Rights Watch and other groups, including the International Committee
of the Red Cross, have called for a moratorium on the use of cluster bombs,
and many legal experts believe their use in urban areas violates
international humanitarian law which requires combatants to take every
precaution to avoid civilian casualties.

Each cluster bomb releases 200-300 bomblets scattered over a wide area, of
which between 5 and 30 per cent fail to explode, posing a permanent hazard
to civilians once the conflict is over. If accidentally detonated these
bomblets, which are designed to pierce armour, can kill people within a
radius of 150 metres, making them far more destructive than anti-personnel
landmines which are already outlawed by the Ottawa convention.

Mr Goose said the coalition forces had not used landmines in the Iraq
campaign but Iraq had done so in "a particularly dastardly way" that put
civilians at risk. Even before the war, Iraq was one of the most
heavily-mined countries in the world.

Though there are no reliable figures on post-war casualties from unexploded
ordnance in Iraq, humanitarian groups say anecdotal reports suggest hundreds
of civilians may have been killed or injured in recent weeks.

Sydney Morning Herald, 15th May

Washington (AP): American troops in Iraq made first use of a new kind of
helicopter launched missile - the AGM-114N Metal Augmented Charge Hellfire -
which uses a thermobaric warhead to create a blast wave that kills people
while leaving a building, bunker or cave intact, US Defence Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld has disclosed.

Rumsfeld said the new missile "can take out the first floor of a building
without damaging the floors above, and is capable of reaching around
corners, striking enemy forces that hide in caves or bunkers and hardened
multi-room complexes.''

Marine Corps AH-1 Cobra helicopters used the missile in Iraq. The Pentagon
spent $14.8 million developing the new warhead after Marine Corps officials
asked for a weapon that would be more effective against enemies in confined
spaces such as bunkers or the interior rooms of a large building.

Putting a thermobaric warhead on a Hellfire costs $US35,000 above the
$US57,000 cost for each basic missile.

American forces used another new kind of thermobaric bomb for the first time
during the war in Afghanistan to clear out caves where Taliban and al-Qaeda
members were hiding. The new Hellfire missile uses a different warhead
composition to create a similar blast wave effect.

The high-tech Hellfire is an example of the kind of weaponry the Pentagon
wants more money to develop, Rumsfeld told a Senate Appropriations
subcommittee. He was testifying to support President Bush's $US380 billion
defence budget request for 2004.

The proposal would represent a 4.2 per cent increase over this year's
Pentagon budget, not including the more than $US62 billion Congress approved
for spending on the Iraq war.

Rumsfeld said Bush's budget proposal, despite the increase, took risks in
putting money toward forming and equipping a lighter, more mobile military.
The spending proposal is part of a four-year Pentagon budget plan that seeks
to save $US80 billion by 2009 by canceling or scaling back programs which
don't fit into that vision.

The new Hellfire missile, Rumsfeld said, "went from development to
deployment in one year". Rumsfeld wants Congress to loosen the Pentagon's
weapons development process to allow more rapid development and fielding of
high-tech systems.,

by Laura King
Los Angeles Times, 18th May

BAGHDAD -- At least 1,700 Iraqi civilians died and more than 8,000 were
injured in the battle for the Iraqi capital, according to a Los Angeles
Times survey of records from 27 hospitals in the capital and its outlying

In addition, undocumented civilian deaths in Baghdad number at least in the
hundreds and could reach 1,000, according to Islamic burial societies and
humanitarian groups that are trying to trace those missing in the conflict.

More than a month after the war's end, no official tally of civilian
casualties has emerged. Amid the disorder attending the collapse of Saddam
Hussein's regime and the nascent American military occupation, one might
never be made -- although such a reckoning could play an important role, in
the eyes of a watching world, in weighing the conflict's moral costs.

The Times' count of civilian casualties spanned the five weeks beginning
March 20, a period that includes the U.S. bombardment and subsequent ground
battle for the Iraqi capital. It also includes fatalities from unexploded
ordnance during the first 2 1/2weeks after the city fell on April 9 and
deaths as a result of injuries suffered earlier during the fighting. The
survey covered all the large hospitals and most smaller specialty facilities
in the city center, as well as those in remote districts within the
municipal boundaries.

Those victims included in the toll died as a direct result of the conflict,
but not necessarily at American hands. Medical officials said many civilians
-- even a rough estimate of the numbers is impossible -- were killed by
exploding Iraqi ammunition stored in residential neighborhoods, by falling
Iraqi antiaircraft rounds that had been aimed at American warplanes, or by
Iraqi fire directed at American troops.

U.S. military officials said repeatedly throughout the war that all possible
care was being taken to avoid civilian casualties, and expressed regret over
those that occurred. The American administration in Iraq, which is
struggling to restore basic services and control street violence, has no
plans to try to tally up the civilian dead.

"We have no way of verifying independently whether people who were killed
were civilians or not civilians," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan
said Friday.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to obtaining an accurate count of civilian
deaths is distinguishing between Iraqi soldiers and ordinary citizens. In
the waning days of the war, many Iraqi fighters continued to man their
positions, but they dressed in civilian clothes and discarded their dog
tags, according to accounts from witnesses in the city at the time.

But even soldiers who shed their uniforms and threw away their weapons often
continued to carry some form of identification. The hospital figures did not
consistently separate out men between the ages of 18 and 35, one common
approach to limiting the inclusion of soldiers among the tally of civilians.
But most said if they found any indication of military affiliation, they
noted it in their patient records.

"Some of them would murmur to us they were soldiers, because they wanted us
to be able to help find their families if they died," said Dr. Mahmoud
Kubisi, a general surgeon at the 450 bed Karameh Teaching Hospital in the
city center.More than a month after the war's end, Baghdad bears ubiquitous
reminders of its dead. Hand-lettered death notices -- black banners printed
in yellow and white -- flutter from trees, walls and lampposts, growing more
faded each day. "In the name of God the merciful, and in accordance with
God's will ..." most begin, going on to list the victim's name and briefly
describe how he or she died.


