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NATO and international law

By George Thomas - posted Saturday, 15 May 1999

In his first sentence in an article on 1st May 1999 in the Hindustan Times, T.V. Rajeswar states the problem unambiguously: "The war unleashed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) on the sovereign nation of Serbia on March 24 was a clear case of aggression." Likewise, former Foreign Secretary of India, A.P. Venkateswaran in an article entitled, "The Arrogance of Power," writes: "The aerial attacks launched by NATO against Yugoslavia once again establishes the truth of the axiom, `Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.' There is no legal sanction whatsoever for this unilateral action by NATO carried out at the behest of the US, following the failure of the talks on Kosovo..."The following is a statement by the permanent representative of India to the UN Security Council on March 24th:

"The attacks that have started on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia a few hours ago are in clear violation of Article 53 of the Charter. No country, group of countries or regional arrangement, no matter how powerful, can arrogate to itself the right of taking arbitrary and unilateral military action against others. That would be a return to anarchy where might is right... The attacks now taking place on Yugoslavia have not been authorised by the Council, acting under Chapter VII, and are therefore completely illegal... What NATO has tried to do is to intimidate a government through the threat of attack, and now through direct and unprovoked aggression, to accept foreign military forces on its territory... There are several traditional descriptions for this kind of coercion; peacekeeping is not one of them."

This article condemns Serbian ethnic cleansing and commission of atrocities. There can be no dispute that Serbian forces are committing crimes against humanity in Kosovo. Those guilty should be indicted, caught and punished. However, would any of this have occurred if NATO had not launched this massive attack on a sovereign state, attacks against which there is no defence? A one year total of 2,000 dead in Kosovo before March 24th, of which two-third were Albanians and one-third Serbians, does not warrant inflicting a combined "Dresden," a "Tokyo Firebombing" and a "Hiroshima" (many of those American weapons contain Depleted Uranium) on the entire Serbian population. NATO's punishment of all Serbs beginning March 24th, preceded the crimes committed subsequently by Serbian forces in Kosovo. NATO's destruction of the infrastructure, ecocide on the environment including the use of depleted uranium in many of its bombs and missiles, will lead to the deaths and deformities of current and future generations.


NATO and International Law

The collapse of countervailing military power, and the reduction of the United Nations into an obedient organization of the United States, have now led to the disregard for a whole slew of international laws. The US and NATO are violating several international laws in attacking Serbia over Kosovo which is part of a sovereign independent state. American legal specialists have claimed that NATO actions constitute an evolving system of international laws. The reality is that NATO is making up the laws as it goes along to suit their convenience. The following are some of the main violations of international laws committed by NATO.

(1) NATO actions constitute a violation of Chapter I, Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter which states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations." Chapter VII, Article 39 states: "The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Efforts to justify these actions through earlier resolutions or Chapter 7 of the Charter are acts of distortion and convenience. Article 51 of Chapter VII states that "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." The problem is that Yugoslavia did not attack any neighbouring states outside its sovereign borders. Instead, Yugoslavia was attacked by NATO, although no member of NATO was attacked by Yugoslavia. The Security Council did not sanction the use of force here. NATO bypassed the Security Council to illegally attack Yugoslavia because of the certain veto by Russia and China.

(2) The bombing of Yugoslavia is a violation of NATO's own charter which claims it is a defensive organization and is only committed to force if one of its members is attacked. No member of NATO was attacked. The relevant sections of NATO's basic purpose reads as follows: "It provides deterrence against any form of aggression against the territory of any NATO member state. It preserves the strategic balance within Europe." When communist rule ended in Europe and the Warsaw Pact was dismantled, presumably these rationales for NATO's existence also ended. An alliance usually posits an enemy in advance, and the enemy lies outside of the alliance system. A commonly perceived external enemy is, after all, the main reason for forging an alliance, not for some vague eventuality that a powerful enemy may arise in some distant future. Without an external enemy there would not be sufficient consensus and motivation to keep the alliance together. There is no strategic balance in Europe to keep. NATO is dominant and international laws have become inconvenient.

