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Wednesday, 7 June, 2000, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Kosovo campaign 'illegal', say MPs
Bomb damage in Belgrade
Nato's bombing campaign was not sanctioned by the UN
A committee of MPs has issued a report strongly criticising the conduct, strategy and judgement of Nato's war against Serbia.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the military campaign was of "dubious legality", but added that Nato's intervention on behalf of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population had been justifiable on moral grounds.

The MPs said Nato had made a "serious misjudgement" when the alliance failed to predict the mass expulsions from Kosovo that followed their air strikes on Serbia.

We conclude that Nato's military action, if of dubious legality in the current state of international law, was justified on moral grounds

The MPs' report
The cross party committee is now urging the government to publish Nato's assessment of why it had nore foreseen Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's response, given the "over-riding public interest" in what happened.

Nato leaders were also criticised by MPs for publically ruling out a ground invasion of Kosovo and for being overly optimistic that the threat of air strikes would make the Serbs back down.

No war powers

The MPs concluded that Nato has no powers under its treaty to conduct a war on humanitarian grounds without the consent of the United Nations.

The cross-party group called for the Nato treaty to be rewritten with a new code for humanitarian interventions.

During the campaign Russia repeatedly threatened to use its veto in the security council to prevent the UN backing military action.

However, the committee said that more should have been done in advance to warn the Serb leader Milosevic that Nato would wage a bombing campaign if his troops attempted ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Nato too 'optimistic'

The report said: "We conclude that Nato's military action, if of dubious legality in the current state of international law, was justified on moral grounds."

It added: "We believe a very serious misjudgment was made when it was assumed that the bombing would not lead to the dramatic escalation in the displacement and expulsion of the Kosovo Albanian population."

The MPs said many Nato political leaders had been "excessively optimistic" that the Yugoslav government would back down in the face of the threat of airstrikes or after a short bombing campaign.

And turning the to the alliance's strategy it concluded: "Serious consideration of a ground assault only began towards the end of the campaign and, given the military and logistical difficulties involved, it is likely that if it had proved necessary to launch a ground assault the conflict might have been prolonged and might have involved many casualties."

The committee urged the government to reconsider the use of cluster bombs given the risk posed to civilians.

It also called on ministers to justify the controversial bombing of a Serb broadcasting station in which 16 people died, and to disclose the outcome of the review into the error which led to the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by US warplanes.

'War crime'

The MPs' report follows a statement from Amnesty International in the US published on Tuesday, which said that Nato unlawfully killed innocent civilians in Kosovo.

It said Nato violated the "rules of war" and in particular condemned the attack on Serb state television.

It amounted to a "grave breach of the laws of war" and Nato "therefore committed a war crime", Amnesty said.

This was denied by Nato spokesman Mark Laity, who said that the organisation had already been cleared of war crimes accusations.

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25 Apr 00 | UK Politics
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