Thursday

20th Jun 2019

US officials exempted from Belgian law

Belgium modified a controversial law this Sunday 22 June, on universal competence to exempt US officials from this piece of legislation.

From now on, the law can only be applied to Belgian citizens or persons living in Belgium. Also, the victim should be Belgian or must have had Belgian residence for more than three years.

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The law can no longer apply to citizens whose origins are from countries that already have a democratic system to trial and punish war criminals or human rights violations.

The modifications into the universal competence law came after the US threatened to move NATO headquarters away from Brussels. The reason was that a number of top US officials, like former US President George Bush (senior), vice president Dick Cheney and secretary of state Colin Powell have all had cases filed against them under this law for their role in first Gulf War.

More recently, in May, Belgium received a complaint against General Tommy Franks for the Iraq war.

Belgium denies acting under pressure

Officially, the Belgian government states that it did not respond to American threats but wanted to avoid abuses in using the law. But the law as such is a valuable one, the government thinks as it gave the opportunity of convicting several war criminals having had an active implication in Rwandan genocide.

Also, the law is in line with the Geneva Convention and its protocols and will prevent any abuses on Belgian soil.

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