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European hearings on U.S. NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia
Thu, 11 Nov 1999
Speaking before 650 anti-war activists from 11 countries in Berlin’s Holy Cross Church Oct. 30, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark said, "There is no alternative. NATO must be abolished."
The Berlin meeting was the eighth of nine hearings and discussions held since mid-October in the United States and Europe to condemn U.S. and other NATO country officials and military leaders for war crimes in carrying out an aggressive war against Yugoslavia last spring.
While these meeting were all organized locally, many were inspired by the July 31-Aug. 1 hearing in New York of the Independent Commission of Inquiry to Investigate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia, initiated by the International Action Center. At that hearing Clark charged Bill Clinton, British Primer Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and other NATO country and military leaders with 19 counts of war crimes and crimes against peace and against humanity.
A major goal of these hearings is to clarify that the U.S.-NATO forces were responsible for starting the war and for all the hardships and damage it created. In Europe, is has the additional task of exposing the social-democratic forces who led most of the governments waging war against Yugoslavia.
These governments include Schroeder’s Social-Democratic/Greens government in Germany, the Socialist Party-led government of Premier Lionel Jospin in France, Priemier Massimo D’Alema’s Olive government in Italy led by the Party of the Democratic Left, and Blair’s Labor Party in Britain.
That phony 'leftists' led the aggression made it harder for anti-war activists to mobilize the movement and clearly target the U.S.-NATO war criminals, especially to combat the ruling parties in their countries.
The International Action Center aims to mobilize the anti-war movement to prevent future U.S./NATO-led wars, to stop all sanctions against the people of Yugoslavia and pay reparations for damages, and to condemn publicly those responsible for the war. The meetings also target those in the big-business media who issued shameless war propaganda against Serbia.
There have been hearings in Oslo, Norway and Amsterdam, Netherlands on Oct. 23 and in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia Oct. 15-16, Berlin, German on Oct. 30 and Rome, Italy on Nov. 1. Clark and the IAC plan to participate in a tribunal hearing set for Vienna, Austria on Dec. 4 and at the Kassel Peace Council in Kassel, Germany on Dec. 5. Other hearings are under discussion for London, Prague, Athens, Brussels and other NATO capitals.
Hearings are also set for Nov. 13 in Detroit and San Francisco, on Nov. 14 in Los Angeles and Ann Arbor, Mich., and on Nov. 20 in Washington.
Included below are reports from the Berlin, Rome, Paris and Amsterdam meetings based on releases from the local organizers or by participants.
INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL TO BE CONVENED NEXT YEAR BERLIN HEARING OF PEACE ACTIVISTS
More than 650 participants from peace and human rights movements convened Oct. 30 in the Church of the Holy Cross in Berlin, Germany, to listen with great interest to prominent representatives of the peace movements and research organizations on questions concerning NATO's war against Yugoslavia.
Speakers covered a wide range of topics, including the causes of the war, and its short and long-term consequences, both locally and internationally. Also the role and responsibility of the media in the war’s preparation and execution, legal questions concerned with the initiation of military hostilities, the way the war was carried out, the current continuation of hostilities with non-military means as well as the subsequent effects of the war.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Richter, coordinator of the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity (GBM), and Laura von Wimmersperg, coordinator of the Peace Coordination of Berlin (FriKo), co-chaired the hearing. Adding to the gathering’s significance was the participation of activists from Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Russia, the United States, Switzerland, Spain and Yugoslavia.
Mr. Gennadi I. Raikov, president of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into NATO's Crimes against Yugoslavia reported as an official delegate of the Russian Duma on the military targeting of civilian targets.
The participation of the former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and a delegation of the International Action Center from New York, that is also organizing a NATO War Crimes Tribunal, gave the meeting in Berlin an added dimension reaching beyond Europe.
Among the German participants were Ret. Admiral Elmar Schmaehling, former director of the military counter-intelligence service (MAD) of the Federal Republic of Germany and Dr. Ralph Hartmann, former Ambassador to Yugoslavia for the German Democratic Republic.
All speakers agreed that this war constituted a premeditated war of aggression and was in violation of international law. All spoke of the terrible consequences for the economic, political and cultural life in Yugoslavia. The participants shared the determination that opposition has to continue and grow.
Sara Flounders, of the International Action Center in New York, was given a hearty round of applause when she declared "This meeting is proof that not only the victors of this war will write its history."
Teams of experts coordinated by a board of trustees plan further investigative inquiries into the crimes committed through and during this aggression and hope to be able to publish their findings by May 2000. Interviewed in the Nov. 1 Junge Welt, Von Wimmersperg said that the organizers will publish a book about the hearing before the winter holiday season.
MEETING ESTABLISHES ITALIAN TRIBUNAL
Anti-war activists meeting in Rome Nov. 1 established the Italian Section of the Independent War Crimes Tribunal promoted by former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark and the New York based International Action Center.
