10 June 2000

: One year on, since NATO halted its illegal 78-day illegal bombing of Yugoslavia.


Undermining International Law

Imperialism, on 2 June 2000, through Justice Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, in effect announced that while imperialism remains the dominant world ideology, there will be no justice. The exact words Carla Del Ponte used to inform the U.N. Security Council of this state of affairs, went as follows:

“I am


satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets by NATO during the bombing campaign”.

This deceit ranks alongside Hans Christian Andersen’s rogue weavers, who wanted the people to say: “Oh! how beautiful are our Emperor’s clothes!” But, as all could see, the Emperor was in fact naked. Imperialism too is morally naked, and no amount of self seeking opportunists stating otherwise, is going to make it not so. As in the story, before all the people cried out: “the Emperor has nothing on at all”, it first required those with courage to publicly speak the truth.

An extensive report published on 7 June 2000 by Amnesty International, speaks the truth.

Amnesty International

, stated that NATO violated international law in its bombing of Yugoslavia by hitting targets where civilians were sure to be killed. They site NATO’s bombing of the Belgrade headquarters of Radio Television Serbia, on April 23, 1999, as:

“a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime.”

Sixteen people died in the pre-dawn attack, nearly all of them technicians, security staff and make-up artists. This obscenity is further compounded, by Clare Short, the Labour Governments International Development Secretary, who claimed that: “(Serbian TV

) is a source of propaganda that is prolonging this war and causing untold new suffering to the people of Kosovo”.

She was obviously on message with General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander of the air war against Yugoslavia, who said:

“We knew when we struck that there would be alternate means of getting the Serb Television. There’s no single switch to turn off everything but we thought it was a good move to strike it, and the political leadership agreed with us.”


The Independent

newspaper notes:

“In other words, Nato deliberately attacked a civilian object, killing 16 civilians, for the purpose of disrupting Serb television broadcasts in the middle of the night for approximately three hours. It is hard to see how this can be consistent with the rule of proportionality.”


The Independent

7 June 2000).

Yet Judge Carla Del Ponte has the barefaced audacity to try to pass this off as a mistake. Clare Short, at the time, clearly endorsed the decision of the radio and television headquarters being deliberately targeted:

“This is a war, this is a serious conflict, untold horrors are being done. The propaganda machine is prolonging the war and it’s a legitimate target”


The Independent

24 April 1999.)

A report from the Human Rights Watch, Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign (February 2000), has confirmed approximately 500 civilian deaths as a direct result of NATO bombing practices in violation of the norms of international law: in deliberate attacks on illegitimate targets, in the refusal to take the necessary, often elementary, precautions to protect civilian life and in the use of cluster bombs.

Michael Mandel the Canadian Professor of Law leading the International team of lawyers that are pressing for NATO leaders to be indicted for war crimes, has said, in a letter to the Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor, Justice Carla Del Ponte:

“No legal conclusion to the contrary of Human Rights Watch could relieve you of your duty to prosecute the individual NATO leaders responsible for the crimes against civilians factually confirmed in the report”.

He goes on to say that

: “

your failure to act on the thousands of complaints against NATO that have reached your office over the past year, are turning this investigation into more of a farce than a judicial proceeding.… for all the faith that has been put in your Tribunal by the people of the world, it continues to conduct itself as if it were an organ of NATO and not of the United Nations


He records that:

“In violation of international law, the Charter of the United Nations, and the Geneva Conventions, these NATO leaders ordered a bombing campaign that, in attacking Yugoslavia with more than 25,000 bombs and missiles: directly killed between 500 and 1800 civilian children, women and men of all ethnicities and permanently injured as many others; indirectly caused the death of thousands more, by provoking the retaliatory and defensive measures that are entirely predictable when a war of this kind and intensity is undertaken, and by giving a free hand to extremists on both sides; directly and indirectly caused a refugee crisis of enormous proportions, with about 1 million fleeing Kosovo during the bombing; caused 60 to 100 billion dollars worth of damage to an already impoverished country; and left in its wake a Kosovo of lawlessness and ethnic violence, under the direct supervision of NATO, in which hundreds have been murdered and hundreds of thousands driven out.

“Not only was this anti-humanitarian war illegal in itself, it was, as you well know, carried out in flagrant and direct violation of the Geneva Conventions, norms of international law that it is your duty to enforce.”

