Hope on the Balkans Kosov@ Crisis 2000
Kosovo must not be forgotten:
In the spring of 1999 Brussels, as the headquarters of NATO, was the centre of decision and execution of the bombing of Yugoslavia by the 16 member nations of that organisation in the name of human rights. We believe that the first anniversary of such a serious event must not go unnoticed, but on the contrary should induce every citizen to think seriously about the enormous stakes. The war was prepared, decided and prosecuted against the most fundamental principles of international law. NATO decided to take action after the Rambouillet talks broke down. And yet these talks had made serious progress of the political issues before last minute conditions, which were apparently unacceptable to the Serbs, led to an impasse. Our wishing to express our unequivocal and unreserved condemnation of the action taken by NATO in no way implies any support of or complacency towards the Belgrade authorities and in particular their management of the ethnic question. Similarly, our sustained reprobation of the continuation, without any legal grounds, of the bombing of Iraq and the embargo imposed on this country, must not be interpreted as any allegiance to the Baghdad regime. That said, the explicit threats to bomb Yugoslavia, made as early as the summer of 1998, already went against the prohibition of the threat to use force, enshrined in Article 2-4 of the United Nations Charter. The policy to compel Belgrade to grant a particular political status to the province of Kosovo was tantamount to interference in the internal affairs of a country which, under the terms of international law, fall under the national purview of Yugoslavia. The outbreak of the war is a flagrant violation of the United States Charter, which authorises the use of force only in exceptional cases of legitimate self-defence or with the authorisation of the Security Council. As Yugoslavia had not attacked any sovereign state, legitimate (self) defence cannot possibly be invoked; armed reprisals, even if hypothetically motivated by humanitarian considerations, are and continue to be strictly prohibited. Furthermore, the resolutions adopted by the Security Council contained no authorisation, explicit or implicit, for the use of force, as Russia and China had clearly expressed their opposition to any military measure. The NATO member states did not take the matter to the General Assembly of the United Nations to try to obtain authorisation which, in exceptional cases, could have legitimised their intervention. Under these circumstances, the military action must be qualified as aggression in legal terms, and consequently as an international crime. The war is actually incompatible with the rules of NATO itself, which clearly enshrine the respect for the UN Charter and consequently the recognition of Security Council. Finally, the way in which the bombing was carried out violates the rules of international law which govern the conduct of hostilities. In general, the systematic destruction of the economic infrastructure and the means of communication, deliberately intended to discourage the population and provoke an uprising, are incompatible with the principle of proportionality which requires that every attack should produce specific and decisive military advantages. More specifically, the choice of targets, such as Serbian radio and television or factories producing consumer goods, is incompatible with the prohibition to target civilian objectives. The use of certain weapons, such as those containing depleted uranium, violates the precautionary principle that requires the attacker not to cause serious, extensive or irreversible damage. The violation of international law by the NATO member states is all the more flagrant as these states refused to have an impartial body decide on the lawfulness of their actions, including by analysing their arguments based on prior violations of international law perpetrated by Yugoslavia. In spite of their declarations in favour of the rule of law and of justice, none of the intervening powers accepted to have the International Court of Justice decide on these issues.
NATO decided to take action after the Rambouillet talks broke down. And yet these talks had made serious progress of the political issues before last minute conditions, which were apparently unacceptable to the Serbs, led to an impasse. The war strategy that devastated Yugoslavia and made Kosovo non-liveable produced more refugees and victims than would have been caused by any other combination of force and diplomacy. So it must be contested, both from the political and the moral point of view. It was accompanied by a media campaign to systematically legitimise the operations under way. The arrangements made at the end of the bombing are intended to make international aid contingent to the results of elections in Yugoslavia and make aid contingent on the political options adopted by its beneficiaries, which is not a very honourable means of political interventions in the internal affairs of a third country. For its part, under the administration created by NATO forces, Kosovo has become a virtually mono-ethnic region, where non-Albanian minorities, be they Serbs, Gipsies, Slavs, Muslims, Jews, Turks or Croats, had to flee from attacks or take refuge in ghettos. We should also like to underscore the fact that the consequences of the war waged in Yugoslavia extend far beyond the borders of this country. More specifically, NATO's intervention in Kosovo, under the leadership of the United States, is in line with a series of choices made by the sole remaining superpower. Keeping the American military budget at its cold-war level, higher than the combined budgets of the six second rank countries - Russia, Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and China; keeping NATO in place, in spite of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the end of the USSR, and even to enlarge it by including Eastern Europe; projecting armed force on the world arena by treating international institutions with disdain; refusing to ratify the nuclear test ban treat; developing anti-missile systems and, as recently discovered, a world-wide system for eavesdropping on private and official calls are the most salient aspects of a policy charted progressively in Washington, which bodes the emergency of a new model for exercising power, based on the capacity the manage ever more sophisticated instruments of death and destruction. Our refusal, our reprobation is therefore geared to a project and methods that in no way correspond with democratic or humanitarian proclamations. That is why we call on all those who share these concerns and no longer wish to see bombs as the alternative to international law, negotiations, democratic dialogue, diplomatic and political pressure, and the rule of law, to sign this appeal. The list will be closed in June, on the anniversary date of the end of the bombing. We also suggest that a meeting be held in Rambouillet to commemorate the cessation of the bombing and to restore to this town its importance as a place for dialogue and tolerance. Brussels and Rambouillet will therefore be vested with a new meaning, twinned in an effort for peace and the affirmation of the rule of law.
Brussels, 24 March 2000.
Olivier CORTEN, professeur - l'Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
Eric DAVID, professeur - l'ULB
Barbara DELCOURT, professeur - l'ULB
Frangois HOUTART, professeur émirite - l'Université catholique de Louvain (UCL)
Pierre KLEIN, professeur - l'ULB
Paulette PIERSON-MATHY, professeur - l'ULB
Yves REGISTER, chargé de recherche auprès du CADOP, université de Liège
François RIGAUX, professeur émirite - l'UCL
Jean SALMON, professeur émirite - l'ULB
Tamar Pelleg Sryck, Israeli human rights lawyer
Adhesions can be sent to: - firstname.lastname@example.org or or -Rencontres pour la paix, Boulevard Jacques de Dixmude 124 B- 1050 Brussels Jean Bricmont FYMA, 2, ch. du Cyclotron,UCL B-1348 Louvain-la-neuve, Belgium Tel:32-10-473277 Fax: 32-10-472414 Home 32-2-6540190
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