Friday, June 16, 2017

Serbia to sue NATO over damages caused during the 1999 bombing

Belgrade in flames, March 1999.
According to Sputnik InternationalSerbia has launched a team of lawyers tasked with the preparation of a lawsuit against the imperialist alliance of NATO over the damage it caused to the country during the 1999 bombing

The team will include the best lawyers from Serbia, as well as from the EU, Russia, China and India and will be headed by prominent Serbian lawyer Srdjan Aleksic. "We want to bring to trial the NATO states that participated in the aggression against Yugoslavia. These are 20 states that directly or indirectly participated in it. The lawsuits will target directly each of these states," Aleksic told Sputnik Serbia.

According to Aleksic, the lawyers do not plan to apply to the International Court of Justice. Instead, the lawsuits will be filed with the national courts of each of the 20 states.

"We believe that this is within the competence of national courts. These states violated the principles set forth in the seventh chapter of the UN Charter, which prohibits aggression against any state. In addition, NATO has violated chapters 5 and 6 of its own charter, since NATO is a defensive alliance, and not an offensive one. This is about a violation of international law, in particular conventions, which prohibit aggression and the use of force against sovereign states," the lawyer explained.

Members of Aleksic's team are expected to prepare about 20 cases supported by convincing material evidence, like medical documents that indicate a connection between the use of depleted uranium munitions during the bombing and the increase in the number of oncological diseases in Serbia over the last two decades.

"They dropped from 10 to 15 tons of depleted uranium on the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The increase in the number of cancer patients has caused serious concerns. Malignant tumors are found annually in 33,000 Serbian citizens. Every day this terrible disease is diagnosed at least in one child in our country. Compared with 1999, the number of cancer patients has increased by five times, primarily in the south of Serbia, as well as Kosovo and Metohija," Aleksic said.

According to the lawyer, outstanding Serbian doctors, oncologists and toxicologists will participate in the preparation of the lawsuit.

"All our statements are evidenced by the fact that 45 Italian soldiers who served in those areas of Kosovo which were affected by the bombing with depleted uranium eventually got cancer. The court acknowledged the fact that the responsibility for the incident must be borne by the State of Italy, and now it pays serious compensation, from 200,000 to 1,200,000 euros to each person diagnosed with the disease. Our lawsuit will be based on that," the lawyer said.

In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Vice President of the International Association of Russian-Speaking Lawyers, Mikhail Ioffe, said that Serbia should have filed the lawsuits immediately after the 1999 bombings.

"From a legal standpoint, they should have brought the charges when the damage [caused by the airstrikes] was there for everyone to see, not now that its traces are no longer evident. Still, the damage they caused to the people’s health is hard to miss,” Ioffe said.

He described the idea of suing NATO for the 1999 airstrikes as “viable.” Mikhail Ioffe also mentioned a number of legal problems that would prove hard to resolve.

“The question is whether the US will respond to these charges or not. The other countries could likewise want to shirk responsibility for what they did. The biggest hurdle is that [the 1999 bombings] have not been recognized as an international aggression by any authoritative international body,” the lawyer stated.

“The UN refused to authorize them, neither did they term the actions by the US and its coalition partners as an act of aggression. I guess this could be a matter for some backdoor diplomatic bargaining Serbia could benefit from,” Mikhail Ioffe concluded.
The 1999 bombing killed hundreds of civilians, and destroyed the country's infrastructure including bridges, industrial plants and public buildings.