No doubt, maintaining an alliance without predetermined external threats may serve notice to non- members that the security interests of the alliance countries will be protected. But a single military alliance without the prevalence of countervailing military power would be perceived as a serious threat to other states and will provoke them to seek appropriate military counter balancing measures. Already there are moves among Russia, China and India to forge a strategic partnership. The rationale for NATO's existence may soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As such, NATO constitutes a standing provocation to the rest of the world, an alliance in search of an enemy, or needing to create one, in order to justify its existence. Thus far, NATO has found its mission--as absurd as it may sound to normal people except NATO enthusiasts--in pulverising 8 million impoverished Serbs into the ground through 24 hour a day aerial bombardment. Hundreds, if not thousands of innocent Serbs have been killed. Meanwhile, it would be dishonest to argue that a weak Russia should not feel threatened by an expanded NATO and the attack on Serbia, a condition which the US will not contemplate in reverse including a similar attack on Canada.


(3) The so-called Rambouillet "Agreement" (Serbia did not agree to it) is a violation of Articles 51 and 52 of the 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Article 51 entitled "Coercion of a Representative of a State" declares: "The expression of a State's consent to be bound by a treaty which has been procured by the coercion of it representative through acts or threats directed against him shall be without legal effect. Article 52 entitled "Coercion of a State by the Threat or Use of Force"reads: "A treaty is void if its conclusion has been procured by the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations."

First Serbia was threatened with force in order to coerce it to sign the Rambouillet "Agreement," and when that failed Serbia and its entire population was subjected to massive terror bombing in order to bring about submission to NATO diktats. The Rambouillet "Agreement" was not negotiated with Yugoslavia but presented as a fait accompli. There were no discussions between Serbs and Albanians. The Albanians were persuaded to sign only because they were given to understand that once they got immediate de facto independence, within three years it would automatically become de jure. Yet Serbia accepted the political terms of the diktat only insisting that it will not accept a NATO military presence in Kosovo. Indeed, the military annex of the Rambouillet diktat was far reaching requiring that Yugoslavia allow NATO forces unhindered access to all of its territory at no cost to NATO. The military annex were sneaked in on the last day of the talks without the Russian representative's knowledge. Milosevic or no Milosevic, no state or statesman could have accepted these humiliating terms. It was a deliberate setup to invite rejection so as to proceed with NATO bombing.

The following exchange between NATO spokesman, Jamie Shea, and a reporter is revealing in the embarrassing terms of the "Agreement" in retrospect to the West.

Question: The Rambouillet Accords, appendix B in particular . . . called for the occupation of all of Yugoslavia. . . . Unrestricted passage throughout [its] air space, territorial waters, rail, airports, roads, bridges, ports without payment, the electromagnetic spectrum and so on. Was not the Rambouillet accord, which [Slobodan] Milosevic refused to sign, in fact, a desire to occupy all of Yugoslavia and not just simply Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: No, absolutely not. . . . We were looking . . . to be able to deploy an international security force, and that means, of course, being able to deploy the assets for that security force. . . . At the moment, all of our predeployed elements in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have come in by the Greek port of Thessaloniki. And for that, obviously, one has to have an agreement with the Yugoslav government to be able to have access to those roads, those rail systems, the air space for the business of setting up an international security presence, and therefore NATO personnel who may have had at the time . . . to transit temporarily through Yugoslavia will have had to enjoy those kinds of immunities. . . .

Question: That's simply not the language, sir. It's "free and unrestricted passage," the ability to detain people, for example, . . . and total use of electromagnetic spectrum, sir.

Jamie Shea: I was not a negotiator at Rambouillet . . . but my understanding, sir, is that it refers to, as you say, passage, exactly transit. And that's the point I've made.

(4) NATO's objectives in Kosovo are a violation of Clause IV of the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States of the Helsinki Accords Final Act of 1975 which guarantees the territorial frontiers of the states of Europe. According to this agreement: "The participating states will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating states. Accordingly, they will refrain from any action...against the territorial integrity, political independence, or the unity of any participating state..."

