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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Kosovo: Is Nato guilty of war crimes?

Nato has been accused of committing war crimes during its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia a year ago.

Human rights organisation, Amnesty International, says Nato forces violated the rules of war, by failing to minimised civilian casualties.

Nato's chief spokesman, Jamie Shea, hit back at the claims saying that civilian casualties were due to technological failure or "the accidents of conflict" - not because Nato had failed to take all necessary precautions.

Were Nato's actions justified in the light of the atrocities they were tackling, or do you think any loss of civilian life was completely unacceptable? Send us your views. HAVE YOUR SAY

You should be proud of those men and women who fought to stop violence and ethnic cleansing. They are our heroes

Vlora Citaku, Kosova
I am Kosova Albanian, I know what NATO did for us. You should be proud of those men and women who fought to stop violence and ethnic cleansing. They are our heroes. By accusing NATO, we in fact violate human values and civilisation, because those whom NATO fought against were criminals. Hesitation to act in Kosova meant a license to kill. God bless NATO.
Vlora Citaku, Kosova

NATO was wrong in taking sides in the conflict and is even more wrong for not stopping the killings of Serbs by the KLA terrorists. I hope NATO is happy with its great accomplishments in Kosovo.
Al, Switzerland

Now "Amnesty" was added to the black list of labour thugs! Wasn't the same thugs that used amnesty's reports to support their crime? What these thugs prefer to ignore is that civilian targets were targeted ON PURPOSE. And this yes, it is a war crime, that's why the "tribunal" refused even to investigate it! Similarly to Blair, who refused to discuss the whole matter in the parliament.
Nick, Britain

Of course NATO is guilty of war crimes. Had a group of commandos entered Serb Television headquarters and hacked, stabbed and bludgeoned to death 16 unarmed civilians, someone would have raised a stink. Yet bombing them into the same state is Ok?
John Weisskopf, USA

NATO is not above criticism but its actions should be balanced against those of the other participants in this conflict. All critics of NATO should state what they think should have been an appropriate response to large scale murder and ethnic cleansing? I hope this type of robust intervention replaces 'traditional' warfare in the future, and is eventually replaced itself with genuine democracy.
Steve, UK

Whether NATO committed war crimes or not, the lesson is that one cannot bring peace and harmony to war-scarred regions like Kosovo by taking sides in centuries-old ethnic conflicts and trying to solve them by outside pressure. There is no quick and easy fix for them. Although diplomacy takes much longer than the use of force the results are more certain and lasting. Let's give diplomacy a chance in this and all other brutal conflicts!
Alam Navruzov, USA

What NATO did is not just a story for a one day, a month a year. It is a story for a life time. More than 2000 civilians of all populations that live in this country were killed. NATO wanted to destroy our army it failed, NATO wanted to destroy our economy it failed.
Milos Markovic, Yugoslavia

I have always had an enormous respect for Amnesty International in light of the non-partisan approach adopted by them in exposing human rights abuses. However, in this instance they have got it horribly wrong. Yes, NATO knew there were likely to be civilian casualties but attempts were clearly made to minimise these. Amnesty should remember that the initial nicely nicely approach adopted by the West gave us in your face butchery and rapine in Bosnia. Nato was dealing with Slobadan Milosevic and not the Vicar of Dibley.
Ferzana, UK

No, Nato is not guilty for war crimes. Most of those civilians that you are saying were killed, were Albanians who were used by Serbian forces as a living shell. We must not forget that Nato saved millions of lives in Kosova. All Kosovars appreciate Nato action. It seems that expansionist politics of Serbia finally is coming to an end!
Prishtina, New York

You must have a war to have war crimes

Pål H. Bakka, Norway
Why is it that Nato can't even be investigated for this? At least let a just, neutral investigation be done by, let's say, a group of African or Asian investigators. Then we will know the truth.
Ben Sewell, UK

The only crime against humanity of which NATO is guilty is not finishing what they started. This is what happens when you promise something you really don't want to deliver. Typical of Bill Clinton.
T.J. Cassidy, USA

