©Edited by Alexandra Valiente for Libya 360°.
Why and how is it that international laws and international bodies and international public figures paid to maintain peaceful co-existence keep silent while even endorsing repeated NATO bombings that have killed thousands of innocent men, women and children & destroyed public and private property in a show of supremacy and arrogance over the nations they have targeted? NATO war crimes extend from Yugoslavia, to Iraq, to Afghanistan and now Libya. Why are international laws being manipulated to pressurize nations politically less powerful yet bountiful in natural resources or placed in influential economic routes? This simply explains why nations are invaded in the present context and how NATO has become above the law.
Were there terrorists in power plants, electricity grids, water supply networks? Were there terrorists among shops, universities and schools, stores, hospitals, farms and markets? These have been key targets of NATO in its endless bombing campaigns which totally violate its own Charter & the UN Charter. So if justice is quiet what is the use of the International Criminal Court at The Hague? If the ICC is a tool, a manipulative organism that twists legal principles, it is time the rest of the world knew about these duplicities, ambiguities and double standards and demand that it either stop the double standards or these members vote for another alternative.
Shenali Waduge. Lankaweb.com
NATO in Yugoslavia
The International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia formed in 1993 was only a means to justify Western intervention in the Balkans. It has no links to the International Court of Justice based in The Hague. The Tribunal is made up of US-influenced appointees, so will NATO crimes in Kosovo be investigated? Was it a surprise when the Tribunal branded President Milosevic a war criminal and the US is against the establishment of any international court that can charge US military and political personnel with war crimes?
What NATO is accused of is violating the UN Charter – it is a violation to attack a sovereign nation that was innocent of any aggression. NATO’s Charter Articles 1 and 7 have also been violated – NATO is supposed to function as a “DEFENSIVE organization, and only committed to force if ONE or MORE of its members are attacked! The NATO Treaty in fact recognizes the UN Security Council to maintain international peace and security. NATO’s violation of the Hague Convention Articles 22 and 23, Geneva Convention Article 19, Nuremberg Principle VI a,b,c and the US Constitution Article 1 Section 8, Clause II is for “killing and injuring a defenseless population through Yugoslavia”.
The usual excuse is given as “humanitarian” intervention and that was what the Clinton administration used; incidentally Mussolini used it to invade Ethiopia to save them from slavery and Hitler used it to occupy Sudetenland to save Germans.
If the US used the Nuremberg principles to charge Germany for “starting an unprovoked war” shouldn’t the US be charged on similar grounds?
On 22 September, 2000 in the District Court of Belgrade, the president of the Court handed down guilty verdicts against government leaders of NATO countries for “war crimes”. These defendants were Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, Robin Cook, George Robertson, William Cohen, Hubert Vedrine, Alain Richard, Gerhard Schroeder, Joschka Fischer, Rudolf Scharping, Javier Solana and Wesley Clark. The sentence was for 20 years in a Yugoslav prison and thus arrest warrants were issued upon all, charging each for crimes against humanity and breaches of international law, inciting an aggressive war, war crimes against civilians, use of weapons banned under international law, violating Yugoslavia’s territorial sovereignty and attempting to murder Slobodan Milosevic, president of Yugoslavia between March 24 and June 10, 1999.
Former US President Bill Clinton was sent a verdict on April 18th, 2001 sentencing him in absentia to 20 years in prison for “crimes against civilians”.
The entire West is not as inhuman as we think. The Commission of Inquiry of the International Action Center in 1999 charged Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright and William Cohen for violating the Geneva Convention, the UN Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Helsinki Accords and the US Constitution. The 19 charges included starting a war, the deliberate targeting of civilians infrastructure and violating and destroying the peacemaking role of the UN. One of the main arguments was that despite the Yugoslav parliament agreeing to NATO’s demand of autonomy & armed UN peacekeepers in Kosovo, why was it bombed! Instead of the mass graves that were similar to the WMD in Iraq, there were perhaps just 200 dead persons – the 100,000 dead Albanians that NATO and US were promoting as grounds to attack were just a lie.
NATO’s air strikes in Serbia killed over 2,000 civilians and wounded more than 7,500. NATO has owned up to only 460 civilian deaths. The dead included farmers, city dwellers, reporters, diplomats, people traveling in public transport, patients in hospitals, the elderly and even children. That is the human factor – what about the enormous damages to the environment as a result of these NATO bombings – poisoning water supplies, and loss of electricity that affects hospitals and other emergency requirements? There is evidence that some Spanish pilots refused to drop bombs on non-military targets.