The former Yugoslavia was a party to this agreement, not the new states such as Croatia and Bosnia which subsequently invoked the Helsinki territorial principles to preserve their boundaries that were carved out from the old state. Ironically, while attempts by Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to remain part of Yugoslavia were denied, and their declarations of independence rejected in order to maintain the territorial integrity of Croatia and Bosnia which had never existed under modern international law, the right of the Kosovo Albanians to secede was recognized. What this so-called Rambouillet peace plan offered was (a) the severance of Kosovo through NATO bombing with immediate effect; or (b) the severance of Kosovo through NATO occupation three years later. The Serbs chose Option A.

(5) If the sequel to the bombing is recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, this will violate international law that prohibits recognition of provinces that unilaterally declare independence against the wishes of the federal authorities. Donald Horowitz, a leading specialist on nationalism and ethnic conflict, noted that the secessions of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Serbia followed the violent patterns of state dissolution elsewhere. He pointed out that states with no history of independence such as Bosnia were swiftly recognized without considering the consequences. "Led by Germany, European and American recognition of the former Yugoslav republics was accomplished in disregard of international law doctrine forbidding recognition of secessionist units whose establishment is being resisted forcibly by a central government.

The illegality of Unilateral Declarations of Independence was established by the British when Rhodesia's Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence when the British still ruled that state (now Zimbabwe). No doubt, the policies regarding UDI have been inconsistent. The secession of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1981, a defacto functioning state, has not been recognized although the secession of Bangladesh in 1971 under similar circumstances was recognized. The UDI of Biafra from Nigeria in 1967, Punjab from India in the mid 1980s, Abhkazia from Georgia in 1994, Chechnya from Russia in 1995, have not been recognized. Clearly, Palestinians have a right to declare themselves an independent state because it is not even a part of Israel but illegally occupied territories since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Yet Israel has warned that it will not recognize the threatened UDI by Yasir Arafat in May 1999.

In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was recognized although it did not fulfil any conditions of a defacto functioning state. The 1933 Montevideo Conventions on the Recognition of New States, declared that a state only comes into existence and should be recognized if it fulfils the following conditions: (a). Clearly recognized boundaries. Serbia and Croatia were contesting the boundaries of Bosnia. The Croatian areas wanted to join up with Croatia and already has, the Serbian areas wanted to join up with Serbia but was prevented by the West. (b) It must have a stable and well-defined population. Bosnia did not since refugees were on the move everywhere and what constituted the population of Bosnia was not clear because of Serbian and Croatian demands. (c) It must have a government in control. The Muslim government of Sarajevo was not in control anywhere, and even now Sarajevo is not in control of the Croatian and Serbian areas. Bosnia was a stillborn state and remains so.

(6) If the bombing of Yugoslavia results in the destruction of Serbian religious and historical sites, this will be in violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This Convention was adopted in the light of experience during two world wars when there was an unwanted destruction of cultural and historical property in Europe. It was first mooted during the First World War by President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Asquith. Keith Eirinberg noted that "Some 80 years later, the destruction of cultural property, this time on the territory of the former Yugoslavia [by the former Yugoslavs themselves], again shocks the world." But the United States could do little to protest these actions by Serbs and Croats because it had failed to ratify the 1954 Geneva Convention. Perhaps with good reason since it has engaged in such actions from the air itself in Iraq and now Yugoslavia.

