UN prosecutor to review Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Sat Jan 15 10:36:20 PST 2000

Whether the UN war crimes tribunal is officially investigating or merely unofficially reviewing the evidence, Carla Del Ponte has not rejected in principle the charge that NATO violated international law last year in its imperialist bombing of Yugoslavia.

I lost this report which first appeared Thursday, but is worth writing into the archives.

Whether this tribunal would also consider an application that the Russian government is violating international law in its attack on Chechnya, is another interesting subject.

Chris Burford




Thursday January 13, 2000

The chief prosecutor at the UN war crimes tribunal, Carla del Ponte, will visit Nato next week when she is expected to discuss allegations that the alliance violated international law during its bombing of Yugoslavia, her spokesman said yesterday.

During her visit to Brussels next Wednesday, she will meet the Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson, and take questions from the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's policy-making body, her spokesman, Paul Risley, said.

Her staff are studying a dossier of claims made by an international group of lawyers, though she recently insisted that no formal investigation of Nato's actions was under way.

Ms del Ponte has also said she will press Nato to step up its efforts to arrest more suspects wanted by the tribunal. Key among them are the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander, Ratko Mladic.

The tribunal was handed a dossier last year by a group of international lawyers led by Michael Mandel, a law professor at York university in Toronto. It accused Nato of "grave violations of international humanitarian law", including "wilful killing".

The dossier referred to the civilian deaths from Nato's bombing raids, including the mistaken attack on a hospital in Nis, in central Serbia.

"This is a historic opportunity to demonstrate the even-handedness of international justice," Professor Mandel said after delivering the dossier last year.

Other international lawyers argued that such statements could be counter-productive and place the tribunal in an untenable position.

"The even-handedness we expect of the chief prosecutor does not mean treating allegations equally," Diane Orentlicher, director of the war crimes research office at the American university in Washington, said last week.

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