Another accusation against NATO was the bombing of all bridges across the international waterway through Eastern Europe – the River Danube. Some of these bridges were bombed while civilians were on them. All that NATO leaders said were that the incidents were “accidents”. This clearly violates the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12th August 1949 & the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) – 8th June 1977.
NATO strategy was to destroy the whole infrastructure of Yugoslavia – that was why it targeted public services, rail and road networks, waterways. The objective was always to detach Kosovo.
If one were to read the book (The White Book) published by the Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NATO crimes in Yugoslavia, the book will reveal the damage caused by NATO bombings and lists 400 civilian deaths and over 40 incidents involving civilian fatalities.
If NATO’s actions were illegal under its own treaty, in particular since aggressive military action was taken without UN mandate, the killings that ensued were war crimes.
What is clear is that the US and UK governments deliberately waged war against Yugoslavia by building a propaganda campaign that would be internationally welcomed and accepted by their countrymen.
On 5th January 2000, the Yugoslav government stepped up pressure to indict NATO country leaders – US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair – for crimes against humanity in Yugoslavia in 1999. This followed a submission for instigating proceedings before the International Court of Justice in April 29, 1999 and ICC setting a deadline for legal action on 30th June 1999 and Yugoslavia meeting that deadline on 5th January 2000.
“Yugoslavia demands that the Court declare these countries responsible for the violation of major international obligations, which ban the implementation of force against countries, interference into their internal affairs or the violation of their sovereignty, as well as other international obligations. The indictment also included the demand for confirming the responsibility of these countries for their failure to prevent the genocide against the Serb people and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija, in which way they violated the obligations stemming from U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide Crimes. Yugoslavia is also demanding that the Court instruct all countries, which are being sued to pay compensation for all the damages inflicted”.
NATO war crimes in Iraq
The Geneva Conventions are clear that “Civilians shall not be the object of attack.” According to the UN Security Council resolution, military forces were tasked with expelling Iraqi forces that invaded Kuwait in 1990. That task involved 88,000 tons of bombs that killed civilians and killed more civilians through the destruction of power grids, food, and water treatment and sewage systems. US soldiers used napalm to incinerate entrenched Iraqi soldiers. US soldiers dropped fuel-air explosives and cluster bombs that use razor-sharp fragments to shred people. Depleted uranium was used to penetrate tanks, causing long-term health hazards, and the economic embargoes killed as many as 1 million Iraqis.
Why did the US and its allies deliberately destroy Iraq’s water supply and not repair it? Why did these Western nations repeatedly bomb infrastructures for flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, communication towers, irrigation and hydroelectric power? (8 multi purpose dams, 7 major pumping stations, 31 municipal water and sewage facilities were destroyed). These have nothing to do with Saddam or his supporters – these are services needed for the people of Iraq.
They were bombed to create waterborne diseases which have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians and the bombs and weapons used have caused radiation poisoning as a result of depleted uranium shells.
Article 54 of the Geneva Convention states that “it is prohibited to attack, destroy or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population,” including foodstuffs, livestock and drinking water supplies and irrigation works”.
Why were these acts not treated as war crimes under the Geneva Convention and does this not constitute genocide by US and allies?
NATO war crimes in Afghanistan
If NATO has committed war crimes in Iraq and Yugoslavia, should we be surprised to read of NATO war crimes in Afghanistan? Indiscriminate bombings killing unarmed civilians have only been answered with an “apology” by NATO. The presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan was similar to that which took place in Yugoslavia – without any proof a country has been taken over. Indiscriminate bombings mean rebuilding projects being handed over to profit-driven private corporations. The irony is that the Afghan government is compromising the welfare of its own citizens for its own financial benefits. This has caused a rise in Pashtun nationalism and indirect support for the Taliban. Thus it has been easy to pass blame for NATO killings on to the Taliban while civilian deaths keep piling up, infrastructure continues to be bombed and anarchy prevails throughout Afghanistan.
NATO in Libya
NATO’s Libya operation followed a UNSC Resolution which NATO has violated, seen through its presence on the ground and the bombing of civilian structures. The greatest violation is by NATO taking sides, which is illegal; illegal too is the murder or attempt to murder government officials with no formal declaration of war. NATO is also using cluster bombs & depleted uranium which is also illegal. NATOs violations in Libya are many & what we would like to know is why is the ICC silent?
In the case of Libya, the ICC has no jurisdiction as Libya never ratified the Rome Treaty nor has the US. However, under international laws a Head of State has immunity. So if the ICC does not question the US and its crimes against humanity why should the ICC question Libya when the UN Security Council cannot refer to the ICC according to its Statute? ICC has been considering action against Georgia since 2008, against Guinea since 2009 and against Colombia since 2006, but the ICC took just 3 days to find Libya guilty.
