|NATO - ICTY|
|Carla del Ponte|
June 2, 2000
Web posted at: 9:25 p.m. EDT (2125 GMT)
UNITED NATIONS -- The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor announced Friday that there is no basis for an investigation into allegations that NATO committed war crimes during last year's bombing of Yugoslavia.
In a speech to the U.N. Security Council, Carla del Ponte said she had no evidence of any deliberate bombing of civilians during the NATO campaign.
"Although some mistakes were made by NATO, I am satisfied there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or any unlawful military targets during the NATO campaign," she told council members.
NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson applauded the decision, saying it came as no surprise since the alliance acted in accordance with international law.
The decision "should help ensure that the world's attention is focused exactly where it belongs -- on bringing the real war criminals of the Balkans to face justice in The Hague," Robertson said in a statement.
Del Ponte criticized the Serbian government for not allowing her investigators into Kosovo to check into its claims of war crimes against Kosovar Serbs, and for denying her a visit to visit Belgrade.
When allegations were made that the U.N. tribunal was anti-Serb and that there was an imbalance in the indictments issued, "the fact that I am unable to gain access to the victims and evidence makes such allegations rather hollow," she said.
Since last year's 78-day air campaign, lawyers working on behalf of Yugoslavia and a separate Russian parliamentary commission have given prosecutors complaints and evidence they say supports their charge that NATO forces committed war crimes.
The allegations included the strike against a bridge as a passenger train was crossing it, the bombing of a refugee convoy near Djakovica, and the targeting of the Serbian television building in Belgrade.
Del Ponte told council ambassadors that the tribunal had conducted a thorough examination of all the facts and evidence presented, as well as a detailed legal analysis and concluded "there is no basis for opening an investigation into any of these allegations or into other incidents related to the NATO bombing."
The decision is likely to further damage relations between the tribunal and Yugoslavia, which has accused U.N. prosecutors of bias and essentially cut off all cooperation with them.
Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennadi Gatilov backed the Yugoslav position, saying del Ponte's decision to terminate any investigation was premature. Gatilov mounted a stinging attack on the tribunal, accusing it of being "politicized" and biased against the Serbs -- a charge del Ponte said she was "stupified" to even hear.
"I completely reject that accusation," del Ponte said, adding that she had consistently sought meetings with the Russians to explain the work of the court and had been ignored.David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, applauded del Ponte's decision, adding the investigators were "bending over backwards to be as fair and equitable as possible with respect to such allegations."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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|The Washington Post|
PARIS, June 2 President Clinton and other NATO leaders will not be investigated by the United Nations on charges that they committed genocide and other war crimes during the 1999 bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, told the Security Council today that her office had concluded an 11-month assessment of charges that NATO forces committed crimes against Serbian civilians and had decided not to open a formal investigation.
"Although some mistakes were made by NATO, I am very satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets by NATO during the bombing campaign," she said.
Earlier, Del Ponte was quoted by the Italian daily La Repubblica as saying, "The closure of the NATO file clears the ground, so now we can concentrate all our forces on the main task: the arrest and trial of the key officials responsible for the crimes committed in the Balkans."
The decision did not come as a surprise. NATO and its member governments cooperated in the inquiry and appeared confident that the decision would go their way.
Although the tribunal's review of the war crimes allegations against NATO was low-key, it stoked fury in Congress and among military leaders in Washington, who were angry that U.S. leaders were being scrutinized for war crimes comparable to those widely ascribed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and other Serbian leaders indicted by the tribunal.
U.S. opposition to a permanent U.N. criminal court--enshrined in a 1998 treaty signed by 120 other nations--rests on just such fears that a foreign court could prosecute and judge U.S. citizens.
The report of the tribunal working group will not be released for about 10 days, according to tribunal sources. But they said the 50-page document covers point by point some 20 allegations brought in three briefs--one by a group of Yugoslav critics, another of international legal scholars and a third from the Russian parliament.
