|Raju G. C. Thomas
NATO and International Law
[Raju Thomas is Professor of Political Science at Marquette University.
is the author of 8 books, over 50 journal articles and book
over 70 OP-ED newspaper articles. His recent books were Democracy,
and Development in India (1996), and The Nuclear Non-Proliferation
(1998). He was educated at Bombay University, the London School
Economics, and the University of California at Los Angeles from
obtained his Ph.D. He has been a visiting Fellow at Harvard,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the International
Strategic Studies, London.]
Does NATO's attack on Serbia violate International Law? Does
Law override the territorial integrity of states?
I. NATO and International Law
The US and NATO is violating a number of international laws in attacking
Serbia over Kosovo which is part of a sovereign independent state.
(1) It is a violation of Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter that prohibits
use of force against a sovereign state where it has not committed
aggression on other states. Serbia did not attack any neighboring
outside its sovereign borders. The Security Council did not sanction
use of force here. Efforts to justify these actions through
resolutions or Chapter 7 of the Charter are acts of distortion
(2) It is a violation of NATO's own charter which claims it is a
organizations and is only committed to force if one of its members
attacked. No member of NATO was attacked.
(3) The so-called Rambouillet "Agreement" (there was no "agreement"
Serbia ) is a violation of Articles 51 and 52 of the 1980 Vienna
on the Law of Treaties which forbids coercion and force to compel
to sign a treaty or agreement. Serbia is being asked to sign this
"Agreement" through NATO bombs and missiles, anything but persuasion.
(4) It is a violation of the Helsinki Accords Final Act of 1975
guarantees the territorial frontiers of the states of Europe. What
so-called peace plan offers is (a) the severance of Kosovo through
bombing with immediate effect; or (b) the severance of Kosovo through
occupation three years later. The Serbs chose Option A.
(5) If the sequel to the bombing is recogntion of Kosovo as an independent
state, this will violate international law that prohibits recognition
provinces that unilaterally declare independence against the wishes
(6) If the bombing of Yugoslavia results in the destruction of Serbian
religious and historical sites, this will be in violation of the
Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event
(7) The Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (amended 1995) of the United
specifically states that "civilians shall not be the object of
(Schedule 5, Article 52.1) and that "civilians shall enjoy protection
unless they take a direct part in hostilities" (Schedule 6, Article
Targeting the Serbian TV station at night when it was inhabited
civilians only constituted an intentional and premeditated attack
(8) Beyond the above, there may be several other international regulations
about the environment that is being violated by the attacks on
plants, fuel storage, and refineries. They include the Vienna Convention
for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985, UNEP), the Montreal
on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987, UNEP), and the
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992).
II. Humanitarian Law and the Territorial Integrity of States
United States and Great Britain have argued that the attack
on Serbia was
justified under the 1948 Genocide Convention and/or other
general humanitarian principles. Claims have also been made that
2(4) of the UN Charter which upholds the territorial integrity
against external military attacks, is countered by Articles 1(2)
and 55 of
the Charter, which speak of self-determination of peoples.
However, these articles, including Articles 73 to 91 which
"Non-Self Governing Territories" and the "Trusteeship System,"
decolonization and not the right to secede from existing sovereign
independent states. Article 1 of International Covenant on Civil
Political Rights passed in 1976 referred to the rights of minorities
self-determination but did not inlcude the right to secede. It
right of peoples in all states "to free, fair and open participation
democratic process of governance freely chosen by each state."
meeting of the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Copenhagen went far in affirming democratic rights and human rights
peoples but did not go as far as to endorse the right to secede.
In any case, the internal Yugoslav republics of Slovenia, Croatia
Bosnia declared their independence before any human rights violations
violence had occurred and were recognized. Those unilateral declarations
independence produced the subsequent violence. Before the NATO
deaths of 2000 on all sides and the internal displacement of 300,000
in Kosovo did not constitute genocide. In Kosovo, a province no
from Krajina of Croatia from where all Serbs were driven out, NATO
led to the human catastrophe not just for Albanians but for Serbs,
Hungarians and Sandjak Muslims.
Much has been made about "Serbian genocide" in Bosnia which has
pretext for the current NATO attack. Like the Kosovo "genocide,"
more propaganda than fact. The Stockholm International Peace Research
Institute determined that between 35,000 and 50,000 people died
on all sides. In comparison, an average of 20,000 people
are victims of
homicide in the US every year. The investigators for the Hague
have interviewed only 223 women claiming to be raped, and have
575 affidavits from women claiming to be raped. Compare this with
average of 100,000 women who file rape complaints with the police
year, and an estimated 400,000 unreported rapes annually. NATO's
unqualified and unrestrained bombing campaign that includes the
infrasturcture is more likely to kill millions of Yugosalv citizens
long run, through lack of proper medical facilities, polluted water
atmospheric poisoning, ozone depletion, and climatic change. NATO
committing ecocide and therefore also genocide in the long run.
If NATO had the right to intervene in Kosovo, does it now
have the right
to intervene in Palestine, Kashmir, Tibet and "Kurdistan where
violations are also taking place? Can any state now bypass the
Council and attack another state by invoking humanitarian considerations?
(1) NATO cannot unilaterally invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention
1948 Universial Declaration of Human Rights, and other humanitarian
and proceed to attack independent states. Only the Security Council
so which was deliberately bypassed by NATO because it knew that
China would veto such an attack.
(2) There was no humanitarian intervention by the US and the West
Nigerian authorities crushed the Biafra separatist movement between
and 1970 causing the deaths of one million Ibos, when Pakistani
killed one million and drove out 10 million Bengalis during the
Pakistani secessionist struggle in 1971, when the Pol Pot regime
million Cambodians, to name just a few cases.
In the latter two cases, the US condemned India and Vietnam for
military interventions and threatened military action against them.
However, both India and Vietnam intervened after the human catastrophes
taken place. NATO's rush to bomb caused the human catastrophe
as did Western interventions earlier in Croatia and Bosnia by promoting
rushing to recognize Croatia and Bosnia as independent states against
wishes of the Serbian populations.
(3) Ethnic cleansing is not genocide. If it were, the Allied powers
guilty of genocide for the expulsion of some 12 million Germans
Poland, Czechoslavkia and elsewhere at the end of the Second World
surely European Jews committed genocide when it drove out nearly
Palestinians to carve out the state of Israel in 1948.
(4) There is now an ethnically pure Greater Croatia. There are almost
900,000 Serbian refugees ethnically cleansed from Croatia and the
federation, 300,000 in Republika Srpska and 600,000 in Serbia.
This is more
than any other ethnic group. Croatia conducted the largest single
cleansing of the war with American military support.
Russia, China and India, representing half the human race, got it
about the Kosovo crisis. NATO, the only alliance left after the
committed aggression on Serbia. This is all about saving NATO's
face at a
very heavy price for the Serbs. If NATO is above international
law, then so
is every other state and organization. It has set a terrible precedent.
Times of India editorial of April 29th, 1999, concluded rightly
as the US cannot afford to lose, the rest of the world cannot afford
it win. If NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia is allowed to prevail,
alliance will eventually turn its destructive attention to other
Raju G. C. Thomas
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