In an article alleging that NATO was waging vandalism and not war, and that the crimes against humanity by Serbian forces were being countered by crimes against civilisation by NATO, Simon Jenkins of The Times, London (May 7) writes:

"While the human casualties have been well-publicised, this is not true of the damage to Yugoslavia's historic buildings. People may be more important than buildings, but that does not justify the needless destruction of cultural heritage. Shortly after the shift in targeting policy, on the night of April 18, a Nato missile penetrated the atrium of the Banovina Palace in the city centre of Novi Sad. It exploded with an almighty roar and destroyed perhaps the finest work of Art Deco architecture in the Balkans.... The flurry of million-dollar missiles which last week poured into the defence headquarters in Belgrade destroyed the best work of Yugoslavia's most distinguished post-war architect, Nikola Dobrovic. The most worrying damage so far has been to some 40 listed Yugoslav churches and monasteries. The medieval church of Gracanica, six miles from Pristina, is the treasure of the Balkans, under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The interior walls are entirely covered in 14th and 15th-century frescoes in remarkable condition. I find it inconceivable that their location is not known to Nato's targeting group. The celebrated 1830s Topcider Church in Belgrade has been repeatedly damaged, most recently by a bomb last Thursday. Belgrade's 16th-century Rakovica Monastery has taken a direct hit through its roof and on Tuesday an unexploded missile lodged in its residential wing. The 4th-century Byzantine basilica in the town of Nis has been damaged. The churches of the Virgin and St Nicholas in Kursumlija, dating from the 12th century, have also been hit, as has St Procopius's 9th-century church in Prokuplje. These buildings date from the earliest years of Christianity in eastern Europe. Extensive destruction is also reported and confirmed to historic churches in Krusevac, Pancevo and Vranje. The centre of the Kosovan capital of Pristina is bombed almost every night. As for the splendid Art Deco factory in Nis, that was flattened for impertinently making "military" cigarettes. It is simply untrue that Nato is avoiding civilian targets. "

Only in the aftermath of the intense bombing will we see the extent of the damage caused to the hundreds and even thousands of Serbian and Byzantine cultural and religious sites in Kosovo. The presidential palace, a place of historic value as the residence of the historical figure, Josip Broz Tito, and previously the royal residence of the Serbian monarchy, was deliberately destroyed. Because there were some telephones in there, it was declared a military communication centre. NATO arrogated to itself the role of determining what is or what is not a military site. Given the fact that it had run out of military targets, its definitions have become pretty lax.

(7) The 1949 Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War specifically prohibits deliberate attacks on civilians. Part II, Article 13 states: "The Provisions of Part II cover the whole populations of the countries in conflict, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, nationality, religion or political opinion, and are intended to alleviate the sufferings caused by war." The Geneva Conventions Act (amended 1995) of the United Kingdom specifically states that "civilians shall not be the object of attack" (Schedule 5, Article 52.1) and that "civilians shall enjoy protection unless they take a direct part in hostilities" (Schedule 6, Article 13.3). The attack on the Serbian TV station at night when it was inhabited only by civilians leading to the deaths of at least 20 civilians and serious injury to many more, constituted an intentional and premeditated attack on civilians. This was mass murder, not collateral damage.

(8) Beyond the above, there may be several other international regulations about the environment that is being violated by the attacks on chemical plants, fuel storage, and refineries. The 1976 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, and the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions. Article 55 states: "Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population."

Other conventions include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985, UNEP), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992). A Times of India editorial noted:

'In Yugoslavia, oil refineries and chemical plants have been attacked... Every attack on a chemical plant is likely to produce a Bhopal, big or small. While NATO authorities claim to have successfully attacked and destroyed chemical plants, they do not enlighten the world about the ecological consequences of such assaults, on the long-term impact on human beings and unborn children. The so-called `Gulf War Syndrome' focussed much concern on the US veterans exposed to the chemicals released during the last days of the war against Iraq in 1991. But there is ominous silence about the ecological impact of bombing oil refineries and storages, chemical plants and high rise buildings employing highly inflammable synthetic materials. It is cynical in the extreme to pretend that the air strikes against Yugoslavia have exclusively targeted military installations and the civil population has not been affected. This is sheer propaganda and undermines the credibility of NATO authorities in other statements they make."

