The war against Yugoslavia changed everything
In the imposition and sustaining of sanctions against Serbia, and in the negotiations,
preparations and conduct of the war against Serbia in 1999 (the so-called Kosovo War)
NATO countries broke international laws. This matter is of the gravest importance for the
citizens of the world and is a matter that cannot be allowed to go unchallenged and
1. THREATS IN INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATIONS ARE ILLEGAL
Common sense dictates that an agreement is not genuine if a person or organisation is bullied
into "agreement." This is accepted in international law.
VIENNA CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF TREATIES SIGNED AT VIENNA 23
May 1969 ENTRY INTO FORCE: 27 January 1980. Article 52: Coercion of a State by the
threat or use of force: 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
When armies have to enter a country to enforce an agreement it suggests that there is really no
What happened at Rambouillet
At the Rambouillet talks (February 1999) the Serbians and Kosovo Albanians never actually
met to discuss anything. The two delegations were presented with agreements to agree to.
These demanded many sensible and reasonable things from both sides. Nominally the "talks"
were chaired by the British and French Foreign Secretaries, Robin Cook and Hubert
Vedrine. But in practice it was Americans who talked to the two delegations trying to get them
to agree to the ever changing "Agreement."
America negotiated in bad faith
The two sides did agree on the political principles on which Kosovo should be governed. But
one day before the date fixed for the conclusion of the talks new details of how the political
settlement was to be implemented were presented and declared to be non-negotiable. These
included the right for NATO forces to move for unlimited time and unlimited purposes
throughout the whole of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ie Serbia too. Would any country
agree to a NATO occupying force simply on request? - Especially after previous bad
experiences with NATO.
Dr Kissinger (former US Secretary of State and a Nobel Peace Prize Winner) said, "The
Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia was a
provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb
could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been
presented in that form."
James Rubin, US Assistant Secretary of State, said in a BBC interview, "Obviously, publicly
we had to make clear we were seeking an agreement, but privately we knew that the chances
of the Serbs agreeing were quite small." In a press briefing in Rambouillet on 21 February
1999 he said, "In order to move to a military action it has to be clear that the Serbs were
responsible." His aim and method are clear.
Basis for the war disappears
In the deal which concluded the war the requirement for NATO troops to be able to enter
Serbia was dropped, thus proving that it was not necessary in the first place. We were told
that it was because Milosevic would not sign the Rambouillet Agreement that the bombing
was necessary. Yet on 23 February the Serbs proposed further discussion on "the scope and
character of an international presence," and this request was repeated by the Serbian
Parliament on 23 March.
But wasn't the war to stop the ethnic cleansing? See item on ethnic cleansing.
2. NATO Treaty Overturned
The significance of the change can hardly be exaggerated, yet it happened without the slightest
Aggressive action (intervention) was illegal under the terms of the NATO Treaty which
operated for almost fifty years.
NATO was set up in 1948 as a purely defensive alliance. Article 4 of the treaty spelled out
the only situation in which force would be permitted to be used, and that was when any
member of the treaty organisation was attacked. Then each member state of the organisation
would come to its assistance. The bombing of Serbia and Kosovo was an aggressive act
against a country from which there was no threat.
3. Intervention was illegal under the terms of the UN Charter
The United Nations Organisation was set up after the Second World War primarily "to save
succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind." The charter prohibits the use of force except in self defence (Article 5)
"No consideration of whatever nature, whether political, economic, military or otherwise, may
serve as a justification for aggression." (Article 5 of the Definition of Aggression adopted by
the General Assembly on 14 December 1974." The sole exception of this general rule is that
the Security Council of the United Nations could authorise a war. (Article 2 (4), but this 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."
There was no threat to any nation posed by Yugoslavia.There was no threat to peace as
understood by the United Nations' Charter. The decision to bomb was a purely NATO
decision led by the USA, but endorsed by all 19 NATO nations.
4. Geneva Convention flouted - a
The bombing of the Serbian civilian infrastructure was illegal.
