The Guardian May 12, 1999


War Crimes Tribunal:
Complaints laid against NATO leaders

A group of lawyers from several countries has laid a formal complaint 
with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia 
(War Crimes Tribunal) against the individual leaders of the NATO countries 
and officials of NATO itself.

The group is lead by professors from Osgoode Hall Law School of York 
University in Toronto.

They have charged Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Javier Solana, Jamie 
Shea, Jean Chretien, Art Eggleton, Lloyd Axworthy and 60 other heads of 
state and government foreign ministers, defence ministers and NATO 
officials, with war crimes committed in NATO's six-week-old bombing 
campaign against Yugoslavia.

The list of crimes includes "wilful killing, wilfully causing great 
suffering or serious injury to body or health, extensive destruction of 
property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully 
and wantonly, employment of poisonous weapons or other weapons to cause 
unnecessary suffering, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or 
devastation not justified by military necessity, attack, or bombardment, by 
whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings, 
destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, 
charity and education, the arts and sciences, historic monuments and works 
of art and science."

The complaint also alleges "open violation" of the United Nations Charter, 
the NATO treaty itself, the Geneva Conventions and the Principles of 
International Law Recognised by the Nuremberg Tribunal (the latter of which 
makes "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression 
or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances" 
a crime).

Under the Tribunal's Statute "a person who planned, instigated, ordered, 
committed or otherwise aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or 
execution of a crime shall be individually responsible for the crime" and 
"the official position of any accused person, whether as Head of State or 
Government or as a responsible Government official, shall not relieve such 
person of criminal responsibility or mitigate punishment."

The complaint points to the bombing of civilian targets and alleges that 
NATO leaders "have admitted publicly to having agreed upon and ordered 
these actions, being fully aware of their nature and effects" and that 
"there is ample evidence in the public statements of NATO leaders that 
these attacks on civilian targets are part of a deliberate attempt to 
terrorize the population to turn it against its leadership."

Under the Statute, the Prosecutor is bound to "initiate investigations ex-
officio or on the basis of information obtained from any source, 
particularly from Governments, United Nations organs, inter-governmental 
and non-governmental organisations" and to "assess the information received 
or obtained and decide whether there is sufficient basis to proceed".

Upon a determination that a case exists, the Prosecutor is bound to 
"prepare an indictment containing a concise statement of the facts and the 
crime or crimes with which the accused is charged under the Statute and 
transmit it to a judge of the Trial Chamber."

The complaint asks the Judge to "immediately investigate and indict for 
serious crimes against international humanitarian law" the 67 named leaders 
and whoever else shall be determined by the Prosecutor's investigations to 
have committed crimes in the NATO attack on Yugoslavia commencing March 24, 
1999."

Participating in the action are 15 lawyers and law professors as well as 
the American Association of Jurists, a pan American organisation of 
lawyers, judges, law professors and students, with membership in all 
countries of the American Continent from Tierra del Fuego to Canada, an NGO 
with consultative status before the Social and Economic Council of the 
United Nations. 

Professor Michael Mandel, spokesman for the group of complainants, said in 
Toronto: "The bombing of civilians is not only immoral, it is criminal and 
punishable under the laws governing the Tribunal. You cannot kill a woman 
and child in Belgrade on the theoretical possibility that it might save a 
woman and child in Pristina. Even in a legal war you cannot kill civilians 
and destroy an entire country as a military strategy.

"But this is an illegal war and the NATO leaders are acting like outlaws. 
So far they have risked nothing by sending others to do their killing and 
destroying. We believe that if they are held individually responsible, as 
the law requires, they won't feel so free to spill other peoples' blood."

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