Violations of international laws committed by NATO - Part 2.
(4) NATO's objectives in Kosovo are a violation of Clause IV of the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States of the Helsinki Accords Final Act of 1975 which guarantees the territorial frontiers of the states of Europe. According to this agreement: "The participating states will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating states. Accordingly, they will refrain from any action...against the territorial integrity, political independence, or the unity of any participating state..."
The former Yugoslavia was a party to this agreement, not the new states such as Croatia and Bosnia which subsequently invoked the Helsinki territorial principles to preserve their boundaries that were carved out from the old state. Ironically, while attempts by Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to remain part of Yugoslavia were denied, and their declarations of independence rejected in order to maintain the territorial integrity of Croatia and Bosnia which had never existed under modern international law, the right of the Kosovo Albanians to secede was recognized. What this so-called Rambouillet peace plan offered was (a) the severance of Kosovo through NATO bombing with immediate effect; or (b) the severance of Kosovo through NATO occupation three years later. The Serbs chose Option A.
(5) If the sequel to the bombing is recogntion of Kosovo as an independent state, this will violate international law that prohibits recognition of provinces that unilaterally declare independence against the wishes of the federal authorities. Donald Horowitz, a leading specialist on nationalism and ethnic conflict, noted that the secessions of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia, and Serbia followed the violent patterns of state dissolution elsewhere. He pointed out that states with no history of independence such as Bosnia were swiftly recognized without considering the consequences. "Led by Germany, European and American recognition of the former Yugoslav republics was accomplished in disregard of international law doctrine forbidding recognition of secessionist units whose establishment is being resisted forcibly by a central government
The illegality of Unlilateral Declarations of Independence was established by the British when Rhodesia's Ian Smith unilaterally declared independence when the British still ruled that state (now Zimbabwe). No doubt, the policies regarding UDI have been inconsistent. The secession of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1981, a defacto functioning state, has not been recognized although the secession of Bangladesh in 1971 under similar circumstances was recognized. The UDI of Biafra from Nigeria in 1967, Punjab from India in the mid 1980s, Abhkazia from Georgia in 1994, Chechnya from Russia in 1995, have not been recognized. Clearly, Palestinians have a right to declare themselves an independent state because it is not even a part of Israel but illegally occupied territories since the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. Yet Israel has warned that it will not recognize the threatened UDI by Yasir Arafat in May 1999.
In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was recognized although it did not fulfill any conditions of a defacto functioning state. The 1933 Montevideo Conventions on the Recognition of New States, declared that a state only comes into existence and should be recognized if it fulfills the following conditions: (a). Clearly recognized boundaries. Serbia and Croatia were contesting the boundaries of Bosnia. The Croatian areas wanted to join up with Croatia and already has, the Serbian areas wanted to join up with Serbia but was prevented by the West. (b) It must have a stable and well-defined population. Bosnia did not since refugees were on the move everywhere and what constituted the population of Bosnia was not clear because of Serbian and Croatian demands. (c) It must have a government in control. The Muslim government of Sarajevo was not in control anywhere, and even now Sarajevo is not in control of the Croatian and Serbian areas. Bosnia was a stillborn state and remains so.
(6) If the bombing of Yugoslavia results in the destruction of Serbian religious and historical sites, this will be in violation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. This Convention was adopted in the light of experience during two world wars when there was an unwanton destruction of cultural and historical property in Europe. It was first mooted during the First World War by President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Asquith. Keith Eirinberg noted that "Some 80 years later, the destruction of cultural property, this time on the territory of the former Yugoslavia [by the former Yugoslavs themselves], again shocks the world." But the United States could do little to protest these actions by Serbs and Croats because it had failed to ratify the 1954 Geneva Convention. Perhaps with good reason since it has engaged in such actions from the air itself in Iraq and now Yugoslavia.