Under the Geneva Convention it is a war crime "to attack civilian targets or to destroy or
render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population." The targeting of
bridges, power stations, factories, etc has had, as anyone would expect, a calamitous effect
on the well-being of the civilian population.
Pollution caused by bombing pharmaceutical factories, transformers, oil refineries and oil
storage depots will have long term effects on the population. An oil slick 15 kilometres long
has appeared in the Danube. The river is a source of drinking water for 10 million people. No
power meant no water purification and no heating.
5. Geneva Convention flouted - b
The Geneva Convention states that no civilian can be targeted unless he is taking a direct part
in the hostilities Two thousand Serbian civilian deaths were therefore acts of murder.
Obviously, dropping 23,000 bombs and missiles on a country could only be expected to kill
many civilians. Whilst some bombs can be delivered with accuracy most cannot. Evenso,
many of the targets were beyond doubt civilian targets like the TV station in Belgrade, power
stations which provided electricity for vital services like water pumping, heating, etc.
Equally, the action of the KLA in attacking Serb police and ordinary Serb civilians was illegal.
The attacks by the Serb army, police and especially the paramilitary forces on Kosovo
Albanian citizens was also illegal under international law.
6. Illegal Sanctions
Chapter VII of the UN Charter states that sanctions are only valid to avert a threat to
international peace. Sanctions against Yugoslavia are affecting all aspects of personal and
economic life and are, in fact, life threatening in the case of the need for medical supplies. They
punish innocent civilians. The devastated people of Serbia are not a threat to international
7. Use of outlawed weapons
Cluster bombs and depleted uranium bombs are anti-civilian weapons and so are illegal.
Consider the reasons given for setting aside accepted international law
NATO ministers have argued that the humanitarian need justified the action. The war was to
prevent a humanitarian disaster. It is clear, however, that the shocking burning, and cleansing
of Kosovo came in response to the aggression of the KLA and NATO, and that new
disasters were created by the returning Albanians in Kosovo and by the destruction of much
of Serbia by NATO.
Humanitarian need and the bringing of "civilisation" are old excuses for aggressive military
action. The First World War was fought by the British purely for humanitarian motives
(according the speech of the Prime Minister of the day, H H Asquith.)
The danger of "humanitarian" wars is that International law is set aside - the UN becomes
irrelevant. Any country can claim a humanitarian motive.
Supporters of the war against Serbia claim that the military intervention permits new principles
which can be invoked to justify future military action. Not only does this change the basis on
which NATO has operated for fifty years, but it also destroys the basis of the United Nations.
If NATO can judge the need for action for purposes other than defence then clearly all 198
nations in the world can do the same. War becomes legal, the norm, accepted.
In practice this would mean that only the stronger nations would be able to take action. It
seems a good recipe for encouraging the starting of more wars, or even World War Three.
What needs to be done now?
The UN was set up to rid the world of the scourge of war. The principles on which the United
Nations Organisation was founded need to be vigorously endorsed by all people.
The ministers who flouted international law should be brought to account for their actions
Even more spending on weapons of destruction
The war gave a major boost to British and European arms industries. "Declaring the 'peace
dividend' over, NATO's new Secretary General, George Robertson, bluntly told allied
defence ministers they will have to spend more to be ready for future conflicts. 'The time for a
peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace in Europe or elsewhere,' he
said." - from a report by Agence France Presse, 2 December 1999.
NATO is calling for a standing army of 50,000 soldiers to be prepared for humanitarian
The US has already added an extra $100 billion over the next five years to its existing
Defence Budget of $270 billion a year.
Tony Blair has spent £5 billion on new weapons this year. (2000)
How Britain should have checked the legality of its war plans
As far as Britain is concerned, normally a government would seek legal advice from its top
legal expert before embarking on any important international action. Was the Attorney
General consulted? Try writing and asking. So far the government has declined to produce
David Roberts, 8 May, 2000.
Did European and American leaders commit war crimes?
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