Belgrade sentences Nato leaders

Paul Wood

Thursday, 21 September, 2000

A court in Belgrade has sentenced 14 Nato leaders to 20 years in prison each for war crimes allegedly committed during last year's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
The presiding judge said an arrest warrant had been issued for the convicted leaders, who include US President Bill Clinton, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac.
Sentenced in absentia, they have 15 days to appeal against the verdict.
The court had heard evidence on the Nato use of cluster bombs and was told that Nato warplanes had dropped 10 tonnes of ammunition containing depleted uranium on Kosovo.
The United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague has rejected Yugoslav accusations against Nato - but has indicted the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and four of his close aides, for alleged war crimes in Kosovo.

'Agressive war'
During the trial, which began on Monday, proceedings took place with 14 empty chairs, bearing the names of the accused.
The absent leaders were charged and sentenced with "inciting an aggressive war, war crimes against the civilian population, use of banned combat means, attempted murder of the Yugoslav president, as well as with the violation of the country's territorial integrity".
There was applause from the public as Judge Veroljub Rakitic read out the verdicts.
"Our human criminal law has not anticipated higher sentences, because no-one could have anticipated that such crimes might be committed," he said.
He ordered the defendants to pay the costs of the trial within 15 days "under threat of forced execution".

At the start of the trial the judge said the accused had all been sent a translated list of the charges through diplomatic channels.
It took three hours for Belgrade prosecutor Andrija Milutinovic to read the 183-page indictment against the leaders, followed by the names of 890 alleged victims of Nato bombings - 503 civilians, 240 soldiers and 147 Serb policemen.
But Mr Rakitic said in the verdict that the 14 were guilty for acts that "caused the death of 546 soldiers, 138 policemen and 504 civilians, among them 88 children."
No explanation was given for the difference in the figures in the indictment and the verdict.

Original article