The International Action Centre of New York, among others in Britain and elsewhere, have claimed that many of the American weapons used against Iraq, Bosnian Serbs, and now Yugoslavia utilise radioactive depleted uranium for more efficient penetrating effect. John Catalinotto, contributing editor of the book, Metal of Dishonor" Depleted Uranium, pointed out that the use of DU weapons in Yugoslavia "adds a new dimension to the crime NATO is perpetuating against the Yugoslav people, including those in Kosovo... DU is used in alloy form in shells to make them penetrate targets better. As the shell hits the target, it burns and releases uranium oxide into the air. The poisonous and radioactive uranium is most dangerous when inhaled into the body, where it will release radiation during the life of the person who inhaled it." The accumulated fall-out here could produce a Hiroshima aftermath effect on the people of Yugoslavia.

II. Humanitarian Law and the Territorial Integrity of States

United States and Great Britain have argued that the attack on Serbia was justified under the 1948 Genocide Convention and/or other general humanitarian principles. Claims have also been made that Article 2(4) of the UN Charter which upholds the territorial integrity of states against external military attacks, is countered by Articles 1(2) and 55 of the Charter, which speak of self-determination of peoples.

However, these articles, including Articles 73 to 91 which deal with "Non-Self Governing Territories" and the "Trusteeship System," pertain to decolonization and not the right to secede from existing sovereign independent states.

Article 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights passed in 1976 referred to the rights of minorities to self-determination but did not include the right to secede. It implied the right of peoples in all states "to free, fair and open participation in the democratic process of governance freely chosen by each state." A 1990 meeting of the then Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe in Copenhagen went far in affirming democratic rights and human rights of peoples but did not go as far as to endorse the right to secede.

In any case, the internal Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia declared their independence before any human rights violations or violence had occurred and were recognized. Those unilateral declarations of independence produced the subsequent violence. Before the NATO attack, the deaths of 2000 on all sides and the internal displacement of 300,000 people in Kosovo did not constitute genocide. In Kosovo, a province no different from Krajina of Croatia from where all Serbs were driven out, NATO bombing led to the human catastrophe.

Much has been made about "Serbian genocide" in Bosnia which has become the pretext for the illegal NATO assault on Yugoslavia. Like the "Kosovo genocide", this is almost exclusively propaganda rather than fact. Former State Department official, George Kenney, determined that between 35,000 and 50,000 people died in Bosnia on all sides. This is not an unusual casualty figure during civil wars, Bosnia being among the least tragic compared to conditions in Tibet (1950s), East Pakistan (1971) and post 1980 Afghanistan, Kashmir, Punjab, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, East Timor, and Rwanda, to mention just a few. The American civil war resulted in the deaths of almost a million people. Another measure of the Bosnian tragedy would be to compare it to the average of 20,000 people who are victims of homicide in the US every year. While the Investigators for the Hague Tribunal have interviewed only 223 women claiming to be raped, and have collected 575 affidavits from women claiming to be raped, compare this with an average of 100,000 women who file rape complaints with the police every year in the US, and an estimated 400,000 unreported rapes annually.

NATO's unqualified and unrestrained bombing campaign that includes the infrastructure is more likely to kill hundreds of thousands of Yugoslav citizens in the long run, through lack of proper medical facilities, polluted water supply, atmospheric poisoning, ozone depletion, and climatic change. If NATO committed genocide in Yugoslavia, then it is also likely that it will have committed genocide in the long term.

The moral justification for NATO's military assault is a retroactive post hoc rationalisation, viz., that President Milosevic had planned the total expulsions of the Albanians from Kosovo. Dr. Jan Oberg of the Transnational Foundation in Sweden has argued that Madeleine Albright's and NATO's claims are dubious. There was no such talk before the bombing began. The bombing was tied to the Rambouillet ultimatum to Yugoslavia that it either sign the Western diktat or get bombed severely. It had nothing to do with the post bombing humanitarian catastrophe. There were other troubling questions.

Why did the West not plan for this contingency if it knew of such a plan? How could Milosevic have got rid of all Albanians from Kosovo when some 1,800 OSCE monitors and several more UNHCR and International Red Cross personnel, not to mention journalists, were in Kosovo before the ultimatum was issued? It was NATO that pulled them out although Yugoslavia had agreed to nearly all of the provisions of the political terms of Rambouillet. How was it that OSCE, UNHCR and other international agencies never knew or sensed any such plan? Finally, if NATO knew of such an ethnic cleansing plan, why did it not plan its bombing campaign more carefully?