The NATO countries participating in air strikes in Libya include France, UK, US, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands and Italy. What excuse does NATO have for bombing a Downs Syndrome school, the University of Tripoli, the man-made waterway irrigation system which supplies most Libyans with drinking water, bombing a hospital killing over 50, many of whom were children, bombing villages and killing the civilian population – is this not genocide and can the ICC continue to watch while doing nothing?
The sinister campaign to take over Libya was by first projecting to Gaddafi that the US “deeply valued the relationship between the United States and Libya” (2009). This was because British Petroleum, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Chevron, Conoco, Marathon Oil and industrial giants like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Dow Chemical & Fluor signed investments and sales deals with Libya. The US State Dept awarded a $1.5m grant to train Libyan civilian and government security forces in 2009. Many of these “trainees” are now leading the NATO-backed “rebel forces”.
Thus, the pretence of being a “friend” to Gaddafi by the US since 2009 was to get Gaddafi to agree to allow foreign presence in Libya.
For months now NATO has been pounding Libya. Over 30,000 air and missile assaults on mostly civilian infrastructure was expected, so too was the “rebel uprising,” for they had been already been trained to rise up against Gaddafi. NATO also bombed Libyan airports, ships, energy depots, ports and highways, warehouses, hospitals, waterplants and civilian homes. NATO was able to garner diplomatic support inclusive of the Arab League and NATO availed itself of the services of hired mercenaries in Qatar. Libyan assets amounting to billions of dollars were frozen. Economic sanctions were imposed by NATO, cutting off Libya’s income from oil sales.
International media also controlled by Western imperialists were relaying images that portrayed rebels waving rifles and shouting against Gaddafi. These rebels entered towns that had been devastated by NATO air attacks! What these rebels did was to rob homes and banks and destroy public institutions on the instructions of NATO. Going against Gaddafi does not equate to ruining infrastructure and destroying property that is used by one’s own people!
NATO wanted Libya to be destroyed. Like NATO destroyed Yugoslavia and Iraq. NATO wanted to ensure Libya had to be “reconstructed” because all these contracts would eventually go to profit-making Western companies!
Incidentally, Libya is a country that had boasted the highest per capita income and standard of living in Africa.
What took place in Libya is a message from the imperialists for other nations in North Africa, Asia and Latin America. US-NATO are already engaged in colonial wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. What about the fall of Mubarak of Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia while uprisings in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria were all associated with movements demanding an end to EU-US and Israeli domination of the region and would have caught their intelligence services by surprise?
NATO provided the money to silence the “people’s march to democracy” and the situation in Egypt is far worse than during Mubarak’s reign! In Bahrain the West called for “reform” while continuing to arm the Bahraini royal family as seen in the NATO-backed Saudi invasion of Bahrain to support the royal dictatorship. In Yemen, the West continued to support the Ali Saleh regime. Nevertheless, NATO is apparently providing support to Islamic fundamentalists in a move to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad.
What did Libya do to anger the West? Did the West not like its pursuance of a pro-African agenda which had funded an independent regional bank and communications system designed to bypass the IMF and World Bank control?
What has ensued is that like in Iraq and Afghanistan there is likely to be a dominating US-NATO presence that is looking towards a military offensive in Iran and Syria. Sub-Saharan Africa may like to remember Gaddafi’s generous aid, grants and loans that helped these nations against the IMF and World Bank. Who will remember Gaddafi’s development programs, construction projects that offered many jobs to sub-Saharan African immigrant workers? Despite all these maneuvers, China is still racing ahead over its Western counterparts.
July 22, 2011 is the date when NATO hit the Libyan water supply pipeline. Days later NATO hit the pipeline factory producing pipes to repair it. Both incidents could not have been accidents. NATO went on to target the civilian water supply network that supplied water to 70% of the Libyan population. Nevertheless, the truth will emerge, just like Libya is now revealing how it funded French President Sarkozy’s election campaign and the numerous secret meetings Tony Blair held with Gaddafi and there must surely be more in the Pandora’s box, which is why the West is in a haste to bump off Gaddafi as they did Osama and Saddam – all previous friends of the West.
It is certainly time that UN member states stood up against aggression by Western neo-imperialism. Member states must demand a probe into all the atrocities by NATO and demand that the nations steering NATO be charged with war crimes. Russia and China need to champion this cause.
With only 28 nations making up the NATO alliance, the UN has 53 African member nations and 48 Middle-East and Asian nations and 12 nations in South America. It is opportune for these non-NATO members to make a voice within the UN and demand that NATO be investigated for all of its war crimes and be charged for every war crime committed.