A British military attaché is assassinated in Greece by some terrorist organisation. A number of American people have also been killed by Greek terrorists over the past two decades. The USA now demands stronger action by the Greek Government against the terrorists. Will the USA/ NATO unleash a bombing campaign against Greece, also without declaring war, as they did against Yugoslavia that had used stronger measures against Kosovo Albanian separatist terrorists?
Dan Dorotich, Canada

According to the Norwegian PM at the time, the military action in Kosovo was not really a war, it only looked like one. You must have a war to have war crimes. And besides, only losers commit such despicable actions.
Pål H. Bakka, Norway

Amnesty international should look at the crimes against humanity in the Bosnian population in stead of of condemning Nato! War is war. And, war is hell. What do people expect it to be?
Dave Adams, USA

I find the double standards deplorable and frankly some of the peoples responses stupid. They are all happy bashing third world countries whenever Amnesty 'claim' anything, yet when 'Amnesty' decide to put a claim against a western power its seen as in the twilight zone, or shameful. Mmmm anyone else see the illogical behaviour?
If Amnesty really have got it so wrong on this matter, then who can say that any of their previous claims were also in the twilight zone?
Zafar Nadeem, England

For a Human Rights activist the claiming of any life is wrong, whatever the political agenda may be. Be it by Nato or anyone else.
So as far as I am concerned Nato is guilty of war crimes. Politically this can be disputed. Again it all depends on the perspective one looks at. The atrocities being perpetrated by the Serbs was no less criminal as well.
Kris Das, USA

There are no wars without causalities among civilians

Ilya Girin, USA
Amnesty International has to get out of its ivory tower and look at the real world. I did not support NATO in Kosovo. However, there are no wars without causalities among civilians. Sorry, but Amnesty International has to get rid of its naivete.
Ilya Girin, USA

I am amazed that there are still naive people who think that NATO's war against Yugoslavia had some morality behind it. One year later, there are more refugees from Kosovo than there were before the bombing, yet we hear no condemnation from the new crusaders of morality.
Yelena Perhunkov, USA

Amnesty International tries very hard to present an even-handed approach to worldwide problems. It is unfortunate that their attempt at even-handedness occasionally enters the surreal world of the Twilight Zone.
Richard Bamberg, USA

It is an unfortunate fact that considerable collateral damage was done. But to call it "human rights violation" is a travesty of truth. What other options were available to the world community other than remain silent spectators? In fact, action should have come a lot earlier. Decent humans every where should rejoice that there are still righteous countries left in this world
Shah M. Afzal, USA

NATO is guilty of war crimes in Yugoslavia. In their frustration for failing to blackmail Yugoslavia into surrender at Ramboulliet, the leaders of the alliance decided to punish the Yugoslav people. They indiscriminately bombed targets that were clearly civilian in nature. Among these were bakeries, milk packaging plants and others that NATO pursued vindictively in hopes of inflicting enough civilian misery to force the Yugoslav leadership to capitulate.
Steve Lukacs, USA

If there is any justice in the world, NATO leaders should be investigated for war crimes

Irene, USA
NATO, and the West in general, bears some responsibility for this situation. By propagating the idea during the Gulf conflict, that we have truly entered the age of the "smart war", it could be argued that unrealistic expectations have been set with regard to civilian casualties in any air campaign.
Fer Staberinde, England

When NATO bombed the Belgrade television station, they knew there would be civilian casualties. When NATO dropped cluster bombs on Kosovo villages, they knew there would be civilian casualties. When NATO bombed civilian utilities in Serbia, like power stations, they knew there would indirect civilian casualties. Let's not blame the "fog of war" for such discriminate acts.
Malcolm McCandless, Scotland

As conflicts go, I thought that casualties on all sides were quite light. Amnesty have overstepped the mark on this occasion and will only make themselves look foolish.
Paul R, UK

NATO committed war crimes. If there is any justice in the world, NATO leaders should be investigated for war crimes.
Irene, USA

It simply is no longer possible to separate the civilian and military complexes and deal with the latter in isolation

Chris Klein, UK
War is a nasty business and it has to be the last resort. Planning targets to avoid civilians puts our forces at risk because the target plotters are NOT the ones who fly the missions.
Graham, England

