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Growing concern about NATO violating the rules of war
(New York, May 13, 1999) -- Human Rights Watch today sent a letter to Secretary General Javier Solana expressing concern at the mounting civilian casualties in NATO's air war against Yugoslavia.
In particular, Human Rights Watch raised serious concerns about whether NATO is targeting civilian objects or objects that, if attacked, would cause disproportionate harm to civilians. It also questioned whether, even in attacking legitimate military targets, NATO is taking all feasible precautions to avoid harm to civilians.
"NATO says it is fighting a war on behalf of human rights," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "If so, then it's absolutely essential for NATO to scrupulously respect human rights in its conduct of this war. NATO must do everything feasible to avoid hitting civilians."
Among recent incidents giving rise to these concerns are: the destruction of factories and other property belonging to political supporters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic; attacks on Yugoslavia's electrical transformers; the destruction of several of Yugoslavia's television and radio stations; several bombings of civilian objects such as the May 7 bombing of the civilian hospital in Nis and the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, and the bombing of civilian vehicles because they were mistaken for military vehicles or were crossing bridges or near other installations at the time they were attacked.
Human Rights Watch called on NATO to investigate each incident in which a civilian target was attacked or civilian loss of life occurred to determine the exact circumstances of the attack and urged that the findings of such investigations be made public and corrective steps taken immediately to ensure NATO's strict compliance with humanitarian law.
The letter and a select chronology of NATO attacks are on the Human Rights Watch website, www.hrw.org.
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