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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] How will the court handle the war crimes case against General Franks? The case is now in the hands of the federal prosecutor who has to decide whether an investigating judge has to be appointed. That is what the plaintiffs hope. Peter Franssen http://www.ptb.be/scripts/article.phtml?section=A3AAABCCBCBC&obid=19680&PHPSESSID=60455b111e56a3c8a76de3d789e621b1 15-05-2003 He could also decide to refer the case to another country: the U.S. for example. That is what the governments of the U.S. and Belgium hope. Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Michel said on Wednesday May 14: "The case against General franks is an attempt to misuse the law. If there are reasons for an investigation it would be better held in the U.S." 1 Does that correspond to the letter and the spirit of the universal jurisdiction law, which has provided the plaintiffs with the basis for the case? Not at all because the law says that it is only possible to forward a case if the independence of the judiciary is assured in that country. The Americans have proved that this is not the case. Attorney Jan Fermon, the lawyer of the plaintiffs: "Considering the pressure the U.S. government exerts on the Belgian courts that have to handle this case, we can imagine how it would be in the U.S." 2 The federal prosecutor can also decide to refer the investigation to Iraq, where the war crimes have taken place. But is an independent investigation possible there? Currently, the Americans are screening the whole judicial system of Iraq, including the 500 judges. Those who do not fit into the American plans will be sent home. The Iraqi penal code is being rewritten by a team under the leadership of American lawyers and judges. 3 An independent investigation in a country that is reduced to a colony of the U.S.? That is as realistic as an independent inquiry into the crimes of the Belgian king in Congo 100 years ago when the country was still a colony. If the federal prosecutor implements the law, he will appoint an investigating judge and the judicial investigation will be opened. Unless. unless Justice Minister Verwilghen intervenes. He can ignore the decision of the federal prosecutor and refer the case to another country anyhow. That would be a blatant violation of the principle of the separation of powers that says that the parliament has to make laws, the government implements them and the judiciary punishes violations. This principle is a cornerstone of our democracy. The Americans say that the outcome of the case is a test for the relations between the U.S. and Belgium. In reality, however, it is a test case for justice and democracy. Footnotes 1 Interview with Louis Michel during VRT news broadcast, May 14th 2003, 13:00 2 Interview with Jan Fermon during VRT news broadcast, May 14th 2003, 13:00 3 Center for Strategic and International Studies, A wiser peace: an action strategy for a post-conflict Iraq, January 2003, p. 21 _______________________________________________ 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