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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Nato challenged over Belgrade bombing
The remains of RTS in Belgrade
Sixteen people were killed in the attack
The European Court of Human Rights has begun deciding whether Nato should face trial for bombing Belgrade's main TV station during the Kosovo conflict.

Six people have brought a case on behalf of the station's employees, saying the attack, which killed 16 people, was in breach of Europe's human rights charter.

Serbian boy
Civilian casualties proved a propaganda nightmare for Nato
They say the air strikes were illegal under the charter, which governs the right to life and freedom of expression. They are asking for compensation.

The hearing is only the first step to determine if the European Court of Human Rights has the jurisdiction even to hear the case.

Propaganda war

On the night of 23 April 1999, Nato aircraft attacked the government-run studios of Radio Television Serbia (RTS) in Belgrade, in which those killed, most of them production workers, had been ordered to report for work.

The attack was part of Nato's air campaign to force the Yugoslav Government of former President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw its forces from Kosovo.

Countries accused
Belgium
Czech Republic
Denmark
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Italy
Luxembourg
The Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Spain
Turkey
United Kingdom

At the time, Nato defended the air strike by saying the TV station was a legitimate target because of its role in what Nato called Belgrade's campaign of propaganda.

The applicants to the Court of Human Rights argue that the individual Nato member states are responsible for the bombing, even though it was carried out by Nato forces.

They are suing the European members of Nato - but not the United States and Canada - for compensation.

Lawyers for the Nato states, which have denied the charges, say that because the former Yugoslavia was not a signatory to the European Charter of Human Rights, the court cannot hear the case.

If the states are found responsible, the survivor and families could be awarded damages.

A judgement is due in several weeks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alix Kroeger
reports from Belgrade
See also:

17 Jul 00 | Europe
Serb families to sue Nato allies
07 Jun 00 | Europe
Nato accused of war crimes
01 Jun 99 | Europe
Nato's bombing blunders
23 Apr 99 | Europe
Nato defends TV bombing
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