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Taking NATO to Court
PARIS, France, January 20, 2000 (Washington Post)
As the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia got under way in March a loose network of antiwar law professors in Canada, Norway, Greece, Britain and France began plotting a strategy. Communicating by phone and e-mail, the professors began building a case for war crimes indictments against NATO. By the end of the 78-day air offensive, they believed they had "overwhelming evidence" to demand the criminal prosecution of the leaders of the United States, Britain and other alliance countries, as well as NATO's senior military commanders.
Seven months later, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, is poised to decide whether to launch a formal investigation or to drop the matter entirely, as seems most probable. Del Ponte ventured into the belly of the beast today with her first visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels for a meeting with the alliance's decision-making North Atlantic Council. The accusations leveled at NATO leaders were raised by two people at the table, and Del Ponte responded by repeating the tribunal's position that it has a statutory responsibility to investigate all alleged war crimes in the recent Balkan conflicts.
Those charges are sweeping. Michael Mandel, a Canadian law professor who has led the effort against NATO, describes the bombing campaign as "a coward's war . . . not even partially legitimized by the Security Council of the United Nations." NATO bombing from high altitudes "placed all the risk on civilians and made the military immune from risk; this is a violation of the Geneva conventions," he said. The post-World War II Geneva conventions laid out the modern rules of war that are the legal foundations of the tribunal's jurisprudence. In a telephone interview from Toronto, where he teaches at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, Mandel said "most of the world" agrees with his position.
Received from AIM Evening NEWS for Thursday, January 20, 2000
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