Opening the meeting, Paolo Pioppi of the International Nino Pasti Foundation said: "We are here to demand that the Italian government and all the other governments of NATO countries answer for the crimes already committed and still being committed by NATO against Yugoslavia, against international law and against peace."
At the hearing were 200 activists and representatives of peace organizations ready to continue the work started by Clark and his International Action Center in a July 31-Aug. 1 hearing held in New York. Clark attended the conference in Rome together with IAC co- coordinator Sara Flounders and U.S. peace activist Lenora Foerstel.
Clark received a unanimous standing ovation when he said, "To be realistic we have to demand that NATO be abolished". Two days earlier Clark had attended a large meeting in Berlin where peace activists established a Tribunal.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was represented at the Rome meeting by Slavko Njegomir, charge d'affaires of the FRY in Rome and by Slavica Slatinac.
Support for the decision to establish the Italian section was promised by Lucio Manisco and Luisa Morganitini, both members of the European Parliament, by Italian Senator Giovanni Russo Spena (Communist Refoundation Party), by former senator Raniero La Valle, the founder of the Committees for International Democracy.
Other supporters included lawyers and magistrates--Giuseppe Mattina, Gabriele Cerminara, Fabio Marcelli among others--who recently filed indictments charging the Italian government with violations of international and domestic law. At least 15 such indictments have been filed against the Italian government. Also intellectuals, journalists, filmmakers Piero Vivarelli, Salvatore D'Albergo, Fulvio Grimaldi and others, plus scores of anti-war organizations and committees backed the tribunal.
Participants saw three much-appreciated videos on Yugoslavia during the meeting. These videos are being used widely to promote anti-war activities in Italy. Two of them were produced by former RAI (public television company) journalist Fulvio Grimaldi. The third was produced by retired RAI engineer Enrico Giardino.
REPORT ON THE 25 OCTOBER 1999 PARIS CONFERENCE ON JUSTICE AND WAR
A dozen speakers from seven countries presented a devastating case against NATO's illegal war against Yugoslavia at the international conference on "Justice and War" held in Paris Oct. 25.
Speakers included jurists, experts and activists who have closely studied the background of the Yugoslav conflict and NATO intervention.
Alternatives to War
Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation for Future and Peace Research based in Lund, Sweden, attacked "the one biggest myth of the war": that there was "nothing else to do" about the Kosovo problem. Before the NATO bombing had carried out, Oberg had carried out some three dozen peace missions to Kosovo and acted as advisor to the Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova. He presented a long list of sensible, practical things that could have been done to help solve the Kosovo problem in a peaceful way.
None had been tried by the Western powers. Instead, the United States chose war and backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) chieftain Hashim Thaqi, said Oberg.
Paris-based U.S.journalist Diana Johnstone, who co-chaired the conference, accused the Clinton administration of aggravating and exploiting the Kosovo problem in order to inaugurate NATO's new mission of "humanitarian intervention". The "humanitarian" pretense is the public relations cover for NATO expansion eastwards for economic and strategic reasons.
Professor Raju George Thomas of Marquette University in Wisconsin warned of the extremely negative impact on international relations of NATO's illegal attack on a sovereign nation that had not committed any act of aggression. Other powers will be encouraged to emulate NATO's aggressive behavior in defense of their own national interests, while fear of NATO's unpredictable expansion is certain to trigger a new worldwide arms race.
International Law and NATO Aggression
Roland Weyl, speaking on behalf of the International Association of Democratic Jurists, denounced NATO's "open contempt" for the United Nations and the post-World War II system of international law aimed at banning war. The bombing had no legal basis and would be unjustifiable even if the United States succeeded in turning the United Nations Security Council into a pliant rubber stamp to approve NATO military operations.
Two contrasting views of the ambiguous concept of "self- determination", in relation to Kosovo, were presented by Catherine Samary of the University of Paris and Barbara Delcourt, who teaches international law at the Free University of Brussels. While Samary tended to favor self-determination for Kosovo Albanians, Delcourt pointed out that under existing international law, self-determination did not imply secession except in regard to decolonization.
If the right of self-determination is to be broadened, this should be done systematically by international convention, rather than ad hoc, Delcourt argued. Today we are no longer in the period of decolonization, but in a recolonization period where the "right to self- determination" mainly favors nationalists and great power manipulations.
On the subject of a hypothetical "law of humanitarian intervention", Olivier Corten, professor of international law at the Free University of Brussels, noted that any such law is open to differing interpretations as to when it is applicable. The purpose of a legal system is to provide procedures to mediate between differing evaluations.
There is no law without procedure, Corten stressed. We are in danger of reverting to the 19th Century practice of Great Powers which regularly invoked "natural rights" to justify use of military force.
Toronto lawyer Christopher Black explained that the ad hoc "International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY)" in The Hague is not a step toward a real international criminal tribunal--a project that has encountered U.S. opposition. It is instead something quite the contrary: a political tribunal instigated by the United States for political purposes.
