Prosecute NATO
George Szamuely
New York Press


"I must do my job, otherwise I am not independent, and the independence of the prosecutor is the most important element... I just depend on the law, and that’s it." The noble sentiments are those of Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). She’d just been asked whether she intended to investigate the possibility that NATO might have committed war crimes during its murderous bombing spree last year. What about those smashed-up refugee convoys, the destroyed housing estates, the bridges turned into rubble, trains full of dead passengers, devastated monasteries, bombed electrical grids and tv stations, cluster bombs, depleted uranium? What about all of that? "It’s not my priority," she explained, "because I have inquiries about genocide, about bodies who are in mass graves, and that’s what I am doing now."

Oh, that’s all right then. These inquiries, carried out by NATO government agencies like the FBI and Scotland Yard, have one objective only: to nail NATO’s enemies. Though the media likes to paint her as an upright Katharine Hepburn type, Del Ponte is a shameless liar. She is not "independent" in any sense whatsoever. Her Tribunal is a creature of the United States. Established in 1993 by Resolution 827 of the UN Security Council, its objective was to use the aura of "international law" to persecute the Serbs. Startup funds of $6 million came courtesy of the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright. She also hired the initial staff of 25 lawyers. As the president of the Tribunal, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, explained in a speech at the U.S. Supreme Court last April: "[W]e benefited from the strong support of concerned governments and dedicated individuals such as Secretary Albright. As the permanent representative to the United Nations, she had worked with unceasing resolve to establish the Tribunal. Indeed, we often refer to her as the ‘Mother of the Tribunal.’" In May, before the Council on Foreign Relations, she stated: "The U.S. Government has very generously agreed to provide $500,000 and to help to encourage other states to contribute. However, the moral imperative to end the violence in the region is shared by all, including the corporate sector. I am pleased, therefore, that a major corporation has recently donated computer equipment worth $3 million."

During last year’s bombing, moreover, Bill Clinton secured a $27 million appropriation for the Tribunal. In other words, money is rolling in from people who have a vested interest in the outcome of the trials. This is a flagrant violation of the Statutes of the Tribunal. Article 32 states that the "the expenses of the International Tribunal shall be borne by the regular budget of the United Nations." Soon after NATO launched its bombing campaign, Louise Arbour, Del Ponte’s predecessor, appeared at a press conference where British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook made a great show of presenting her with a dossier of Serbian war crimes.

Last year, Prof. Michael Mandel of Toronto wrote to Arbour arguing that, according to its Statutes, the Tribunal is obligated to investigate NATO. Article 2, for instance, states that the Tribunal "shall have the power to prosecute persons committing or ordering to be committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions...willful killing...willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Article 3 cites "wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity" and the "attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings..."

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All articles reprinted with permission from the New York Press

There is not the slightest chance that Del Ponte will investigate NATO’s war crimes. She cannot do it for a simple reason. Yugoslavia broke no international laws whatsoever and got bombed. NATO broke every international law in the book and still got to decide who had to stand trial. And it is the NATO governments that pay her wages.

Here is a quick summary of just a few of the international laws NATO violated: Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter states: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Article 39 states: "The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken." The Rambouillet Agreement, Serbia’s refusal to sign which provoked the bombing campaign, violated Article 51 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties: "The expression of a State’s consent to be bound by a treaty which has been procured by the coercion of its representative through acts or threats directed against him shall be without legal effect." Not to mention the Geneva Convention and the targeting of civilians.

Del Ponte’s little court is a truly sinister organization. It operates on the basis of sealed indictments, so that people do not even know if there is an arrest warrant pending against them. They can be seized anywhere and hauled off to the Hague. There, cut off from family, friends and country, they can be held up to 90 days without being charged. There is no bail or any form of release before trial. Detention without trial could last several years. Mail is censored. Visits are severely restricted. Trial witnesses can testify anonymously. Prosecutors do not have to disclose the sources of their information. Prosecutors may even appeal an acquittal and ensure that the accused remain in detention during such an appeal.

The International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia serves for the United States the same purpose courts of this nature served for Hitler and Stalin: it terrorizes the opposition. A couple of weeks ago the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank and the U.S.-based Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil Company (AMBO) met and resolved to build an oil pipeline extending from the Bulgarian Black Sea across Macedonia and Albania to Western Europe. This is what U.S. policy in the Balkans is about. Anyone likely to object will find himself bombed and then yanked off to the Hague–there to rot forever.

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