Saturday, May 7, 2005
Belgian Doctors Bill U.S. for Treating Iraqi Girl
We had a successful campaign with Hiba, an Iraqi girl that was treated in Belgium for over a year for leg wounds, caused by a cluster bomb during the U.S. invasion. Medical Aid For the Third World (MATW: www.intal.be/nl/index.php), the organisation that had 2 (later 4) doctors in Baghdad before and during the war, in cooperation with SOS Iraq (www.irak.be), and whose reports on a daily basis can be read at www.irak.be: Diary of 4 Belgian doctors of Medical Aid For The Third World in Baghdad, coordinated this action.
This effort received a lot of media-attention in Belgium. And we managed to explain through this case better the real situation in Iraq. Many famous sports people (Gella Van de Caveye: world and olympic champion Judo, and Kim Clijsters - tennis etc..) patronised and helped with the fundraising to pay this very expensive operation.
So this is one way to raise consciousness among the Western population for the war in Iraq, because we've sent the bill to the US embassy, as you can read underneath.
Belgian doctors sent an Iraqi girl home on Thursday after treating her for leg wounds caused by a cluster bomb during the U.S. invasion -- and sent the 51,570 euro ($66,650) bill to the U.S. embassy.
"We haven't heard from them yet," said Bert De Belder, coordinator of the humanitarian agency Medical Aid for Third World which brought the girl to Belgium.
"I'm curious to know their reaction," he told Reuters. "We're giving them 10 days to respond ... I don't think they will pay it."
The girl, 15-year-old Hiba Kassim, smiled to reporters as she waited for her flight to Jordan to meet her father. "Thank you, Belgium," she said.
Doctors brought Kassim to Belgium last year to try to save her left ankle, seriously injured by a cluster bomb that also killed her brother in Baghdad in 2003. After five operations and weeks of physiotherapy, Kassim is able to walk again, but with a slight limp.
De Belder said he sent the bill to the U.S. embassy because international law dictated that an occupying force was responsible for the well-being of the country's people. U.S. embassy officials were not immediately available for comment. ($1=.7737 Euro)
Full text of the letter to the US embassy underneath
Médecine pour le Tiers Monde asbl
Haachtsesteenweg 53 Chaussée de Haecht
Brussel 1210 Bruxelles
Fortis bank account number : 001-1951388-18
To the Honorable Mr. Tom C. Korologos
US Ambassador to Belgium Embassy of the United States
Regentlaan 271000 Brussels
Brussels, 25 April 2005
Re: payment of the medical bill of Iraqi war victim Hiba Kassim
Sir: On April 6, 2003, the US Air Force dropped a cluster bomb on the Baghdad neighborhood where 13-year-old Hiba Kassim was playing with her littlebrother Yussef. The bomb killed Yussef and seriously wounded Hiba in her left leg, abdomen and right knee. Dr. Geert Van Moorter and Dr. Claire Geraets of the Belgian humanitarian NGO Medical Aid for the Third World met Hiba a few days later in Baghdad's Al Nour Hospital, where she was being treated. In July 2003 and March 2004, Dr. Van Moorter met her again during his subsequent medical missions inIraq. After several operations and extended periods of revalidation, Hiba's left leg remained seriously shortened, malformed and non-functional.
After consultation with Iraqi health professionals, Medical Aid for theThird World decided to have Hiba transferred to Belgium for specialized medical care. The conditions of war and occupation prevailing in Iraq, the degradation of the Iraqi health care system and the deteriorating economicand social situation did not allow for the treatment that Hiba Kassim needed, including major orthopedic and plastic surgical operations.
Hiba Kassim did receive these in Belgium, in the St. Luke's General Hospital in Ghent and in the Pellenberg University Hospital in Louvain. After five operations and nearly eleven months in Belgium, she can now return to her home country.
On Thursday, April 28, Dr. Geert Van Moorter will accompany Hiba to Amman and hand her over to her father, who will travel to Amman from Baghdad to fetch his daughter.
Hiba is aware of the fact that war and occupation continue to make life very hard for her family, neighbors and friends. But this young girl, who turned 15 just last week, is determined to return to her country. She intends to study hard and hopes to become a doctor and serve her people.
Hiba is also convinced of the fact that the US government is the prime responsible for her people's suffering, and the sole responsible for her own, personal suffering.
We hold the US government accountable for the serious physical and psychological harm done to Hiba Kassim. First, US troops hit Hiba with a cluster bomb, while, according to International Humanitarian Law, targeting civilians in an international armed conflict is prohibited, as is the use of cluster bombs or ammunition in civilian areas.
Second, Hiba was not able to get proper medical care, while according to the Fourth Geneva Convention(Articles 50, 55 and 56), the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the medical supplies of the population and of ensuring and maintaining the medical and hospital establishments and services in the occupied territory.
As a humanitarian agency, we decided to step in and try, to the best of our ability, to provide Hiba Kassim with the care and the opportunities that the US occupation of her country denied her. But we promised to Hiba and to the broad group of supporters and sympathizers - including Olympic medalist and multiple world and European judo champion Gella Vandecaveye - that we would send the bill to the US government.
Please find enclosed the invoice for the medical care extended to Hiba Kassim, amounting to 51,570 euro. May we respectfully call on you, Mr. Ambassador, to assure that this invoice is properly paid for by your Administration at the soonest possible time, as a token restitution of the damages inflicted upon Hiba Kassim.
Mr. Ambassador, as you have been senior counselor with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad from May to December 2003, we believe you have particular reason to take a special interest in the case of Hiba Kassim. We expect you to exert all efforts to ensure your Administration's positive reply to our request.
Dr. Bert De Belder
Medical Aid for the Third World
Annex: Charge invoice nr. 2005/004