The ICTY receives funding and personnel from the United States government and private corporations. Its chief justice describes U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as "the mother of the tribunal." It ignored a brief presented by an international group of lawyers calling for indictment of NATO leaders for war crimes, which were based on more solid evidence than the subsequent indictment of Yugoslav leaders. Its procedures are contrary to all the guarantees of the defense written into democratic legal systems, Black said.
Other speakers were Roman judge Domenico Gallo, who concluded that the circumstances did not justify NATO intervention; Zeljan Schuster, of the University of New Haven, who described various scenarios of economic and political effects on Yugoslavia of NATO bombing; and University of Paris historian Annie Lacroix-Riz, who drew from her vast knowledge of diplomatic archives to describe the extraordinary degree of continuity between present and past Great Power intervention in Yugoslavia.
Brian Becker of the International Action Center in New York represented an activist approach to the war strikingly absent in today's France. Becker's description of the IAC plans to hold hearings in various cities on the indictment against NATO leaders drafted by Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General, aroused considerable enthusiasm among the people attending the conference, who were eager to offer support.
Becker explained that the campaign will culminate in a people's tribunal in New York on next March 24, anniversary of the start of the NATO bombing.
Ramsey Clark sent a message of greeting to the conference.
Participants in the conference intend to get together to plan further action. In addition to support to the Ramsey Clark initiative, the conference strongly condemned economic sanctions as an unjustifiable continuation of war against the people of Yugoslavia.
It was generally agreed that:
Economic sanctions are a warlike, not a peaceful measure: a means of continuing the bombing destruction by other means, in a "bomb now, die later" strategy already employed against the people of Iraq;
Such methods as economic sanctions, "selective sanctions" and other encouragements to further secession and civil war in Yugoslavia are totally inappropriate means to produce "democratic change";
Such deliberately divisive measures seem designed to preclude peaceful democratic change and instead provide NATO with a pretext for further armed intervention;
A truly neutral tribunal should determine legal responsibilities for the 1999 war and assess damages and liability for reparations;
Governments should provide humanitarian and reconstruction aid to all parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, without ethnic or political discrimination.
The conference also adopted by acclamation a proposal from the floor to protest against the exclusion by the humanitarian organization "Doctors Without Frontiers", on the day after it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, of its Greek chapter for having treated Serbian victims of the NATO bombing.
A message of personal testimony from Cedomir Prlincevic, former archivist and head of the Jewish community in Pristina, was read to the conference. Prlincevic, who was driven from his home by Albanian gangsters, accused NATO and KFOR of allowing KLA thugs to threaten, kill and drive out members of non-Albanian ethnic groups and steal their property. With NATO/KFOR support, the KLA had installed a reign of terror, he said.
Dutch troops jail Serbs in Kosovo
(Abridged report from Jared Israel)
I am writing you from the offices of Global Reflexion in Amsterdam.
In the Netherlands there is great and growing concern over the involvement of Dutch KFOR troops in the imprisonment of a large number of Serbian residents in the Kosovo town of Orahovac.
On Oct. 23, Cedda Prlncevic, the leader of Pristina's Jewish community, who were driven from Kosovo by the KLA (UCK), and I were among the speakers who addressed a large meeting opposing the on-going attack on Kosovo Serbs. I cannot tell you how encouraged I am by the passion of the reserved Dutch when they learn the facts about what Dutch troops have been doing in Kosovo.
Cedda spoke before me. Nico Varkevisser from Global Reflexion, which sponsored Cedda and my trip to the Netherlands, had pressed Cedda to talk specifically about how KFOR's presence has affected ordinary Serbs. And he tried; but as he spoke, the pain of what has been done to the citizens of Serbia, of all nationalities, overwhelmed him, and he broke down on the stage. He was given a standing ovation.
I spoke next, about Cedda's experiences and those of the women from Orahovac, who have been interviewed by Emperors Clothes. We are currently transcribing those interviews. The story of their suffering, of the literal imprisonment of the Serbian population of Orahovac, tremendously affected the hundreds of people at the meeting, and people are taking action. There is tremendous energy here. We have scheduled already five or six radio, newspaper and TV interviews.
Global Reflexion is demanding that the women whom we interviewed, all of whom are from Orahovac but who presently live in Belgrade, be brought to Holland at the expense of the Dutch government to testify before the Dutch Parliament.
Global Reflexion has called for a delegation of leading Dutch citizens to go to Orahovac and bring out the Serbs who want to leave. Dutch NATO forces have FORCIBLY PREVENTED Serbs from fleeing Orahovac. This includes children, turned back when the women whom we interviewed managed to get to the city to bring them out.
The Dutch troops said: "Nein" which is not a word customarily used in the Netherlands.
The Dutch movement is demanding: Save the Children of Orahovac! The Dutch delegation will go to Kosovo, to Orahovac, and bring out the Serbs.
Return to the 'NATO Bombing - has it brought peace to the Balkans?' Alert.
International Action Center.