UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on war crimes


Jan Slakov

Date:      Mon, 31 May 1999 21:09:29 -0400
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
Subject: sfp-91: Mary Robinson, UN HR Commissioner critiques NATO bombing 

U.N. official criticizes bombings for causing death of civilians
The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 1, 1999 
[a month old, but important esp. in view of the indictment of Milosevic]

By Stephanie Nebehay

REUTERS GENEVA - U.N. human-rights chief Mary Robinson criticized the NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia yesterday for killing "large numbers of civilians,"
and said that all forces in the conflict could be investigated for war
crimes. In a speech at the end of the annual session of the U.N.
Commission on Human Rights, the former Irish president also denounced a
"pattern of ethnic cleansing" by Serb forces in Kosovo. She called for
fresh diplomatic and political efforts to resolve the Balkan conflict.

Speaking later at a news conference, Robinson said that she planned to
meet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic during a 12-day trip to the
Balkans scheduled to begin tomorrow. Her first stop will be in Skopje,
Macedonia, followed by visits to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and
Yugoslavia. "I envisage that I will have an opportunity to meet Mr.
Milosevic," she said. "I am very keen that those with responsibility be
brought to justice. Therefore, I would not envisage that it would
necessarily be an easy meeting with President Milosevic, for obvious

In her speech, Robinson urged the NATO alliance to adhere to the
"principle of proportionality" and "weigh the consequences" of its bombing
campaign on Yugoslav civilians. She said that Yugoslav authorities had
told her that more than 500 civilians had been killed and 4,000 wounded
during the NATO air strikes. "Unless diplomacy succeeds, Kosovo will be
thoroughly cleansed of Albanians while Serbs will, on present performance,
be bombed without end. There must be a better way," she told the forum
ending its six-week session. "I call for reason to prevail on all sides,
and for a return to diplomacy and peacemaking."

Referring to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia, she said: "Under the tribunal's statute, the prosecutor may
investigate war crimes committed by any of the parties to the armed
conflict. "The actions of individuals belonging to Serb forces, the Kosovo
Liberation Army, or NATO may therefore come under scrutiny if it appears
that serious violations of international humanitarian law have occurred,"
she said.

Robinson later made clear that her statement referring to potential
war-crimes indictments had been taken from a letter from Louise Arbour,
chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal. Asked whether she
believed that NATO generals should be indicted, she replied: "No, I have
not made any assessment or judgment in that regard."

Robinson, citing crimes by Serb forces - including killings, rapes and
forced expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo - said that it was "hard
to avoid the conclusion of a pattern of ethnic cleansing carried out with
cold-blooded determination."

She also criticized NATO air strikes, which yesterday hit Serbian defense
headquarters, two homes, and a television transmitter in the heaviest
overnight raids so far on Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital. "In the NATO
bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, large numbers of civilians
have incontestably been killed, civilian installations targeted on the
grounds that they are or could be of military application, and NATO
remains sole judge of what is or is not acceptable to bomb," Robinson

"In this situation, the principle of proportionality must be adhered to by
those carrying out the bombing campaign," she said. "It surely must be
right to ask those carrying out the bombing campaign to weigh the
consequences of their campaign for civilians in the Federal Republic of

Date:   Mon, 31 May 1999 21:36:52 -0400
From: Eric Fawcett <•••@••.•••>
Subject: sfp-91: POSTSCRIPT

UN slams both sides in Kosovo conflict
WebPosted Mon May 31 11:46:24 1999

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations high commissioner for human rights has
criticized both Yugoslavia and NATO in the Kosovo conflict. In a report
released Monday, Mary Robinson accused the Yugoslav army and police of
committing executions and rapes in the mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians
from Kosovo. Robinson called on the Yugoslav government to remove all its
forces from the province and allow an international peacekeeping force to
monitor the return of refugees.

She also criticized NATO's use of cluster bombs and the destruction of
schools and hospitals in its air war against Yugoslavia. Robinson's report
follows a trip she took to the region earlier this month. It is based on
information from thousands of refugees.

 LINKS: http://www.unhchr.ch   
        UN High Commissioner for Human Rights