In the poor district formerly called Saddam City but now known as Sadr City,
permission from a powerful Shiite Muslim sheik was required for a journalist
to visit the neighborhood's four hospitals. At one of them, statisticians
reported that the sheik's aides had already confiscated the records.

At Mansour Hospital, in the sprawling four-hospital complex known as Medical
City in central Baghdad, doctors claimed that U.S. troops had removed their
casualty records. American soldiers in the area confirmed that they had
confiscated some weapons but denied seizing hospital documents.

The statistical departments of several Baghdad hospitals were left in
disarray by looters who swept through the city after its fall. However,
hospital staff members managed to reassemble data based on hurried notes
made by emergency doctors and nurses, patient charts and tallies kept by
morgue attendants.

In as many cases as possible, The Times examined original handwritten
records -- stacks of death certificates and long lists of carefully inked
names and personal details in the oversized ledgers that serve as each
hospital's book of the dead.

While very few Baghdad hospitals had computerized files, meticulous
record-keeping was the norm in Hussein's Iraq, which for decades sustained
an overblown bureaucracy. Iraqi death certificates, to be filled out in
quadruplicate, require detailed personal information about the deceased and
the manner of death.

But even an ingrained national habit of careful documentation couldn't stand
up entirely to war's chaos. Some hospitals ran out of death certificates.
Exhausted doctors, lurching from one maimed patient to the next, sometimes
had time for little more than a quick notation.


Not included in The Times' count were dozens of deaths that doctors
indirectly attributed to the conflict. Those cases included pregnant women
who died of complications while giving birth at home because they could not
get to a hospital and chronically ill people, such as cardiac or dialysis
patients, who were unable to obtain needed care while the fighting raged.

"Even once the fighting stopped, our most sophisticated operating theaters,
in which we could perform open-heart surgery, had been destroyed by the
looters," said Waseem Khalid, a prominent cardiac surgeon at Ibn Bidar
Hospital for Heart Disease. "I knew I was sending some of my patients home
to die."

In the weeks after the conflict, the dead -- or at least their remains --
tended not to rest in peace. It was not uncommon for a body to be moved
three or four times, first from a shallow grave near where the person fell
to temporary sanctuary in a mosque garden or the nearest neighborhood
cemetery, and finally to a burial place of the family's choosing. Most
Shiite families, even if they live in Baghdad, bury their dead at family
plots in the holy cities of Najaf or Karbala.

Obtaining a death certificate is crucial for establishing property ownership
and inheritance rights. So grieving families are braving the difficult
bureaucratic process of obtaining the paperwork for what in many cases are
all but unidentifiable sets of remains.

Based on the eventual gathering of those certificates, the city's registry
of births and deaths says that it hopes to produce a toll of war dead, but
that it will probably take months.

Even at Baghdad's largest hospitals, such as 992-bed Yarmouk Hospital,
morgues were built to hold only a few dozen bodies. During the war, several
hospitals resorted to burying bodies on their grounds. At Thawra hospital,
officials commandeered a refrigerated truck used to deliver frozen chicken
and stored bodies in it.

Particularly in areas not served by a neighborhood hospital, mosques stepped
in to bury corpses that were rotting in cars and buildings. Volunteers, some
of them as young as 15 or 16, joined in the effort, despite the extreme
danger of moving about outdoors in the initial days of the American military

"They were very brave, these boys -- braver than men," said Hashim Qureishi,
34, an engineer who led a group of volunteers. "It was terrible work,
though, very terrible."

The mosques kept records and personal effects that would help relatives
identify the bodies later, the volunteers said.

"If they didn't have an ID on them, we would take their photograph, or use a
video camera," said volunteer Haidar Mayahi. "If the condition of the body
allowed, we would wash it before praying and burying it. But with most of
them, that wasn't possible."

Four mosque-based burial societies in widely scattered districts of the
city, which represent only a sampling of such informal groups at work,
reported they had buried a total of about 600 bodies they believed to have
been those of civilians, and many more of soldiers.

Haidar Tari, director of tracing missing persons for the Iraqi Red Crescent,
estimated there could have been up to 3,000 such undocumented burials,
perhaps one-third of them involving civilians. The Red Crescent has half a
dozen teams working in districts where large numbers of dead were buried,
but has not yet gained access to some areas under U.S. military control,
including a large swath of land near the airport.

Hardest to trace will be people who died while traveling, Tari said. Their
relatives might not have known when they left home, or where they were
headed, and thus have no idea where to look.

"On one stretch of highway alone, there were more than 50 civilian cars,
each with four or five people incinerated inside, that sat in the sun for 10
or 15 days before they were buried nearby by volunteers," Tari said. "That
is what there will be for their relatives to come and find. War is bad, but
its remnants are worse."


Seattle Times, 18th May

At least 1,700 Iraqi civilians died and more than 8,000 were injured in the
battle for the Iraqi capital, according to a Los Angeles Times survey of
records from 27 hospitals in the capital and its outlying districts.

In addition, undocumented civilian deaths in Baghdad number at least in the
hundreds and could reach 1,000, according to Islamic burial societies and
humanitarian groups that are trying to trace those missing in the conflict.

The Times' count of civilian casualties spanned the five weeks beginning
March 20, a period that includes the U.S. bombardment and subsequent ground
battle for the Iraqi capital. It also includes fatalities from unexploded
ordnance during the first 2-1/2 weeks after the city fell on April 9 and
deaths as a result of injuries suffered earlier during the fighting.

Those victims included in the toll died as a direct result of the conflict,
but not necessarily at U.S. hands. Medical officials said many civilians
were killed by exploding Iraqi ammunition stored in residential
neighborhoods, by falling Iraqi anti-aircraft rounds that had been aimed at
American warplanes, or by Iraqi fire directed at American troops.


by Scott Peterson
Christian Science Monitor, 15th May

BAGHDAD ­ At a roadside produce stand on the outskirts of Baghdad, business
is brisk for Latifa Khalaf Hamid. Iraqi drivers pull up and snap up fresh
bunches of parsley, mint leaves, dill, and onion stalks.

