Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Friday, May 16, 2003
Just Back From the Movie Theatre

What can I say but... whoa!

Thursday, May 15, 2003
Off to See 'The Matrix: Reloaded'

Perhaps I'll even blog about it tonight or tomorrow...

The Franks Case

Recently an extreme left lawyer started a court procedure here in Belgium to try U.S. general Tommy Franks for war crimes. He started the suit in the name of seventeen people (from Iraq and Jordan) who claim U.S. forces deliberately targeted civilians in the recent conflict and also used cluster bombs against civilians.

The law on which he bases his claims is known in Belgium as the 'Genocide Law', which gives Belgian courts the right to pursue any human rights violation or war crime, no matter who committed it or where. Belgium has drawn a lot of criticism for this law, and that is why recently an addition to it was passed: if there were no Belgian victims or perpetrators, and the crime didn't take place in Belgium, the Belgian governent has the right to move the case to any tribunal it deems capable of handling the matter.

I.e. the Sharon case could be tried by Israeli justice, the Pinochet case by the Argentinians... The Arafat and Saddam cases remain to be seen, however: it can be pretty hard to find a competent tribunal in Palestine or Iraq right now I guess.

This brings us back to the Franks case: technically, the government can stop this case and hand it off to U.S. justice at any moment it chooses. The lawyer argues that there has to be an investigation of the crimes first (which is, he claims, the real goal of the lawsuit), after which the government can decide.

Right now, it looks like he will be getting his way: the current government won't meet anymore, and on Sunday there are elections here. Which usually means that there is no government for a few weeks while coalition negotiations are going on. So effective from Sunday there won't be anyone to hand off the case to another tribunal. The current government might decide to convene in a special session before that, but what are the chances, given the extremely sensitive nature of this case with large parts of the voters?

Fortunately for general Franks, the Belgian justice system is notorious for its lack of speed: my guess is that the case will be burried under a mountain of red tape, judicial backlog and procedural wrangling until the next government can quietly decide the U.S. is perfectly capable of handling the case.

No need to send in the marines... yet!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003
There is no File Here, Says Iraqi Information Minister

Error 404

Monday, May 12, 2003
Belgian Version of the Countryside Alliance?

Just found this in the morning paper: (English translation below)
Gazet van Antwerpen - Binnenland
20.000 betogers tegen 'groene betutteling'
In Gent hebben zondagvoormiddag zo'n 20.000 landbouwers, hengelaars, jagers en natuurliefhebers betoogd voor een leefbaar platteland. Het Platform Buitengebied had tot de betoging opgeroepen om te protesteren tegen het Vlaams Ecologisch Netwerk, en tegen wat zij de 'groene betutteling' noemen.

20.000 protesters against 'green nannying'

Sunday morning in Ghent about 20.000 farmers, fishermen, hunters and nature-lovers protested for a liveable countryside. The 'Country-area Platform' called for the demonstration to protest against the Flemish Ecological Network, and against what they called the 'Green nannying'.

At the same time, polls show that support for Agalev, the Flemish Green party, has plumetted in recent days. They went from well over 10% in the last elections to just above 5,7 % (the minimum needed to even get seats is 5%...). Here's hoping the polls don't lie, this time.

As Not Seen on Belgian TV

Trailer is a Mobile Lab Capable of Turning Out Bioweapons, a Team Says
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 10 — A team of experts searching for evidence of biological and chemical weapons in Iraq has concluded that a trailer found near Mosul in northern Iraq in April is a mobile biological weapons laboratory, the three team members said today.