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Yugoslavia vs NATO at UN Court in The Hague


Ceylon Daily News-Internet edition 

                                                  Saturday 01, May 1999

Justice Weeramantry to preside over Yugoslavia vs NATO case

Thalif Deen at the United Nations

Christie Weeramantry, the Sri Lankan Justice in the World Court will preside over one of the
most politically-sensitive cases brought by Yugoslavia against 10 NATO nations accusing
them of bombing its territory in violation of international law and using force against another
sovereign State. 

The 10 countries named are: The US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands,
Belgium, Canada, Portugal and Spain - all members of the 19 Nation North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation (NATO). 

Stephen Schwebel, the President of the court has excused himself since he is an American
and the case involved sitting in judgement over the military action of the United States. 

As a result, Justice Weeramantry will exercise the functions of the presidency in all 10 cases
since Yugoslavia has instituted proceedings before the Court individually against the 10
NATO countries. 

But either for political or other reasons, Yugoslavia has not included the remaining nine
members of NATO - namely, Greece, Turkey, Iceland, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway,
Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic - who technically also are at war with the

The World Court officially called the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold hearings
on the Yugoslav complaint beginning May 10 in the Hague. 

In its submission to the court Yugoslavia said that the 10 countries named in the complaint
have committed "acts by which (they) have violated (their) international obligations not to use
force against another State, not to intervene in (that State's) "internal affairs" and "not to
violate sovereignty." 

Yugoslavia declared that both military and civilian targets had come under attack during the
air strikes, causing many casualties - "about 1,000 civilians, including 19 children, killed and
more than 4,500 sustaining serious injuries" - and enormous damage to schools, hospitals,
radio and television stations, cultural monuments and places of worship. Additionally, the 10
NATO countries are accused of destroying a large number of bridges, roads, and railway
lines, as well as oil refineries and chemical plants, resulting in serious health and
environmental damage. 

As for the legal basis of its claim, Yugoslavia cited provisions of several international
conventions including the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the additional 1997 protocol on
the Protection of Civilians and Civilian Objects in Time of War and the 1948 Convention on
Free Navigation on the Danube. 

It also cited provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 

Yugoslavia pointed out that the activities of the 10 states are "contrary to article 53,
paragraph 1, of the Charter of the United Nations." 

The relevant paragraph says that "the (UN) Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilise
(such) regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority." 

But the Charter provision also say that no enforcement action shall be taken under regional
arrangements or by regional agencies without authorization of the Security Council. 

Since the beginning of the attack March 24, Yugoslavia has consistently argued that the
military strikes are illegal because they were not authorised by the Council. The Security
Council voted 12 to 3 in late March to reject a Russian-sponsored resolution to end the
NATO air strikes.

Produced by Lake House in collaboration with Lanka Internet Services Ltd 
            Copyright ) 1996 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited 

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