But Ms. Hamid's stand is just four paces away from a burnt-out Iraqi tank,
destroyed by - and contaminated with - controversial American
depleted-uranium (DU) bullets. Local children play "throughout the day" on
the tank, Hamid says, and on another one across the road.

No one has warned the vendor in the faded, threadbare black gown to keep the
toxic and radioactive dust off her produce. The children haven't been told
not to play with the radioactive debris. They gather around as a Geiger
counter carried by a visiting reporter starts singing when it nears a DU
bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser. It registers nearly 1,000
times normal background radiation levels on the digital readout.

The Monitor visited four sites in the city - including two randomly chosen
destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles, a clutch of burned American ammunition
trucks, and the downtown planning ministry - and found significant levels of
radioactive contamination from the US battle for Baghdad.

In the first partial Pentagon disclosure of the amount of DU used in Iraq, a
US Central Command spokesman told the Monitor that A-10 Warthog aircraft -
the same planes that shot at the Iraqi planning ministry - fired 300,000
bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to
1 - a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.

The Monitor saw only one site where US troops had put up handwritten
warnings in Arabic for Iraqis to stay away. There, a 3-foot-long DU dart
from a 120 mm tank shell, was found producing radiation at more than 1,300
times background levels. It made the instrument's staccato bursts turn into
a steady whine.

"If you have pieces or even whole [DU] penetrators around, this is not an
acute health hazard, but it is for sure above radiation protection dose
levels," says Werner Burkart, the German deputy director general for Nuclear
Sciences and Applications at the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) in Vienna. "The important thing in any battlefield - especially in
populated urban areas - is somebody has to clean up these sites."

Fresh-from-the-factory DU tank shells are normally handled with gloves, to
minimize the health risk, and shielded with a thin coating. The alpha
particle radiation emitted by DU travels less than an inch and can be
stopped by cloth or even tissue paper. But when the DUmaterial burns
(usually on impact; or as a dust, it can spontaneously ignite) protective
shields disappear, and dangerous radioactive oxides are created that can be
inhaled or ingested.

"[The risk] depends so very much on how you handle it," says Jan Olof Snihs,
of Sweden's Radiation Protection Authority in Stockholm. In most cases
dangers are low, he says, unless children eat toxic and radioactive soil, or
get DU oxides on their hands.

Radioactive particles are a "special risk associated with a war," Mr. Snihs
says. "The authorities should be aware of this, and try to decontaminate
places like this, just to avoid unnecessary risk."

Pentagon officials say that DU is relatively harmless and a necessary part
of modern warfare. They say that pre-Gulf War studies that indicated a risk
of cancer and of causing harm to local populations through permanent
contamination have been superseded by newer reports.

"There is not really any danger, at least that we know about, for the people
of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Michael Sigmon, deputy surgeon for the US Army's V
Corps, told journalists in Baghdad last week. He asserted that children
playing with expended tank shells would have to eat and then practically
suffocate on DU residue to cause harm.

But there is a growing chorus of concern among United Nations and relief
officials, along with some Western scientific experts, who are calling for
sites contaminated with DU be marked off and made safe.

"The soil around the impact sites of [DU] penetrators may be heavily
contaminated, and could be harmful if swallowed by children," says Brian
Spratt, chair of the working group on DU at The Royal Society, Britain's
premier scientific institution.

Fragments and penetrators should be removed, since "children find them
fascinating objects, and can pocket them," says Professor Spratt. "The
science says there is some danger - not perhaps a huge danger - of these
objects. ... We certainly do not say that these things are safe; we say that
cleanup is important."

The British Ministry of Defense says it will offer screening to soldiers
suspected of DU exposure, and will publish details about locations and
quantities of DU that British troops used in Iraq - a tiny fraction of that
fired by US forces.

The Pentagon has traditionally been tight-lipped about DU: Official figures
on the amount used were not released for years after the 1991 Gulf War and
Bosnia conflicts, and nearly a year after the 1999 Kosovo campaign. No US
official contacted could provide DU use estimates from the latest war in

"The first thing we should ask [the US military] is to remove that
immediately," says Carel de Rooy, head of the UN Children's Fund in Baghdad,
adding that senior UN officials need urgent advice on avoiding exposure.

The UN Environment Program last month called for field tests. DU "is still
an issue of great concern for the general public," said UNEP chief Klaus
Töpfer. "An early study in Iraq could either lay these fears to rest or
confirm that there are indeed potential risks."

During the latest Iraq conflict Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and
A-10 Warthog aircraft, among other military platforms, all fired the DU
bullets from desert war zones to the heart of Baghdad. No other
armor-piercing round is as effective against enemy tanks. While the Pentagon
says there's no risk to Baghdad residents, US soldiers are taking their own
precautions in Iraq, and in some cases have handed out warning leaflets and
put up signs.

"After we shoot something with DU, we're not supposed to go around it, due
to the fact that it could cause cancer," says a sergeant in Baghdad from New
York, assigned to a Bradley, who asked not to be further identified.

"We don't know the effects of what it could do," says the sergeant. "If one
of our vehicles burnt with a DU round inside, or an ammo truck, we wouldn't
go near it, even if it had important documents inside. We play it safe."

Six American vehicles struck with DU "friendly fire" in 1991 were deemed to
be too contaminated to take home, and were buried in Saudi Arabia. Of 16
more brought back to a purpose-built facility in South Carolina, six had to
be buried in a low-level radioactive waste dump.

Television footage of the war last month showed Iraqi armored vehicles
burning as US columns drove by, a common sign of a strike by DU, which burns
through armor on impact, and often ignites the ammunition carried by the
targeted vehicle.

"We were buttoned up when we drove by that - all our hatches were closed,"
the US sergeant says. "If we saw anything on fire, we wouldn't stop anywhere
near it. We would just keep on driving."

That's an option that produce seller Hamid doesn't have.