In an article alleging that NATO was waging vandalism and not war, and that the crimes against humanity by Serbian forces were being countered by crimes against civilization by NATO, Simon Jenkins of The Times, London (May 7) writes:
"While the human casualties have been well-publicised, this is not true of the damage to Yugoslavia's historic buildings. People may be more important than buildings, but that does not justify the needless destruction of cultural heritage. Shortly after the shift in targeting policy, on the night of April 18, a Nato missile penetrated the atrium of the Banovina Palace in the city centre of Novi Sad. It exploded with an almighty roar and destroyed perhaps the finest work of Art Deco architecture in the Balkans.... The flurry of million-dollar missiles which last week poured into the defence headquarters in Belgrade destroyed the best work of Yugoslavia's most distinguished postwar architect, Nikola Dobrovic. The most worrying damage so far has been to some 40 listed Yugoslav churches and monasteries. The medieval church of Gracanica, six miles from Pristina, is the treasure of the Balkans, under consideration as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The interior walls are entirely covered in 14th and 15th-century frescoes in remarkable condition. I find it inconceivable that their location is not known to Nato's targeting group. The celebrated 1830s Topcider Church in Belgrade has been repeatedly damaged, most recently by a bomb last Thursday. Belgrade's 16th-century Rakovica Monastery has taken a direct hit through its roof and on Tuesday an unexploded missile lodged in its residential wing. The 4th-century Byzantine basilica in the town of Nis has been damaged. The churches of the Virgin and St Nicholas in Kursumlija, dating from the 12th century, have also been hit, as has St Procopius's 9th-century church in Prokuplje. These buildings date from the earliest years of Christianity in eastern Europe. Extensive destruction is also reported and confirmed to historic churches in Krusevac, Pancevo and Vranje. The centre of the Kosovan capital of Pristina is bombed almost every night. As for the splendid Art Deco factory in Nis, that was flattened for impertinently making "military" cigarettes. It is simply untrue that Nato is avoiding civilian targets. "
Only in the aftermath of the intense bombing will we see the extent of the damage caused to the hundreds and even thousands of Serbian and Byzantine cultural and religious sites in Kosovo. The presidential palace, a place of historic value as the residence of the historical figure, Josip Broz Tito, and previously the royal residence of the Serbian monarchy, was deliberately destroyed. Because there were some telephones in there, it was declared a military communication center. NATO arrogated to itself the role of determining what is or what is not a military site. Given the fact that it had run out of military targets, its definitions have become pretty lax.
(7) The 1949 Geneva Convention (IV) Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War specifically prohibits deliberate attacks on civlians. Part II, Article 13 states: "The Provisions of Part II cover the whole populations of the countries in conflict, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, nationality, religion or political opinion, and are intended to alleviate the sufferings caused by war." The Geneva Conventions Act (amended 1995) of the United Kingdom specifically states that "civilians shall not be the object of attack" (Schedule 5, Article 52.1) and that "civilians shall enjoy protection unless they take a direct part in hostilities" (Schedule 6, Article 13.3). The attack on the Serbian TV station at night when it was inhabited only by civilians leading to the deaths of at least 20 civilians and serious injury to many more, constituted an intentional and premeditated attack on civilians. This was mass murder, not collateral damage.
(8) Beyond the above, there may be several other international regulations about the environment that is being violated by the attacks on chemical plants, fuel storage, and refineries. The 1976 Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, and the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions. Article 55 states: "Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population."
Other conventions include the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985, UNEP), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992). A Times of India editorial recently noted:
'In Yugoslavia, oil refineries and chemical plants have been attacked... Every attack on a chemical plant is likely to produce a Bhopal, big or small. While NATO authorities claim to have successfully attacked and destroyed chemical plants, they do not enlighten the world about the ecological consequences of such assaults, on the long-term impact on human beings and unborn children. The so-called `Gulf War Syndrome' focussed much concern on the US veterans exposed to the chemicals released during the last days of the war against Iraq in 1991. But there is ominous silence about the ecological impact of bombing oil refineries and storages, chemical plants and high rise buildings employing highly inflammable synthetic materials. It is cynical in the extreme to pretend that the air strikes against Yugoslavia have exclusively targeted military installations and the civil population has not been affected. This is sheer propaganda and undermines the credibility of NATO authorities in other statements they make."
The International Action Center of New York, among others in Britain and elsewhere, have claimed that many of the American weapons used against Iraq, Bosnian Serbs, and now Yugoslavia utilize radioactive depleted uranium for more efficient penetrating effect. John Catalinotto, contributing editor of the book, Metal of Dishonor" Depleted Uranium, pointed out that the use of DU weapons in Yugoslavia "adds a new dimension to the crime NATO is perpetuating against the Yugoslav people, including those in Kosovo... DU is used in alloy form in shells to make them penetrate targets better. As the shell hits the target, it burns and releases uranium oxide into the air. The poisonous and radioactive uranium is most dangerous when inhaled into the body, where it will release radiation during the life of the person who inhaled it." The accumulated fall-out here could produce a Hiroshima aftermath effect on the people of Yugoslavia.