CEOL
Canadian Serbs sue Ottawa for role in Kosovo war

OTTAWA, Mar 17, 2000 -- (AFP) A group of some 60 Serbs, most of them Canadian citizens here, have filed a class action lawsuit against the government for its role in NATO's attack on Kosovo last year, their attorney said Thursday.

The Canadian Serbs are claiming tens of millions of Canadian dollars in damages and interest, saying NATO's bombing killed members of their families, destroyed properties in Serbia and, in some cases, ruined businesses.

Some say they were present on Yugoslav territory when military operations were launched by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They accuse Ottawa of having failed to take precautions to protect them and their families, as well as their properties, ahead of the attacks, which began on March 24.

Canada had issued a brief warning for travelers in the region.

"They are no supporters of (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic. Many had fled his dictatorship," said their attorney, Emilio Binavince.

He added that in his view, NATO "had no right to bomb this country."

Canadian government attorneys said they expected the suit to be dismissed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the matter.

"The Canadian government thinks you cannot sue in matters of foreign affairs. It's not true," said Binavince, adding that NATO operations had caused more harm to more victims than Milosevic and his men.

The suit, filed Tuesday in superior court, names Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Defense Minister Art Eggleton, as well as top military officers associated with the Foreign Affairs and Defense ministries.

Binavince said he would file suit against the governments of other countries that are members of NATO, if the law permits.



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