She says the US broke its promise not to bomb civilians. She has found US
cluster bomblets in her garden; the DU is just another dangerous burden, in
a war about which she remains skeptical.

"We were told it was going to be paradise [when Saddam Hussein was toppled],
and now they are killing our children," she says voicing a common Iraqi
perception about the risk of DU. "The Americans did not bother to warn us
that this is a contaminated area."

There is a warning now at the Doura intersection on the southern outskirts
of Baghdad. In the days before the capital fell, four US supply trucks
clustered near an array of highway off-ramps caught fire, cooking off a
number of DU tank rounds.

American troops wearing facemasks for protection arrived a few days later
and bulldozed the topsoil around the site to limit the contamination.

The troops taped handwritten warning signs in Arabic to the burned vehicles,
which read: "Danger - Get away from this area." These were the only warnings
seen by this reporter among dozens of destroyed Iraqi armored vehicles
littering the city.

"All of them were wearing masks," says Abbas Mohsin, a teenage cousin of a
drink seller 50 yards away, said referring to the US military cleanup crew.
"They told the people there were toxic materials ... and advised my cousin
not to sell Pepsi and soft drinks in this area. They said they were
concerned for our safety."

Despite the troops' bulldozing of contaminated earth away from the burnt
vehicles, black piles of pure DU ash and particles are still present at the
site. The toxic residue, if inhaled or ingested, is considered by scientists
to be the most dangerous form of DU.

One pile of jet-black dust yielded a digital readout of 9,839 radioactive
emissions in one minute, more than 300 times average background levels
registered by the Geiger counter. Another pile of dust reached 11,585
emissions in a minute.

Western journalists who spent a night nearby on April 10, the day after
Baghdad fell, were warned by US soldiers not to cross the road to this site,
because bodies and unexploded ordnance remained, along with DU
contamination. It was here that the Monitor found the "hot" DU tank round.

This burned dart pushed the radiation meter to the far edge of the "red
zone" limit.

A similar DU tank round recovered in Saudi Arabia in 1991, that was found by
a US Army radiological team to be emitting 260 to 270 millirads of radiation
per hour. Their safety memo noted that the "current [US Nuclear Regulatory
Commission] limit for non-radiation workers is 100 millirads per year."

The normal public dose limit in the US, and recognized around much of the
world, is 100 millirems per year. Nuclear workers have guidelines 20 to 30
times as high as that.

The depleted-uranium bullets are made of low-level radioactive nuclear-waste
material, left over from the making of nuclear fuel and weapons. It is 1.7
times as dense as lead, and burns its way easily through armor. But it is
controversial because it leaves a trail of contamination that has half-life
of 4.5 billion years - the age of our solar system.

In the first Gulf War, US forces used 320 tons of DU, 80 percent of it fired
by A-10 aircraft. Some estimates suggest 1,000 tons or more of DU was used
in the current war. But the Pentagon disclosure Wednesday that about 75 tons
of A-10 DU bullets were used points to a smaller overall DU tonnage in Iraq
this time. US military guidelines developed after the first Gulf War - which
have since been considerably eased - required any soldier coming within 50
yards of a tank struck with DU to wear a gas mask and full protective suit.
Today, soldiers say they have been told to steer clear of any DU.

"If a [tank] was taken out by depleted uranium, there may be oxide that you
don't want to inhale. We want to minimize any exposure, at least to the
lowest level possible," Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a top Pentagon health
official told journalists on March 14, just days before the war began. "If
somebody needs to go into a tank that's been hit with depleted uranium, a
dust mask, a handkerchief is adequate to protect them - washing their hands

Not everyone on the battlefield may be as well versed in handling DU, Dr.
Kilpatrick said, noting that his greater concern is DU's chemical toxicity,
not its radioactivity: "What we worry about like lead in paint in housing
areas - children picking it up and eating it or licking it - getting it on
their hands and ingesting it."

In the US, stringent NRC rules govern any handling of DU, which can legally
only be disposed of in low-level radioactive waste dumps. The US military
holds more than a dozen NRC licenses to work with it.

In Iraq, DU was not just fired at armored targets.

Video footage from the last days of the war shows an A-10 aircraft - a plane
purpose-built around a 30-mm Gatling gun - strafing the Iraqi Ministry of
Planning in downtown Baghdad.

A visit to site yields dozens of spent radioactive DU rounds, and
distinctive aluminum casings with two white bands, that drilled into the
tile and concrete rear of the building. DU residue at impact clicked on the
Geiger counter at a relatively low level, just 12 times background radiation

But the finger-sized bullets themselves - littering the ground where looters
and former staff are often walking - were the "hottest" items the Monitor
measured in Iraq, at nearly 1,900 times background levels.

The site is just 300 yards from where American troops guard the main
entrance of the Republican Palace, home to the US and British officials
tasked with rebuilding Iraq.

"Radioactive? Oh, really?" asks a former director general of the ministry,
when he returned in a jacket and tie for a visit last week, and heard the
contamination levels register in bursts on the Geiger counter.

"Yesterday more than 1,000 employees came here, and they didn't know
anything about it," the former official says. "We have started to not
believe what the American government says. What I know is that the occupiers
should clean up and take care of the country they invaded."

US military officials often say that most people are exposed to natural or
"background" radiation n daily life. For example, a round-trip flight across
the US can yield a 5 millirem dose from increased cosmic radiation; a chest
X-ray can yield a 10 millirem dose in a few seconds.

The Pentagon says that, since DU is "depleted" and 40 percent less
radioactive than normal uranium, it presents even less of a hazard.

But DU experts say they are most concerned at how DU is transformed on the
battlefield, after burning, into a toxic oxide dust that emits alpha
particles. While those can be easily stopped by the skin, once inside the
body, studies have shown that they can destroy cells in soft tissue. While
one study on rats linked DU fragments in muscle tissue to increased cancer
risk, health effects on humans remain inconclusive.

