Nato targets in YU were 'military'

The HAGUE, Jun 14, 2000 -- (AFP) NATO's targets in Yugoslavia last year were clearly military and not civilian, barring the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, according to a report made public by the warcrimes tribunal here Tuesday.

Though the embassy was clearly a civilian building and not a legitimate military target, the inquiry concluded that the bombing during the Kosovo war had been due to error in locating a target, and did not warrant an investigation by the tribunal prosecutor.

The 44-page experts' report requested by tribunal prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was released amid controversy over her decision earlier this month not to investigate NATO for warcrimes despite the deaths of civilians in the 1999 campaign.

That decision had been made on the basis of the experts' report, which after examining 10 incidents in which 10 or more civilians had been killed, concluded there was no reason to investigate NATO, even if mistakes had been made.

Both Yugoslavia and human rights groups such as Amnesty International, however, had accused the Alliance of war crimes for targeting civilians during its three-month campaign.

Del Ponte, prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said she had decided to publish the report "because there was so much publicity about this case and I am concerned about that.

"It's important to come out with the motivations so the people can see how we worked and we came to this conclusion."

The report, she insisted, was based on "facts and law. No political motivations" were involved.

It concluded that NATO had always targeted military objectives with the exception of the Chinese mission.

"The building hit was clearly a civilian object and not a legitimate military objective," the report admitted, but concluded that the bombing had been due to error.

"The committee is of the opinion that the Office of the Prosecutor should not undertake an investigation concerning the bombing of the Chinese embassy," it concluded.

Other incidents examined included the bombing of the railroad bridge at Leskovac and of a column of refugees.

Amnesy International charged that NATO commanders had broken the rules of war by not suspending attacks once it had become clear they had hit civilians.

"No proper investigation appears to have been conducted by NATO or its member states into these incidents," the international rights group said.

"The most powerful military alliance in the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection of civilians, according to international humanitarian law," Amnesty concluded.

The report to the prosecutor released in The Hague Tuesday noted that when the prosecutor's office requested NATO to answer specific questions, "the NATO reply was couched in general terms and failed to address tha specific incidents".

Del Ponte said that if new evidence emerged the inquiry could be reopened.

Her announcement June 2 that there would not be an investigation into the bombings prompted sharp criticism from Russia, which accused the tribunal in The Hague of lack of objectivity.

Original article