The charges include such well-publicized incidents as the destruction of a crowded railway passenger car by an allied missile and NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. About 500 civilians were killed by NATO air attacks during the war, researchers from Human Rights Watch concluded earlier this year.
An independent investigation by the New York-based human rights group found that NATO had violated international humanitarian law by using cluster bombs in populated areas and targeting bridges and factories with no clear military purpose. "This is nothing for the Pentagon to be proud of," said Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director.
But Paul Risley, the prosecutor's spokesman in The Hague, the Dutch city where the tribunal is headquartered, said of the embassy bombing and the railway attack: "All of these events were publicly disclosed and admitted to by NATO at the time. The prosecutor judged these to be genuine mistakes on the part of NATO."
The review committee also weighed an allegation that NATO ordnance contained environmentally hazardous depleted uranium and another that its cluster bombs were designed to target civilians, sources at the tribunal said. The group concluded the charges did not merit an investigation.
In the Italian newspaper article, Del Ponte said judging the legitimacy of the NATO campaign "is not our task and is not part of our brief, just as we cannot decide on general responsibilities of countries or international organizations. It is our task to pinpoint possible individual responsibilities."
Russia's deputy envoy to the U.N., Gennady Gatilov, complained to the Security Council that Del Ponte's action was premature and that the tribunal has been biased against Serbs. In a heated rejoinder, Del Ponte said she was "stupefied" by the Russian's remarks. "I completely reject that accusation," she said.
The gravest charges against President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and their allied counterparts were that killings of civilians amounted to anti-Serb genocide under international law--the deliberate destruction of groups on ethnic or religious grounds.
Those charges, Risley said, "were dismissed rather easily" by the review committee.
Special correspondent Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.
|Belgrade was hit by repeated strikes|
She told the UN Security Council that, although she felt Nato had made mistakes during its 11-week campaign, she was satisfied there had been no deliberate targeting of civilians.
Nato was accused of committing war crimes by Yugoslavia and Russia. Incidents included the strike against a bridge as a passenger train was crossing it, the bombing of a refugee convoy, the targeting of the Serbian television building in Belgrade and the bombing of the Chinese embassy.
Nato carried out its air-strikes to stop President Slobodan Milosevic's forces killing and expelling members of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, who were demanding independence.
Miss del Ponte told a meeting of the council that she had considered a number of complaints from lawyers acting on behalf of Yugoslavia and a Russian parliamentary commission.
Nato said it went to "extraordinary lengths" to ensure its troops complied with the laws of war.
Correspondents say Miss del Ponte's decision could further damage relations between the tribunal and Yugoslavia.
The government in Belgrade has accused UN prosecutors of bias and has refused to allow investigators to visit the country.
But Miss del Ponte said Belgrade was doing itself a disservice by hampering the work of the investigators.
"When allegations are made against the tribunal that it is anti-Serb and that there is an imbalance in the indictments issued, the fact that I am unable to gain access to the victims and evidence make such allegations rather hollow," she said.
Earlier Miss del Ponte told an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, that the tribunal would now concentrate on pursuing senior Serbs responsible for war crimes following the break-up of the former Yugoslav Federation.
"I consulted with lawyers before bombing" headlines Italy's La Repubblica in
an interview with General Clark, who was
"happy but not surprised" at last
week's 'acquittal' of NATO decided by the Hague Court. He told the newspaper that "in
order to avoid violating international laws, every military action was submitted for the
evaluation of our lawyers."
Gen. Clark mentioned that these lawyers were located in
Aviano (Italy), Washington, London and Paris.
|The Washington Post|
By Fred Hiatt
Monday, June 19, 2000; Page A17
Human rights advocates lobbied passionately for U.S. military intervention to save the people of Kosovo. Now many of those same advocates are lobbying for an international criminal court that may ensure that the United States never stages a humanitarian intervention again.