As late as five days before the Iraq war began, Pentagon officials said that
90 of those troops most heavily exposed to DU during the 1991 Gulf War have
shown no health problems whatsoever, and remain under close medical

Released documents and past admissions from military officials, however,
estimate that around 900 Americans were exposed to DU. Only a fraction have
been watched, and among those has been one diagnosed case of lymphatic
cancer, and one arm tumor. As reported in previous articles, the Monitor has
spoken to American veterans who blame their DU exposure for serious health

But DU health concerns are very often wrapped up in politics. Saddam
Hussein's regime blamed DU used in 1991 for causing a spike in the cancer
rate and birth defects in southern Iraq.

And the Pentagon often overstates its case - in terms of DU effectiveness on
the battlefield, or declaring the absence of health problems, according to
Dan Fahey, an American veterans advocate who has monitored the shrill
arguments from both sides since the mid-1990s.

"DU munitions are neither the benign wonder weapons promoted by Pentagon
propagandists nor the instruments of genocide decried by hyperbolic anti-DU
activists," Mr. Fahey writes in a March report, called "Science or Science
Fiction: Facts, Myth and Propaganda in the Debate Over DU Weapons."

Nonetheless, Rep. Jim McDermott (D) of Washington, a doctor who visited
Baghdad before the war, introduced legislation in Congress last month
requiring studies on health and environment studies, and clean up of DU
contamination in the US. He says DU may well be associated with increased
birth defects.

"While the political effects of using DU munitions are perhaps more apparent
than their health and environmental effects," Fahey writes, "science and
common sense dictate it is unwise to use a weapon that distributes large
quantities of a toxic waste in areas where people live, work, grow food, or
draw water."

Because of the publicity the Iraqi government has given to the issue, Iraqis
worry about DU.

"It is an important concern.... We know nothing about it. How can I protect
my family?" asks Faiz Askar, an Iraqi doctor. "We say the war is finished,
but what will the future bring?"

by Richard Tyler
World Socialist Web, 20th May

The Belgian government has intervened to block a war crimes case against US
General Tommy Franks. The lawsuit, lodged with the federal prosecutor's
office in Brussels on May 14, accuses Franks of being responsible for war
crimes carried out during the US war against Iraq.

Jan Fermon, the lawyer acting for the 19 plaintiffs, told the World
Socialist Web Site, "One of the main groups of charges is that US forces
fired at and bombed civilian targets. We are not speaking here about what is
generally called 'collateral damage.' It doesn't involve people who were
simply too close to a military target. It involved deliberate attacks on
civilians, as distinct from what is generally called collateral damage.

"Another charge is that US forces attacked the press, and specifically the
offices of Al Jazeera. The case clearly shows this was a deliberate attack.
There were several attacks on press offices and on the Palestine Hotel,
where journalists were staying. It was a coordinated attack on the press.
The attack on the Al Jazeera offices was carried out by a tank-buster plane;
it was very deliberate and specifically aimed at the Al Jazeera offices."

Fermon, who also acted in the 2001 Rwanda war crimes trial-the first (and
only) successful prosecution under Belgium's "universal jurisdiction" law,
said that military chiefs were obliged to stop war crimes. As
commander-in-chief, General Franks was responsible for the way in which his
men acted on the ground.

The lawsuit against Franks details five particular war crimes: the
deliberate bombing of civilian neighbourhoods; attacks on the press (in
particular the killing of an Al Jazeera journalist); the use of cluster
bombs against civilians; the targeting of medical personnel and
infrastructure; and not acting to prevent looting.

Moving rapidly to try to quash the case, a spokesperson for Belgian Prime
Minister Guy Verhofstadt said that an extraordinary cabinet meeting would be
convened this week "permitting us to invoke the new law of universal
jurisdiction, putting a stop to the legal action against General Franks."

Belgium first enacted the law of "universal jurisdiction" in 1993, enabling
Belgian courts to hear cases involving war crimes and crimes against
humanity even if they were committed abroad and did not involve Belgian

After a number of high-profile lawsuits were filed citing the "universal
jurisdiction" law, most recently against George Bush Snr. and Colin Powell
for actions during the first Gulf War in 1991, the Belgian government passed
an amendment in April 2003 effectively gutting the law.

The amended law makes it much harder to bring a case where neither the
victim, plaintiff or the accused are Belgian. In contravention of the
democratic norm separating the powers of the executive and judiciary, as it
now stands, the law allows the Belgian government to intervene directly in
cases and refer them to another jurisdiction-either that of the accused, the
victims or an international court.

Jan Fermon had filed a suit on behalf of 17 Iraqis and 2 Jordanians accusing
General Franks of war crimes. The case is based in part on testimony
collected by members of Brussels based Médecine pour le Tiers Monde
(Medicine for the Third World), who were in Baghdad between March 16 and
April 22 and who recorded video statements from eyewitnesses and the
relatives of civilians killed in US attacks. Dr Colette Moulaert and Dr
Geert Van Moorter also accuse coalition forces of deliberately targeting
medical facilities and ambulances.

Fermon told Radio Free Liberty, "Again and again, they were asked by the
victims and their families and the medical personnel with whom they were
working if there was any possibility to hold someone accountable for these
very serious human and civilian casualties. So that's why the doctors
finally asked me to find out if there was any possibility to get an
independent inquiry on this because that's the first objective of this, to
get an independent investigation, and to eventually establish through this
investigation responsibilities and in some way to get the case to justice."

The lawsuit immediately unleashed a trans-Atlantic political storm, as US
administration officials and senior military figures pressed the Belgian
government to quash the case, under threat of "diplomatic consequences,"
according to BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb.

Brussels daily Le Soir quoted State Department spokesperson Philip Reeker
saying that the US "certainly expects the Belgian government to take the
necessary steps to reject this legal action."

General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "It's
looked upon by the US government as a very, very serious situation... and it
could clearly have an impact on where we gather," implying that it could
make Belgium a no-go area for NATO meetings.

Echoing Washington, Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt and Foreign Minister
Louis Michel called the case a "political abuse" of the law of universal

Fermon told the WSWS, "All court cases related to international events like
war or international terrorism are political, in that way. The problem is to
find some way to get accountability and justice for the victims, that is the
main aim of the lawsuit."