Unfortunately for Amnesty International, it appears to have no understanding of the application of force and the nature of modern warfare. It simply is no longer possible to separate the civilian and military complexes and deal with the latter in isolation.
Chris Klein, UK

I don't know. I wasn't there and wasn't part of the decision making processes, and neither were the majority of people who will write in to answer this question. It'll be very difficult to prove either way. The answer should be "we don't know" and we should let a proper investigation decide.
Tristan O'Dwyer, UK

Amnesty International represent all that is most disgusting in the new breed of self-righteous, ideological zealots that have risen, moralising, from the ranks of spoilt Western youth. They attack Western policy on principle, even when it is morally in the right such as in protecting Kosovo from a genocidal tyrant.
Alex Chiang, Taiwanese visiting Australia

Nato is definitely guilty of imperialism and extreme arrogance for simply assuming it was for us to fix the affairs of another sovereign nation. But this latest move is garbage. If Amnesty International really has nothing better to do than this they should disband.
John B, UK

Each conflict has to be judged separately and Nato generals are still only human; they can make mistakes.

Mark Dickinson, England
Let's face it, Nato are in a no win situation. If they feel the risk is too high and don't go in the are accused of inactivity and complicity; if they do go in they risk the comments stated. Each conflict has to be judged separately and Nato generals are still only human; they can make mistakes. But I cannot believe that they would deliberately embark upon a course of action that would result in large-scale loss of life if an alternative were possible.
Mark Dickinson, England

This is a wake-up call for all western democrats. Nato has committed war crimes. End of story. Don't ignore what Amnesty International are saying, just because it's uncomfortable.
Richard L., UK

I think if Nato's aim is to tackle atrocities such as the one in Kosovo, then it must be seen to maintain moral standards to keep them above those that they seek to punish. Lets face it, Amnesty are not the first to have commented on Nato's handling of the Kosovo problem and it is right that they should question Nato's actions as it gives Nato a chance to demonstrate their actions have been justified. If they can't do this, then to admit errors and promise to learn from these should only gain them greater international respect.
Kathy, UK

To expect Nato to conduct a war without a single civilian casualty is being completely naive.

John, UK
I think the few civilian lives lost, whilst regrettable, have to be balanced against the thousands of lives saved. I refer to all those refugees who have now returned to their homes. To expect Nato to conduct a war without a single civilian casualty is being completely naive. The Chief Prosecutor of The Hague tribunal, Carla del Ponte, has already been satisfied that Nato did not deliberately target Serb civilians. Amnesty should accept that finding and concentrate on what it does best, that is exposing real human rights abuse around the world.
John, UK

Normally I have a lot of respect for Amnesty International and have even thought of joining, but not if this is typical of the way they can get it wrong. In wars civilians are killed - there is no way to avoid it. I think Nato did well to keep the civilian deaths/injuries as low as they did.
Pat, UK

Nato's intervention in Yugoslavia was conceived in criminality (in flagrant violation of the UN charter) and was executed in criminality. Because of the vast resources available to the secret services of the USA and the UK (at the respective taxpayers' expense), they provided evidence to the international tribunal on Yugoslavia for the prosecution of those who had committed atrocities on the Serbian side. But, neither Yugoslavia nor Amnesty International nor anyone else could provide such detailed evidence on crimes committed by Nato to this tribunal for lack of resources and hence in the eyes of the world. In fact the tribunal runs the risk of being perceived as a kangaroo court appointed and manipulated by the west.
Mohansingh, India

Shame on Amnesty International! Why not stick to focusing on countries with real human rights issues? I, for one, congratulate NATO and all the forces for carrying out an extremely difficult task. Whilst all civilian casualties are deeply regretted, I think that most educated people know and understand that there will always be such casualties.
Margaret Carre, Belgium

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Kosovo: One year on
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Key stories:
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Nato strikes: The untold story
An Uneasy Peace
Talking Point
Is the West losing the peace?
Is Nato guilty of war crimes?
See also:

07 Jun 00 | Europe
Nato accused of war crimes
02 Jun 00 | Europe
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