European Court Throws Out Complaint Over NATO Bombing
Agence France Presse December 19, 2001
The European Court of Human Rights threw out a complaint by six Yugoslavs who charged that NATO’s deadly 1999 bombing of a Serb television station in Belgrade violated their rights, ruling the case not admissible.
The plaintiffs, mostly relatives of the 16 people killed by the attack, alleged that the bombing of Serb TV station RTS during the Kosovo war violated the European Convention of Human Rights, particularly their right to life and freedom of expression.
The court unanimously found that the Convention did not apply to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) because it was not a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore the case was not admissible.
While the court did say there were exceptional extra-territorial cases which could fall under its jurisdiction, the bombing of the TV station was not one of them.
It also added that "the Convention was not designed to be applied throughout the world, even in respect of the conduct of" signatory states.
The April 23, 1999 strike by a cruise missile, which took place while journalists and technicians were at work in the building in central Belgrade, was part of the NATO air campaign to force an end to Belgrade’s repression in Kosovo. It also seriously injured 16 people.
Five of the plaintiffs were relatives of those who died in the bombing, while the sixth was injured in the attack.
Lawyers arguing for the NATO countries said the Alliance had acted within international humanitarian law to end what they called "ethnic cleansing" in the two-and-a-half month war in Kosovo.
The 17 NATO defendants, which are all members of the Council of Europe, are Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
Yugoslavia is a candidate for membership of the Council of Europe.Though the United States and Canada — both NATO members — played a major role in the Kosovo war and the bombing, they do not belong to the Council of Europe and so they were not among the defendants.