The case cites more than a dozen specific incidents violating international
law, including:

‹ The deliberate use of firearms and bombing against unarmed civilians. One
plaintiff accuses US soldiers of targeting them as they attempted to buy
bread on April 15.

‹ Assaults on members of the press, in particular the attack on the offices
of Al Jazeera in which journalist Tariq Ayoub was killed on April 8.

‹ The use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. Several plaintiffs report
children being wounded by these munitions lying in the street.

‹ Attacks on medical personnel and institutions. The lawsuit cites three
separate attacks on Iraqi ambulances. One plaintiff accuses US forces of
attacking an ambulance transferring the wounded to Al Kindi hospital on
April 9, and another of killing two pregnant women being taken to hospital
in an ambulance on April 7; the third ambulance was targeted on April 9 as
it entered the Al Liqa'a hospital.

‹ Allowing the plundering of civilian and cultural institutions. The suit
cites the Al Beit Al Iraqi cultural centre in Baghdad being plundered,
although American tanks were closely monitoring the area.

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office must decide within one month if
there is a case to answer. However, Federal Prosecutor Serge Brammertz
announced last Friday May 16 that in his opinion the suit should not be
heard in Belgium.

Washington has clearly exerted maximum pressure on Belgium to ensure that no
US military leader faces trial for war crimes in the Belgian courts, which,
given American refusal to submit to the International Criminal Tribunal in
The Hague, is the only jurisdiction where such a charge could presently be

World Socialist Web, 20th May

What is the basis of the case?

The legal basis is, on the one hand, the four Geneva Conventions, then on
the other hand the Belgian law of universal jurisdiction of 1993. This
foresees that anyone can have recourse to Belgian justice if he or she is
the victim of war crimes, crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity. A
combination of these two forms the basis of this case.

How many specific charges are there, and could you describe the most serious

One of the main groups of charges is that US forces fired at and bombed
civilian targets. We are not speaking here about what is generally called
"collateral damage." It doesn't involve people who were simply too close to
a military target. It involves deliberate attacks on civilians, as distinct
from what is generally called collateral damage.

Another charge is that US forces attacked the press, and specifically the
offices of Al Jazeera. The case clearly shows this was a deliberate attack.
There were several attacks on press offices and on the Palestine Hotel,
where journalists were staying. It was a coordinated attack on the press.
The attack on the Al Jazeera offices was carried out by a tank-buster plane;
it was very deliberate and specifically aimed at the Al Jazeera offices.

What do you think about the government's intervention to try to quash the

It would be illegal to do so. The law as it now stands says very clearly
that the Belgian government can only send the case to the court of the
country of origin of the crime (i.e., the US) if the country of origin
recognises the crime aimed at by the lawsuit. A problem is that part of the
lawsuit is based on the additional protocols to the Geneva Convention, which
have not been ratified by the US. That means that part of the legal basis on
which we base the lawsuit simply does not exist in the US. Therefore, it
would be illegal in that situation to send the case to the US courts.

Secondly, it is a requirement of the law of universal jurisdiction that all
parties, the victims and the perpetrators, should be able to receive a fair
trial in the country where the case is referred. We think this presents a
big problem with the US courts for several reasons. It would be a military
court. Also, if you look at the pressure the US is putting on the Belgian
government, it is clear the US executive is trying to influence the Belgian
courts through the Belgian government. If you look at an American court and
judge, then it is clear the same type of pressure would be used.

It is clear that Iraqi civilian victims complaining about US military
action, and more specifically about the way the military command handled the
US military action, could not get a fair trial in a US court at this time.

Does the law of universal jurisdiction permit Belgium to send the case to an
international court, such as the International Criminal Tribunal at The

Yes, but only under the condition that the countries involved, and
particularly of the perpetrator, in this case the US, has ratified the
statutes of the International Criminal Court. And that is not the case in

What do you think will happen next?

I think the Belgian government will try to refer the case to the US courts,
since it is clear the government intends to capitulate to US pressure. We
will fight this by all legal means in the Belgian courts.

How would you respond to accusations that the case is a "political abuse" of
the universal jurisdiction law? Or that you are taking on the case for
political reasons?

Most of those making this accusation have not read the lawsuit. They are
making a general comment, without knowing what specific crimes are detailed
in the case. This is rather a peculiar way to handle such a problem.

We are talking about crimes committed in the course of a war, and a war is
always a highly politically sensitive question. So in this regard, yes, you
could say it is a political case. But all the court cases related to
international events like war or international terrorism are political in
that way.

The problem is to find some way to get accountability and justice for the
victims, that is the main aim of the lawsuit.,3604,959442,00.html

by George Monbiot
The Guardian, 20th May

Belgium is becoming an interesting country. In the course of a week, it has
managed to upset both liberal opinion in Europe - by granting the far-right
Vlaams Blok 18 parliamentary seats - and illiberal opinion in the US. On
Wednesday, a human rights lawyer filed a case with the federal prosecutors
whose purpose is to arraign Thomas Franks, the commander of the American
troops in Iraq, for crimes against humanity. This may be the only judicial
means, anywhere on earth, of holding the US government to account for its

The case has been filed in Belgium, on behalf of 17 Iraqis and two
Jordanians, because Belgium has a law permitting foreigners to be tried for
war crimes, irrespective of where they were committed. The suit has little
chance of success, for the law was hastily amended by the government at the
beginning of this month. But the fact that the plaintiffs had no choice but
to seek redress in Belgium speaks volumes about the realities of Tony
Blair's vision for a world order led by the US, built on democracy and

Franks appears to have a case to answer. The charges fall into four
categories: the use of cluster bombs; the killing of civilians by other
means; attacks on the infrastructure essential for public health; and the
failure to prevent the looting of hospitals. There is plenty of supporting

US forces dropped around 1,500 cluster bombs from the air and fired an
unknown quantity from artillery pieces. British troops fired 2,100. Each
contained several hundred bomblets, which fragment into shrapnel. Between
200 and 400 Iraqi civilians were killed by them during the war. Others,
mostly children, continue to killed by those bomblets which failed to
explode when they hit the ground. The effects of their deployment in
residential areas were both predictable and predicted. This suggests that
their use there breached protocol II to the Geneva conventions, which
prohibits "violence to the life, health and physical or mental well-being"
of non-combatants.

