Lawsuit against NATO by Canadian lawyers
LAWYERS CHARGE NATO LEADERS BEFORE WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL
A group of lawyers from several countries has laid a formal complaint with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia against all of the individual leaders of the NATO countries and officials of NATO itself. The group, lead by professors from Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto --where Tribunal prosecutor Louise Arbour was also a professor before becoming a judge -- 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 Recognized 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 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."
The complaint cites a recent statement of the President of the Tribunal, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, urging that: "All States and organisations in possession of information pertaining to the alleged commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal should make such information available without delay to the Prosecutor."
The complaint also cites a statement of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson in which she says that "large numbers of civilians have incontestably been killed, civilian installations targeted on the grounds that they are or could be of military application and NATO remains sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb...In this situation, the principle of proportionality must be adhered to by those carrying out the bombing campaign. It surely must be right to ask those carrying out the bombing campaign to weigh the consequences of their campaign for civilians in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
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, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations" 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 Judge Arbour 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." Copies of the charges have been sent to the accused. Participating in the action are 15 lawyers and law professors as well as the American Association of Jurists, a pan American organization 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 today: "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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Last Update: 13 Jul 2000