The Guardian 11 May, 2005

doctors bill US for treating Iraqi girl

Belgian doctors have sent an Iraqi girl home after treating her for leg wounds caused by a cluster bomb during the US invasion and sent the 51,570 euro ($66,650) bill to the US 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. "We're giving them 10 days to respond ... I don't think they will pay it", Dr Belder added.

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 in 2003. The US Air Force dropped a cluster bomb on the Baghdad neighbourhood where 13-year-old Hiba Kassim was playing with her little brother Yussef. The bomb killed Yussef and seriously wounded Hiba in her left leg, abdomen and right knee.

After five operations and weeks of physiotherapy, Kassim is able to walk again, but with a slight limp.

"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", the doctors wrote in a letter accompanying the bill.

"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", the letter said.

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