On several occasions, US troops appear to have opened fire on unarmed
civilians. In Nassiriya, they shot at any vehicle that approached their
positions. In one night alone they killed 12 civilians. On a bridge on the
outskirts of Baghdad they shot 15 in two days. Last month, US troops fired
on peaceful demonstrators in Mosul, killing seven, and in Falluja, killing
13 and injuring 75. All these actions appear to offend the fourth

The armed forces also deliberately destroyed civilian infrastructure,
bombing the electricity lines upon which water treatment plants depended,
with the result that cholera and dysentery have spread. Protocol II
prohibits troops from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of
the civilian population such as ... drinking water installations and

The fourth convention also insists that an occupying power is responsible
for "ensuring and maintaining ... the medical and hospital establishments
and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory". Yet when
the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked why his troops had failed
to prevent the looting of public buildings, he replied: "Stuff happens. Free
people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." Many
hospitals remain closed or desperately under-supplied. On several occasions
US soldiers acted on orders to fire at Iraqi ambulances, killing or wounding
their occupants. They shot the medical crews which came to retrieve the dead
and wounded at the demonstration in Falluja. The Geneva conventions suggest
that these are straightforward war crimes: "Medical units and transports
shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of

The armed forces of the US, in other words, appear to have taken short cuts
while prosecuting their war with Iraq. Some of these may have permitted them
to conclude their war more swiftly, but at the expense of the civilian
population. Repeatedly, in some cases systematically, US soldiers appear to
have broken the laws of war.

We should not be surprised to learn that the US government has responded to
the suit with outrage. The state department has warned Belgium that it will
punish nations which permit their laws to be used for "political ends". The
Belgian government hasn't waited to discover what this means. It has amended
the law and denounced the lawyer who filed the case.

The Bush government's response would doubtless be explained by its
apologists as a measure of its insistence upon and respect for national
sovereignty. But while the US forbids other nations to proscribe the actions
of its citizens, it also insists that its own laws should apply abroad. The
foreign sovereignty immunities act, for example, permits the US courts to
prosecute foreigners for harming commercial interests in the US, even if
they are breaking no laws within their own countries. The Helms-Burton Act
allows the courts in America to confiscate the property of foreign companies
which do business with Cuba. The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act instructs the
government to punish foreign firms investing in the oil or gas sectors in
those countries. The message these laws send is this: you can't prosecute
us, but we can prosecute you.

Of course, the sensible means of resolving legal disputes between nations is
the use of impartial, multinational tribunals, such as the international
criminal court in the Hague. But impartial legislation is precisely what the
US government will not contemplate. When the ICC treaty was being
negotiated, the US demanded that its troops should be exempt from
prosecution, and the UN security council gave it what it wanted. The US also
helped to ensure that the court's writ runs only in the nations which have
ratified the treaty. Its soldiers in Iraq would thus have been exempt in any
case, as Saddam Hussein's government was one of seven which voted against
the formation of the court in 1998. The others were China, Israel, Libya,
Qatar, Yemen and the US. This is the company the American government keeps
when it comes to international law.

To ensure that there was not the slightest possibility that his servicemen
need fear the rule of law, George W Bush signed a new piece of
extra-territorial legislation last year, which permits the US "to use all
means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release" of US citizens
being tried in the court. This appears to include the invasion of the
capital of the Netherlands.

All this serves to illustrate the grand mistake Tony Blair is making. The
empire he claims to influence entertains no interest in his moral posturing.
Its vision of justice between nations is the judicial oubliette of
Guantanamo Bay. The idea that it might be subject to the international rule
of law, and therefore belong to a world order in which other nations can
participate, is as unthinkable in Washington as a six-month public holiday.
If Blair does not understand this, he has missed the entire point of US
foreign policy. If he does understand it, he has misled us as to the purpose
of his own diplomacy. The US government does not respect the law between
nations. It is the law.

by Mahan Abedin
Lebanon Daily Star, 20th May

The belated disarmament agreement between the United States and the
Mujahideen Khalq Organization (MKO) has surprised many analysts both in Iran
and the United States. After all, US forces initially went to great lengths
in disarming every entity - Iraqi or otherwise - associated with the ousted
Baathist regime, save the Mujahideen.

The disarmament agreement followed a cease-fire that led to accusations of
American hypocrisy and double standards in the "war against terrorism."
Despite American military officials' allusion to the tactical nature of the
cease-fire, there were fears the US might use the MKO as a short-term
bargaining chip in the crucial transitional period in Iraq. Although some
elements in the Pentagon were keen to preserve the armed status of the
Mujahideen for a brief period - as a bulwark against Iranian influence - it
seems the longer-term vision and strategic analysis of the State Department
and the CIA prevailed. In the eyes of the American Intelligence community,
the MKO is a failed proxy force that is almost universally disliked by
Iranians. Therefore whatever short-term gains were to be made by using the
it as a tool of American policy in Iraq would have been dwarfed by the
damage inflicted on America's reputation. Moreover the extensive lobbying of
Iranian monarchist groups, coupled with the pressure applied by Iraqi forces
- in particular the Kurdish PUK and the SCIRI - swung the argument
decisively in favor of disarmament.

