The International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia has rightfully
indicted Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity committed
against Kosovar Albanians. If there is any justice in this world, they
will send the “Butcher of the Balkans” to prison for the atrocities that
he has ordered.
If Slobodan is guilty for what his forces have done, can we allow
NATO to bomb Serbia with reckless abandon? Shouldn’t we hold NATO to the
same standard of conduct as the Yugoslavs? According to Thursday’s
Irish Times, an overwhelming majority of Greeks want Bill Clinton
and Tony Blair indicted for war crimes.
NATO insists that it has no liability for anything that it does and
anyone that it kills because “it’s Slobodan’s fault.” Let’s look at what
the rules of war say about NATO’s arrogant position.
After World War II, the Charter of the International Military
Tribunal, Nuremberg, Aug. 8, 1945, adopted the following definitions:
- War crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such
violations include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment … of
civilian population, … wanton destruction of cities, towns or
villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
- Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder … and other inhumane acts
committed against any civilian population, before or during the war. …
The United Nations is still using these definitions today. See
Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War
Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, G.A. res. 2391 (XXIII), annex, 23
U.N. GAOR Supp. (no. 18) at 40, U.N. Doc. A/7218 (1968).
On Monday, the Washington Post said that “NATO air strikes on
Yugoslavia’s power grid left millions of people without electricity or
water service today, bringing the war over Kosovo more directly into the
lives of civilians across the country.”
Question: Does a deliberate attack against civilian targets for the
sole intention of causing widespread suffering, injury and possible
death to innocent civilians constitute a war crime or crime against
The Washington Post said that “Three consecutive nights of air
attacks caused extensive blackouts in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Nis, the
three largest cities in Serbia. … Officials at the Pentagon and at
NATO headquarters in Belgium said allied jets deliberately attacked the
power grid, aiming to shut it down more completely and for longer
periods of time. … U.S. officials estimated the attacks had shut off
power to about 80 percent of Serbia.”
Question: Can NATO prove that there was a “military necessity” to
deprive 80 percent of the civilian population of electricity?
The Washington Post said that there is a growing sense in Serbia that
“the power outages (are) evidence that the genuine aim of NATO is not to
expel Yugoslav troops and Serbian special police units from Kosovo, but
to punish civilians and wreck the country.”
Question: If we can prove that this is the purpose of the latest
bombing campaign, does this constitute a war crime or crime against
The Washington Post said that “the attacks also slashed water
reserves by damaging pumps and cutting electricity to the few pumps that
were still operative. Belgrade’s water utility said that reserves of
drinking water had been reduced to 8 percent … and that 60 percent of
the city was without water service.”
Question: Is a deliberate attempt to deprive millions of civilians
access to clean and potable water a war crime or a crime against
The Washington Post reported that “… senior allied military
officials acknowledged that they also want to damage the quality of
everyday life so that suffering citizens will start questioning the
intransigence of their political leadership.”
Question: Is a deliberate attempt to cause widespread suffering of
innocent civilians a war crime or a crime against humanity?
On April 19, the London Times reported that NATO air strikes against
petrochemical, fertilizer and refinery targets created “an ecological
disaster” of toxic gases and water pollution. Gases released by these
attacks had poisoned at least 50 residents. Fish kills extended from
Yugoslavia to Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea.
Question: Does the deliberate creation of toxic hazards to civilians
constitute a war crime or a crime against humanity?
NATO has bombed hospitals, prisons, embassies, homes, apartment
buildings, civilian factories, busses, trains, churches, and bridges.
Killing, maiming, poisoning and harming civilians in Serbia will not
protect Kosovar Albanians.
Question: Have NATO’s bombs created wanton destruction of cities,
towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity?
I believe that we can make a strong case that some of the actions
that NATO has taken are war crimes and crimes against humanity. If we
are to restore the rule of law to the Balkans, we cannot let NATO
violate the human rights of millions of innocent Serbian civilians
without holding them to the same standards as the Butcher of the