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Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 08:21 GMT 09:21 UK
Nato accused of war crimes
plane
High-altitude bombing increased the risk of misses
The human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has accused Nato of committing war crimes during its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia a year ago.

In a new report, Amnesty says Nato forces violated the rules of war, which resulted in the unlawful killing of civilians.


No proper investigation appears to have been conducted by Nato or its member states into these incidents

Amnesty International

Nato Secretary-General George Robertson rejected the allegations as "baseless and ill-founded".

The international war crimes tribunal has already ruled out an investigation.

Amnesty called on Nato to review how it selected its targets and to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

"Nato scrupulously adhered to international law, including the law of war, throughout the conflict and made every effort to minimise civilian casualties," Lord Robertson said.

He acknowledged that "in a few cases mistakes were made ... leading to civilian deaths or injuries".

Serbian stateTV bombed
Nato said Serbian state TV was a "ministry of lies"

But he said such incidents "must be weighed against the atrocities that Nato's action stopped".

The bombing, which ended on 7 June last year, resulted in a withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo and the deployment of a Nato-led peacekeeping force in the southern Serbian province.

Kosovo: Special Report

Last week, the international war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, rejected Yugoslav allegations that Nato had committed war crimes.

She told the UN Security Council that there was no basis to open an investigation into the bombing campaign.

The Amnesty report looks at a number of attacks carried out over Yugoslavia last year and concludes that Nato did not always respect the rules of war in selecting its targets.

It called on Nato to review how it selected its targets and to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.

Raid on Serbian TV

Amnesty singled out the 23 April 1999 bombing of the Serbian state television building, in which 16 people died.

The bombing was "a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime," the report said.

International law forbids direct attacks on civilians and civilian targets. In other cases, the human rights group says Nato failed to take precautions to minimise civilian casualties.

Amnesty said Serb accounts put the civilian death toll at 400-600, but that the number of deaths "could have been significantly reduced if Nato forces had fully adhered to the laws of war during Operation Allied Force".

Jamie Shea
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea had to apologise for bombing blunders

Insufficient precautions were taken to minimise civilian casualties, it said, adding: "No proper investigation appears to have been conducted by Nato or its member states into these incidents".

It urged Nato's 19 member states to "bring to justice any of their nationals suspected of being responsible for serious violations under international humanitarian law".

Officials in Belgrade welcomed the Amnesty report, but said it did little to redress the balance compared to all the accusations of war crimes levelled against the Yugoslav authorities.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Nato Secretary General George Robertson
"Our whole purpose was to stop warcrimes going on in Kosovo"
Nato Spokesman, Jamie Shea
"We took all reasonable precautions"
The BBC's Paul Welsh reporting
"Someone from the Nato alliance should stand trial"
See also:

02 Jun 00 | Europe
12 Mar 00 | Europe
01 Jun 99 | Europe
31 May 99 | Europe
23 Apr 99 | Europe
07 Jun 00 | Europe
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