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NATO Bombing - International Court of Justice Proceedings

Peace Movement Aotearoa

PO Box 9314, Wellington. Tel (04) 382 8129, fax (04) 382 8173,

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Issued 3 May 1999

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Kia ora,

As you may be aware, the government of Yugoslavia has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear cases against ten NATO governments with regard to the bombing of Yugoslavia on the grounds that it violates international law, in particular their obligations not to use force against another state. While US State Department spokesman James Rubin immediately dismissed the request as ‘absurd and frivolous’, the Court itself obviously believes there is a case to answer and will start hearing the proceedings on 10 May.

For more information on the details of the case (including the specifics of the Yugoslavian government’s case), go to the ICJ website

After some consultation with peace people over the weekend, we have decided to issue this alert today for those of you who would like to send letters to the ICJ in support of the proceedings - guidelines of what your letter could include are written below, as are contact details for the ICJ, and excerpts from some of the relevant international documents.

We do not think that writing letters to the Court will necessarily influence the justices in their decision, however, it does seem important to have opposition to the NATO bombing recorded in as many official archives as possible, and it seems like a positive way to express your viewpoint.

    1) Guidelines for writing your letter in support of the proceedings :
  • your letter should refer only to this situation of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia (not to other similar scenarios as they may have different elements, eg a veneer of Security Council approval);
  • you could state that you do not condone any acts of violence perpetrated by the government of Yugoslavia, or its agents, but that you do not believe bombing is the way to prevent violence;
  • you could state your belief that the NATO bombing is in breach of a number of international agreements including : the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty itself; the United Nations Charter; and the 1977 Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. Excerpts from these documents are at the end of this message.
  • you could state that you believe the NATO bombing is a significant and frightening threat to international peace and security; and sets an extremely worrying precedent for the future;
  • you could state your conviction that international disputes should only ever be resolved by peaceful means - as the NATO bombing has clearly demonstrated, ‘peace through bombing’ exacerbates a situation, fuels hatred and anger, creates an atmosphere conducive to the perpetration of ever worsening atrocities, creates massive humanitarian crises, and ultimately may prevent a long lasting peaceful resolution from ever being reached.
  • you should thank them/ the Court for their / its attention to your letter.
2) Where to send your letter - remember the proceedings will begin on 10 MAY, so you need to get a move on !
  • by post :

    International Court of Justice, Peace Palace, 2517 KJ The Hague, The Netherlands.

  • by fax (from Aotearoa / NZ) : 00 31 70 364 99 28.

  • who to address it to : either to the President of the court, or to all the justices collectively. In this instance, Vice-President Christopher G. Weeramantry (Sri Lanka) will act as president of the court because President Stephen M. Schwebel is a US citizen and therefore unable to act as president as the proceedings involve the US government.

    The other judges are : Shigeru Oda (Japan), Mohammed Bedjaoui (Algeria), Gilbert Guillaume (France), Raymond Ranjeva (Madagascar), Géza Herczegh (Hungary), Shi Jiuyong (China), Carl-August Fleischhauer (Germany), Abdul G. Koroma (Sierra Leone), Vladlen S. Vereshchetin (Russian Federation), Rosalyn Higgins (United Kingdom), Gonzalo Parra-Aranguren (Venezuela), Pieter H. Kooijmans (Netherlands), Francisco Rezek (Brazil).

    You should include a cover note to the Registrar, Eduardo Valencia-Ospina (Colombia), asking him to draw the justices’ attention to your letter .

Excerpts from some relevant international documents (the full documents are available from PMA in email form only) :

  • The 1949 North Atlantic Treaty - in particular :

    Article 1 : The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

  • The United Nations Charter, in particular (but not limited to) Article 2 :

    CHAPTER I - Purposes and Principles Article 1 - The Purposes of the United Nations are: 1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace ...

    Article 2 - The Organisation and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

    1. The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

    2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfil in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

    3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

    4. 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.

    5. All Members shall give the United Nations every assistance in any action it takes in accordance with the present Charter, and shall refrain from giving assistance to any state against which the United Nations is taking preventive or enforcement action.

    6. The Organisation shall ensure that states which are not Members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security.

    7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.”

    To see the entire text of the UN Charter, see

  • The 1977 Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, in particular (although not limited to) Chapter III, Civilian Objects :

    Article 52 - General Protection of civilian objects

    • 1. Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 2.
    • Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives. In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
    • In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.

      Article 54 - Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population

    • Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.

    • It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

Return to PMA's Alert: Stop NATO bombing, Condemn NZ government support for the airstrikes!

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