9. juni 2000:
Amnesty International Public document
AI Index EUR 70/025/2000
News Service Nr. 102
NATO violations of the laws of war during Operation Allied Force must
NATO forces violated the laws of war leading to cases of unlawful
killing of civilians, Amnesty International said today, one year after
the end of Operation Allied Force against the Federal Republic of
In a report released today, "Collateral Damage" or Unlawful Killings?
Violations of the Laws of War by NATO during Operation Allied Force,
Amnesty International examines a number of attacks indicating that
did not always meet its legal obligations in selecting targets and in
choosing means and methods of attack.
"The 23 April 1999 bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio
and television, which left 16 civilians dead, was a deliberate attack
a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime," Amnesty
"Civilian deaths could have been significantly reduced if NATO forces
had fully adhered to the laws of war during Operation Allied Force,"
The laws of war include prohibitions on any direct attacks against
civilians or civilian objects, and on attacks which do not attempt to
distinguish between military and civilian targets or which, although
aimed at a legitimate military target, have a disproportionate impact
civilians or civilian objects.
In various attacks, including the Grdelica railroad bridge on 12
the road bridge in Luņane on 1 May, and Varvarin bridge on 30 May,
forces failed to suspend their attack after it was evident that they
struck civilians. In other cases, including the attacks on displaced
civilians in Djakovica on 14 April and Korica on 13 May, sufficient
precautions were not taken to minimize civilian casualties.
No proper investigation appears to have been conducted by NATO or its
member states into these incidents. No measures were taken against
anyone responsible except in the case of the attack against the
embassy in Belgrade.
"NATO member states must bring to justice any of their nationals
suspected of being responsible for serious violations under
international humanitarian law," Amnesty International said.
"Other states and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia should also investigate allegations of serious violations
international humanitarian law during Operation Allied Force."
"The victims of any such violation must receive redress," Amnesty
Among the report's other findings and recommendations:
- NATO should adopt a mechanism to ensure a common interpretation of
rules of war that reflects the highest standards of international
- NATO's command structure and decision-making processes on target
selection and assignment appear to contribute to confusion over legal
responsibility; they must be clarified
- Aspects of the Rules of Engagement -- specifically 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. NATO must ensure that its Rules
of Engagement fully comply with the highest standards of international
humanitarian law, are common to all member states, and are made public
to the maximum extent possible.
"Waging a coalition war is a complex endeavour and the judgments
required of military planners and soldiers engaged in combat are
particularly difficult. However, the most powerful military alliance
the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection
of civilians according to international humanitarian law," Amnesty
From 24 March to 10 June 1999 NATO aircraft flew over 38,000 combat
sorties against the FRY. The civilian death tolls given in detailed
government accounts range from 400 to 600. NATO has not released
official estimates of civilians or FRY combatants killed. No NATO
were killed in hostile action during the air campaign.
The laws of war prohibiting attacks on civilians are included in
particular in the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the 1949 Geneva
Conventions. France, Turkey and the United States are not parties to
this Protocol and should ratify it without reservations.
Amnesty International has extensively documented and campaigned for an
end to human rights abuses in Kosovo for over 10 years. During this
ethnic Albanians were victims of unlawful killings, torture and
ill-treatment, and unfair trials by the FRY and Serbian authorities,
although Serbs and others also suffered at the hands of ethnic
armed opposition groups.
The organization documented human rights violations by Serb forces and
others during NATO's bombing campaign, and continues to monitor and
campaign against human rights abuses against all ethnic groups under
UN Interim Administration in Kosovo.
Amnesty International takes no position on the political issues
surrounding the status of Kosovo. The organization does not judge
whether recourse to force by anyone is justified or not and therefore
takes no position on the legal or moral basis for NATO's military
intervention against the FRY. Amnesty International focuses strictly
the conduct of such intervention in light of the rules of
Amnesty International, International Secretariat, 1 Easton Street,
WC1X 8DJ, London, United Kingdom
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