Richard Boucher's announcement on May 9 that the US intends to bring to an
end the Mujahideen's terrorist activities inside Iraq was widely perceived
in both internal and exiled Iranian political circles as a fitting end for
the armed wing of an organization intimately aligned with the ousted
Baathist regime. The decision to disarm the Mujahideen was also more
compatible with American military action against the MKO during the Iraq

The MKO claimed neutrality in the recent Iraq war, but it in fact took
active measures against invading American and British forces. As of March
2003, the Mujahideen maintained 16 bases in the southern, central and
north-central areas of Iraq. Virtually all of these came under attack during
the war. The first attack took place on March 28, when RAF warplanes
attacked the Habib base, situated 82 kilometers north of Basra. The base was
also attacked on the following day and subsequently abandoned by the MKO.
The Americans bombed the massive Ashraf camp (72 kilometers northeast of
Baghdad) more akin to a garrison town serving as the MKO's global
headquarters, on March 29. Ashraf was bombed again on April 4, April 12 and
April 14.

The rapid advance of coalition armies forced the MKO to abandon all of its
bases outside the northeastern Diyala Province. The advance of US Marines
from the east was met by limited MKO resistance resulting in the abandonment
of the Faeze base (18 kilometers to the southwest of Kut) and the smaller
Homayoon military outpost (32 kilometers north of Faeze in north-central
Wasit Province). Additionally the seemingly unassailable US Third Infantry
came into direct conflict with MKO forces in the Fallujah base (the
southwest of Baghdad, on the main road to Jordan). Limited combat took place
between a small number of MKO fighters, who amalgamated their units with
Republican Guard divisions and Iraqi militia, and the third infantry. The
Fallujah base was swiftly abandoned and subsequently looted by local Iraqis.
The MKO's two main bases to the north of Baghdad, Bagherzadeh and Seemorgh,
were both abandoned on April 8, a day before the fall of Baghdad. The US Air
Force had bombed both camps repeatedly on the April 4-5. As a result, up to
30 MKO personnel, including the camp commanders, Shaheen Hatami and
Mahboobeh Soofaf, were killed.

As Baghdad fell on April 9, the Mujahideen assembled nearly all their forces
in Ashraf. The retreat there had been preceded by the abandonment of bases
in the extreme east of Iraq. During the course of this retreat MKO forces
had been repeatedly ambushed by a collection of PUK, Al-Badr Corps and
Iranian IRGC fighters. For their part the Americans stepped up the bombing
of the Ashraf headquarters, with a view of exacting a speedy capitulation.
This capitulation was secured by April 21, and Vincent Brooks disclosed some
of its details in a Central Command briefing on the following day.

The Ashraf commander, Parichehr Bakhshaif, had directed the communications
with the Americans. The main MKO communications agent with the Americans was
Mehdi Barai, a veteran Mujahideen activist. Indeed it was Barai who signed
the cease-fire with the Americans, enabling the MKO to remain fully armed,
but nevertheless effectively quarantined inside Ashraf.

The recent disarmament agreement was effectively an imposition buttressed by
the US Army V Corps' encirclement of Ashraf. The MKO held out for two days
but was finally coerced into signing an agreement that irreversibly
dismantles the armed wing of the organization. The US military negotiator,
General Ray Odierno, refused to categorize the agreement as surrender, in
order to maintain some dignity for the Mujahideen. The MKO's representative
in the talks was Mozhgan Parsaii, the nominal head of the organization (real
power resides with Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam). The agreement
stipulates the quarantining of the organization inside Ashraf and
subordinates it to complete American control. It is highly unlikely the MKO
will have any form of presence in Iraq beyond the autumn of 2003.

The future of the MKO seems bleak. A seminar dedicated to assessing the
future of the Mujahideen was held in Paris on April 18. The gathering was
mainly organized by around 80 ex-MKO leaders, many of whom had been
previously imprisoned and mistreated by the organization. Among the speakers
was Baroness Emma Nicholson, an MEP (representing the British Liberal
Democrats) who passionately argued for the disbandment of the MKO. The
seminar concluded with the unanimous consensus that the MKO would
disintegrate upon expulsion from Iraq.

Despite these dire predictions the MKO is unlikely to disintegrate in the
near future. There is little doubt the loss of its Iraqi base will prove a
devastating blow, but the group has the cohesion and resources to survive
this crisis. The cohesion of the organization derives from its
self-righteous and millenarian ideology - critics have argued the MKO is
little more than a cult - and the absolute authority of its leader, Massoud
Rajavi. Hence providing Rajavi can survive the crisis (and it seems that he
has), the MKO is unlikely to collapse.

Nevertheless despite the probability of short-term survival, the MKO is
unlikely to remain a coherent force for too long. The destruction of its
armed wing is likely to undermine the group's centrality in exiled
opposition circles. This "de-centralization" will have an adverse impact on
the group, which has prided itself for 22 years on being the only credible
alternative to the ruling regime.

Mahan Abedin, a London-based financial consultant and analyst of Iranian
politics, wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Iraq Report Vol. 6, No. 22, 16 May 2003


Six Iraqi children were killed and 10 others injured while they attempted to
dismantle a bomb in the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah on 12 May, Reuters
reported on 14 May. "It seems the children were trying to get the copper out
of an Iraqi munition when it exploded," the news agency quoted a British
military spokeswoman as saying from London. Christian Aid emergency officer
Dominic Nutt told Reuters in a telephone interview that Iraqi children are
desperate for copper to sell. "This is happening every day; it doesn't
always get reported officially," he said, adding, "There are arms dumps all
over the country, and add to that the collapse of the economy and industry
and people are desperate for things to sell." U.S. and British forces are
reportedly in the process of collecting unexploded ammunition strewn across
Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Ananova, [20th May?]

German lawyers are suing George W Bush for starting a war of aggression in

The group of 14, from Cologne, have filed a lawsuit with the German attorney

They accuse Bush, as well as members of the German and British governments,
of violating international law.

The move is technically possible under a new German law which came into
effect only last year.

It allows the country's authorities to prosecute violations of international
law, even if there is no direct connection to Germany.

Lawyer Heinrich Comes, one of the initiators of the suit, says they are
aware Mr Bush is unlikely to ever appear in court.

"He is protected by his immunity," he told the Express newspaper. "But we
want to bring those responsible within the Bush administration to a German

The German government was opposed to the war in Iraq, although it did allow
US planes to fly across its territory.

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