These advocates, along with many U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere, believe they have occupied the moral high ground, and they are having a grand time needling America for its supposed arrogance and obtuseness. But what feels good now will be costly down the road, and the price will be paid not by self-satisfied human rights lobbyists, nor by the United States, but by the next victims of genocide who will be left without protection.
The sad part about all this is that a permanent war crimes tribunal is not a bad idea. It could have been created with enough deference to national sovereignty to satisfy the United States and still perform most of the useful functions that human rights groups have in mind.
But the process is not moving toward such a sensible outcome. What is emerging instead is a permanent tribunal and permanent prosecutor's office that will operate with almost no external checks and balances--and that will claim jurisdiction over Americans even if the United States does not sign or ratify the treaty creating it. Already a dozen nations, including France, have ratified the treaty establishing this tribunal. When the list grows to 60, the court will begin to operate.
And how will the United States respond? Congress provided a clue last week with the introduction of the "American Servicemembers' Protection Act," which would bar U.S. participation in any United Nations peacekeeping mission unless U.S. servicemen were granted immunity from prosecution by the new court. The bill's supporters include the chairmen of the House and Senate foreign affairs, intelligence and judiciary committees, among others. Sen. Jesse Helms is behind it, but he is not isolated in his position.
The bill in some respects goes too far. It bars any U.S. cooperation with the court, an unwise tying of the next president's hands. But its concerns for U.S. soldiers are far from delusional, despite Human Rights Watch's scorn for the bill's "scare tactics."
Kosovo provides a useful example. The United States and its allies intervened without U.N. authorization--a violation of Serbian sovereignty and probably of international law. Human rights advocates at the time weren't too hung up about that, and for good reason. Sometimes the only way to stop bad men from doing bad things is with force; lawyers won't get the job done.
Once NATO did intervene, though, human rights groups were quick to accuse the United States of violating the laws of war, mostly through its unintentional bombing of civilians. Amnesty International still maintains that the United States committed a war crime when it attacked a Serbian television station (though the architects of hate radio in Rwanda are themselves accused of war crimes, and the United States is criticized for not having prevented those stations from broadcasting).
Not to worry, say the court's proponents. An existing, ad hoc international court on war crimes in Yugoslavia, after deliberating for 11 months, decided not to haul Gen. Wesley Clark or any other American up on war-crime charges. Besides, the proponents add, the new court can't take jurisdiction over alleged war crimes if the offending country investigates the charges on its own.
Sen. Helms can be forgiven for finding neither of these arguments entirely reassuring. That the Yugoslavia court took the charges as seriously as it did is worrisome enough, and--created as it was by the U.N. Security Council--it is far more sensitive to political ramifications than will be the new, unchecked prosecutorial bureaucracy. And while the new prosecutors will have to give deference to a host-country investigation, they and their equally untethered judges will have the power to decide whether such an inquiry is satisfactory or a sham.
There is a need for a standing court. In Sierra Leone right now, the criminal Foday Sankoh has been apprehended, the government of Sierra Leone would like outside help in trying him--and there is no one ready to help. A permanent war crimes tribunal would meet such a need.
That's an easy case, because the country itself wants to cede jurisdiction. The permanent court also could have been set up to take over when the U.N. Security Council requested it--as the council did for Yugoslavia. Such a system would ensure that national sovereignty would be overridden in this undemocratic way only in the most egregious cases.
Such a system also would give a veto over any prosecution to the five permanent members of the Security Council--the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain. Neither the human rights lobbyists nor other governments would countenance such great-power unfairness. Why should Russia in Chechnya get off, they ask, or China in Tibet?
Of course, the countries making these righteous arguments in many cases are the same ones that can't bring themselves even to vote for a resolution condemning Russian and Chinese behavior when the issue rolls around each year in the United Nations. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder just welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin like a long lost brother; if the court that Germany wants were operating, presumably Schroeder would have had to arrest Putin for Russia's savage crimes in Chechnya.
But never mind. It feels good right now to be so principled. And let someone else worry about the next Kosovars who might need American help.