He damningly and accurately recognises, that:

this war must be understood as an attempt by the United States, through NATO, to overthrow the authority of the United Nations and to replace it with NATO’s military might, to be used wherever strategically advantageous and whatever the human consequences.

(International Lawyer, Professor Michael Mandel.15/3/00).

He ends by accusing Carla Del Ponte of:

“irreparably discrediting the work of your tribunal … you are dealing blows to international law from which it will be difficult for it ever to recover; that your actions and inactions have encouraged NATO in its violence against the civilian population of Yugoslavia and in the cruel sanctions it continues to impose upon it; and that you, too, must therefore bear a share of the blame for all this suffering.”

On 2 June 2000, Carla Del Ponte told UN Security Council:

“Although some mistakes were made by NATO, …There is no basis for opening an investigation into any of these allegations.”.

International Law — Is Allowing Nato / Imperialism To Get Away With Murder


Financial Times

2 August 1999, reported: Despite NATO’s aerial bombing ‘campaign’ halting in June “

the murder rate in Kosovo was running at about 30 people a day, most of the victims being Serb”.

Since then NATO’S legacy of killing has continued. In the year since NATO


its illegal 78 day continuous reign of aerial terrorism over Yugoslavia,

more than 100 people, mainly children, have been blown to pieces

. Their deaths are the result of NATO’s munitions that failed to deliver their humanitarian message at the time of being scattered across Yugoslavia.

Tuesday, 23 May, 2000, Nicholas Wood in Pristina for the BBC, reported on NATO’s inaction to clear up the deadly unexploded cluster bombs:

” The head of the UN’s de-mining programme in Kosovo has blamed Nato for the slow progress made to clear up unexploded bombs in the province. … John Flanagan, the head of the Mine Action Co-Ordination Centre in Pristina, says essential information about the precise location of cluster bomb sites was withheld from his group. Almost 1,400 cluster bombs were dropped in Kosovo, mainly by British and US planes. The shells break up into dozens of smaller bomblets and scatter over an area of one square kilometre. About 10% fail to explode on impact, and remain on the ground. Mr Flanagan says his teams would have been able to mark out and de-mine far more areas if Nato had co-operated earlier. The UN had to lobby Nato officials in Brussels and Washington before the information was handed over. Since the arrival of Spring there has been a steady increase in the number of casualties from mines and cluster bombs. In April, 15 people were injured compared with 13 in March, and six in February. The bombs are particularly attractive to children. The American bomblets are plastic and coloured bright yellow. However, they contain an incendiary device – shrapnel – and armour piercing explosive that can pierce steel 25 cm thick. Unlike most mines they often kill or maim more than one person at a time. K-For has the responsibility to mark out “essential sites”. But the Mine Action Co-Ordination Centre says as much as 40% of risk areas have yet to be cordoned off.”

Civilian deaths from cluster bombs started being reported as early on as 10 April 1999. It was only after a “technical malfunction” of a cluster bomb used in an attack on the urban Nis airfield on 7 May 1999, that the White House quietly issued a directive to restrict cluster bomb use (at least by U.S. forces).

But for the British government, the increasing number of civilian deaths and the known “technical malfunction” of cluster bombs, was no curb on their use, as the Human Rights Watch Report notes, that being in full possession of this information:

Nevertheless, the British air force continued to drop cluster bombs.

This callous approach by the British Labour government to human life, exposes the reality of imperialism, and of Tony Blair’s claim, to so called “values of civilisation”.

The dropping of cluster bombs, virtually indiscriminately, created the problem of them being discovered in embarrassing places, for a supposedly humanitarian mission. As in the case of the village school, where two Gurkha soldiers, working for the British army, were killed when they were blown up clearing unexploded Nato cluster bombs lying in the grounds of a schoolhouse in a village in Kosovo. (

The Times

22 June 1999).

A year on since the death of the two Nepalese Gurkhas, there has been little or no adverse reaction from the ‘international community’, on the use of people from underdeveloped countries to clear up the deadly-high-tech waste of the new world order. Hence, capitalist market forces, clothed with the veneer of social democracy, continues unabated in the international trading of human beings. This is demonstrated by the unindicted war criminal Tony Blair, as he prepares for the British army to reduce manpower shortages, by

“filling vacancies with Gurkhas for a third of the cost of regular troops

“, (

The Sunday Times

11 June 2000).

This not only illustrates how capitalism functions, but also how relevant and advanced was the understanding of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, when they so early on correctly identified the barbarity of capitalism and of its advocating class:

“The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations … and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment.” … It has resolved personal worth into exchange value. And in place of the numberless and feasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.”

