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'Nato Case'

Tribunal Update 179 Last Week in The Hague (June 5-10, 2000)

On June 2, the Tribunal's Chief Prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, told the United Nations Security Council that the OTP was "satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets."

Amnesty, however, claims NATO violated the laws of war. The report - "Collateral Damage" or Unlawful Killings? Violations of the Laws of War by NATO During Operation Allied Force - covers several incidents which claimed the lives of civilians.

"The 23 April 1999 bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television, which left 16 civilians dead, was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime," the report said.

The report also cited several NATO attacks on road and railway bridges where "insufficient precautions" had been taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Amnesty called on NATO member states and the Tribunal prosecutor to investigate the allegations and to bring to justice any of their nationals "suspected of being responsible for serious violations under international humanitarian law."

The Tribunal's Deputy Prosecutor, Graham Blewitt, said last week that the OTP had taken Amnesty International's findings into consideration while preparing their own report. Blewitt refused to go into details ahead of publication but said that once the report was made public it would become clear why the prosecutor had concluded there was no basis for an investigation.

Blewitt said the OTP had approached the NATO case in the same way as any other - allegations and related documentation from various sources were collected, further information and evidence relating to the incidents were sought, the accumulated facts were analysed and the appropriate test of law applied to each allegation.

The OTP has never before made public the internal process leading to a decision on whether to investigate a case. The deputy prosecutor said the OTP would do so on this occasion to ensure the process was as transparent as possible and to demonstrate the Tribunal is not a "political tool of NATO."

Until the OTP report is published, however, it will be unclear how the two organisations could have arrived at such diametrically opposed conclusions.

The OTP report will be submitted first to NATO and member states, probably this week, and then to organisations such as Amnesty, which submitted allegations and documentation to the prosecution investigative team. Only then will the report be made public.