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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 22:36 GMT
Ex-PM testifies on Nato strikes
Smoke rises from the bombed Serbian state television station, 23 April 1999
The television station was hit by a Nato missile in April 1999
Former Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok has told a court in The Hague the deaths of civilians during the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 were "regrettable".

But he said it was Nato, not the Netherlands, who selected the targets in its bid to force Belgrade to end its anti-Albanian crackdown in Kosovo.

Some victims' relatives are seeking compensation from the Dutch state.

Mr Kok and another former minister were speaking at a preliminary hearing in preparation for a civil case.

The appearance by Mr Kok and ex-foreign minister Jozias van Aartsen is the first time since World War II that Western politicians have testified in relation to alleged crimes against humanity in a national court.

The case has been brought by the relatives of 16 victims of the Nato bombings of a television station in Belgrade and the market place in Nis in 1999.

They claim the attacks on civilian targets were the result of illegal aggression against Yugoslavia.

They wanted to know how much of a warning was given to the TV studio and about the use of cluster bombs in the attack on Nis.

'Technical fault'

Mr Kok told the court that Nato member states had agreed to air strikes against certain types of targets, including communications facilities.

But he said "the Netherlands did not have any influence on the choice of individual targets."

"The fact that there were civilian victims is regrettable," he told the court.

Referring to the Nis bombing, he said: "It was due to a technical fault that the targets were not hit."

The victims' lawyers say they have solid grounds for their case on the basis of reports from two government advisory committees and a previous case in Amsterdam.

They argue that as a centre for international law, the Netherlands must be seen to uphold it.

Lawsuits against Nato have been filed in a number of countries and in two international tribunals. None have been successful.

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26 Mar 03  |  Middle East
Nato defends TV bombing
23 Apr 99  |  Europe

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