(MANIFESTO OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels)

It is this “Free Trade”, that the greedy capitalist class and their political lackeys in the NATO countries, through military bombardment and economic sanctions, want to impose on the people of Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile the US, the world’s biggest arms supplier and self appointed “policeman” of the imperialist “new world order”, refuses to allow American troops to remove unexploded cluster bombs. As Jonathan Steele reported in

The Guardian

on March 14, 2000:

“The US is refusing to allow American troops to remove the thousands of unexploded cluster bombs dropped by Nato planes on Kosovo last year. As the snows melt and the first planting season since the Nato air strikes approaches, Albanian and international officials fear that the death toll from bomb casualties will rise as farmers start to plough, children play in the fields and people go into the woods to collect timber for cooking. Cluster bombs are far more deadly than land mines… But for fear of the “bodybag syndrome”, whereby the bodies of US casualties are returned home in bags, the Pentagon has ruled that it will not order its professional disposal experts to defuse them. Each cluster bomb unit contains up to 200 weapons the size of a tennis ball canister. The unit opens up at about 2,000ft, unleashing a hail of the bomb canisters that swamp an area the size of four football pitches with lethal shrapnel. Designed as an anti-tank weapon, each bomb can also penetrate five inches of steel. During the Kosovo war, US and British pilots were under orders to drop them from above 15,000ft to keep their aircraft safe from enemy fire. Hundreds of the bombs missed their targets.”

This last point concerns the Rules of Engagement, which the Amnesty International Report makes clear:

“The requirement that NATO aircraft fly above 15,000 feet to provide maximum protection for aircraft and pilots — made full adherence to international humanitarian law virtually impossible”.

The Human Rights Watch Report February 2000, identifies four areas, which it describes as areas ‘

where NATO fell short of its obligation to minimize civilian deaths

’. These are:

1.NATO’s use of cluster bombs in populated areas.

2.NATO’s attacks in populated areas during the day when civilians were most likely to be present.

3. NATO’s attacks on mobile targets without ensuring that they were military in nature

4. NATO’s decision to strike some targets of little or no military value despite a substantial risk of civilian deaths. Such as Serb radio and television headquarters in Belgrade.

This is not the result of one or two ‘mistakes’ in the heat of battle, but of accumulated and persistent bombing, that formed part of a policy that was deliberately engaging in psychological harassment of the civilian population.

The Human Rights Watch Report identified 90 separate bombing incidents that resulted in over 500 civilian deaths, in a period of 78 days. When ‘incidents’, resulting in civilian deaths, are running at the rate of more than one a day, these are not mistakes. They are war crimes.

No amount of whitewash from Government Committees can hide NATO’s war crimes in Yugoslavia. A Foreign Affairs committee report published 7 June 2000, said Nato air strikes on Kosovo were of “dubious legality”. But still, “the MPs broadly supported the decision to take military action”. Despite, as the committee added, “that the objective of establishing a multi-ethnic society in Kosovo had not been achieved”.

The cross-party committee was reported in

The Independent,

as saying: Operation Allied Force was contrary to the

“basic law of the international community”

, the United Nations Charter. The committee’s report said:

“We conclude that Nato’s military action, if of dubious legality in the current state of international law, was justified on moral grounds.”

The Guardian newspaper, which had supported the bombing campaign, was now a year later, on 8 June 2000, reacting with surprise and indignation at the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee’s conclusions:

“Nato’s intervention in Kosovo, the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee has ruled, was illegal under international law, but justified on moral grounds. Even in the age of the new imperialism, this is a pretty breathtaking conclusion. We are being asked to accept that it is morally fine to break international law, as long as we do so with good intentions.”

The Guardian had been happy enough to accept with good intentions, the Nato Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark, speaking as the bombing campaign began, when he plainly said:

“We’re going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately … destroy “

It is then something of an understatement, when the Deputy Russian Ambassador to the U.N., Gennadi Gatilov complained to the Security Council, saying: “

Del Ponte’s decision to terminate any investigation was premature”.



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