If NATO had the right to intervene in Kosovo, does it now have the right to intervene in Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and "Kurdistan where human rights violations are also taking place? Can any state now bypass the UN Security Council and attack another state by invoking humanitarian considerations? NATO cannot unilaterally invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention , the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other humanitarian laws, and proceed to attack independent states. Only the Security Council can do so which was deliberately bypassed by NATO knowing that Russia and China would veto such an attack.

There was no humanitarian intervention by the US and the West when the Nigerian authorities crushed the Biafra separatist movement between 1967 and 1970 causing the deaths of one million Ibos, when Pakistani forces killed one million and drove out 10 million Bengalis during the East Pakistani secessionist struggle in 1971, when the Pol Pot regime killed one million Cambodians, to name just a few cases. In the latter two cases, the US condemned India and Vietnam for their military interventions and threatened military action against them. However, both India and Vietnam intervened AFTER the human catastrophes had taken place. On the other hand, NATO's rush to bomb CAUSED the human catastrophe in Kosovo, as did Western interventions earlier in Croatia and Bosnia by promoting and rushing to recognize Croatia and Bosnia as independent states against the wishes of the Serbian populations.

Ethnic cleansing is not genocide. If it were, the Allied powers were guilty of genocide for endorsing the expulsion of some 12 million Germans from Poland, Czechoslavkia and elsewhere at the end of the Second World War, and surely European Jews committed genocide when it drove out nearly a million Palestinians to carve out the state of Israel in 1948. Many of those Palestinian refugees still remain more than 50 years later. What was definitely genocide was the European invasion of North America in earlier centuries and the near extermination of the native Indian population. There is a difference between driving populations out of a territory and of destroying them physically, although the Turkish expulsions of Armenians in 1914 led to their destruction and thereby their extermination which the Turkish authorities knew would happen.

There is now an ethnically pure Greater Croatia. At the end of the Bosnian and Croatian wars, almost 900,000 Serbian refugees have been ethnically cleansed from Croatia and the federation, 300,000 in Republika Srpska and 600,000 in Serbia.

This is more than any other ethnic group, including Albanians, but not counting internally displaced people.. Croatia conducted the largest single ethnic cleansing of the war with American military support. Yet there have been no cries for NATO military action against Croatia, obviously because of American political and military complicity in these expulsions.

III. The Question of NATO Aggression and War Crimes

Russia, China and India assessed NATO actions correctly. NATO, the only alliance left after the Cold War, committed aggression on Serbia. This illegal act by NATO, bypassing the United Nations Security Council, was all about saving NATO's face at a very heavy physical, mental, economic and ecological price for the Serbs. Washington's determination to achieve military victory against Serbia at any price is a display of revenge, retaliation, fanaticism and megalomania; not reason, prudence, fairness and wisdom.

In Eugene Davidson's account of the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46, Mr. Justice Jackson's clause on aggression defined the chief "Crime Against Peace" for which indictments against the Nazi political leaders were prepared: (a) Planning, preparation, initiation, or waging war of aggression,or war in violation of international treaties, agreements, or assurances; or (b) Participation in a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing. An application of this definition to NATO's actions against Serbia shows criminal culpability that calls for its own separate war crimes trial. Indeed, the UN human rights chief Mary Robinson warned that NATO too could be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Robinson pointed out that large numbers of civilians have been "incontestably" killed, civilian installations were targeted, and "NATO remains the sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb." However, the illegality of NATO's aggression is the real issue which needs to be judged by the International Court of Justice, not the ICTY.

(Revised May 17, 1999)

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About the Author

Raju G C Thomas is the Allis Chalmers distinguished professor of International Affairs at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His most recent book is as contributing editor of Yugoslavia Unraveled : Sovereignty, Self-Determination, Intervention, Lexington Books, 2004

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